Written by Natalia Kawana and Vratislav Holub
The Digital Transformation is one of the most important phenomena in the 21st century, and every organization should be aware of it. Today’s companies have already started their journeys towards digitalization, and many of them have dealt with this contemporary challenge with success.
Nevertheless, we have more complex challenges when it comes to other organizations – for example, public sector ones. As public organisations concern whole countries (or in some cases, even the international sphere) and they are known for being slow movers and very bureaucratic, getting them on board digitalization is no easy task. However, although it is challenging to face its requirements, the digital transformation of the public sector is already taking place successfully in several countries.
As examples, we can mention the United Kingdom and their site gov.uk. The site serves citizens, who can search for almost any information on some specific sector of government. Another country we should mention is Estonia, where people can pay their taxes online, and even vote from the comfort of their homes, thanks to electronic identification cards. When we take a look at these countries, we can confidently say that the digitalization of the public sector is more than possible. One day, we will do everything online.
But let us now consider the challenges of this process.
The digitalisation of the public sector is expensive, as it involves many resources and services, ranging from public administration offices and how their employees work until services for citizens. There is much at stake: the digitalization of processes, the creation of online databases and virtual IDs… without mentioning security issues, where we need to make sure that the citizen requesting a given service really is the person concerned, and that the data extracted will be kept safe. To take the above into consideration and make sure it is implemented, governments must get in touch with a lot of other companies, agencies, and constituencies, and then deal with their primary goal individually. Planning digital transformation tasks and projects is also time-consuming and expensive, and should not be neglected. And all of this requires substantial effort and investment.
A second massive challenges concerns people. As with any process of digitalization, the digital transformation in the public sector cannot be done without people. Behind the whole digitalization stand not only programmers, marketing teams, governments and the public sector employees, but, most importantly, the country’s residents – the people who need public services and whose needs we need to meet with the digital transformation.
And these peoples’ needs and expectations all play a role in the process. For instance, many employees who have worked in the public sector for ages are used to doing things a certain way, many times with a lot of paper. Often, we hear about digital resistance coming from them – they would like to keep working the way they’ve always done and may be unwilling to go digital. And we face similar challenges with citizens, among whom we have people who are not used to digital resources and are now “forced” into sending requests and forms online.
Meeting employees’ and citizens’ needs and expectations is of vital importance in guaranteeing the success of the whole process of digitalization. However, among all the other concerns above, this one it is all too often left as a second priority in the bigger picture. When in theory, meeting people’s needs should be treated as a part of the process, and therefore should be managed and maintained constantly and consistently, and also count on dedicated departments. Think about it: there’s no use adopting and implementing digital resources if the target users are not satisfied about it, or even worse, are not able to make use of digital resources and services. The success of the whole process depends on this key factor.
But is it worth going through the hassle? You might be wondering if going digital is really worth all the effort. Let us reflect on this.
Making digitalization in the public sector happen is challenging, but it has its benefits. As they say, no pain, no gain. In the examples mentioned, thanks to a successful digitalization, people in Estonia do not need to waste time during the elections, and are simply able to do it from their homes. In the case of the United Kingdom, local residents do not have any problems finding the required information and again, they are able to do it from their homes. This has come up as one of the best benefits of the whole process of public digitalization, as apart from being convenient, it saves time to all concerned. Citizens do not have to move to the public office nor stand in line to get things done, and on the other hand, public institutions do not have to hire extra people to cover the demand for services, nor use their time to perform tasks which citizens can now take on on their own.
Thus, the main goal of digitalisation in public sector is thus definitely some sort of savings. As time is money, spending less time to perform tasks and deliver services translates into monetary savings. For example, since the site gov.uk was established, the United Kingdom has been able to save a great amount of money, and their residents, to save a lot of time. The UK Cabinet Office even said that gov.uk saved around £42 million in government spending in the first year of its launch alone.
Apart from all the savings, digitalizing services and processes can also help create a sort of appreciation for everything that is digital, as well as turn employees and citizens into more independent digital users. If citizens find their way on the digital resource and feel empowered, they will be more and more willing to go digital. If done right, the digital transformation can be highly beneficial for all involved.
As mentioned before, people’s expectations need to be known and met for any process of digital transformation to succeed. We need to make sure that people can use digital resources well and that they are satisfied with them. This can be done by making sure that digital platforms are user-friendly and intuitive, and by collecting user feedback and constantly improving these digital resources based on this feedback. For some food for thought on feedback collection, please read this article.
Also, we can highly recommend you simplify the user’s life, not only by providing user-friendly digital resources, but also by making the user perform tasks, submit requests and receive the support they need all at one place: the platform itself. Digital Adoption Solutions (DAS) are a great way to keep users in the digital realm and offer them all the assistance they need, where and when they need it: on the online platforms or portals themselves, while using them. DAS can be a very powerful ally and help turn employees and citizens into empowered and self reliable digital users.
The digitalization of the public sector institutions is one of the biggest challenges for today’s digital society, but we should push our governments to invest in this field, for everyone’s sake. We have seen concrete examples to demonstrate that this process is not impossible, and that it can be highly beneficial, saving time and money for all involved, if successfully implemented. Even if at first it looks very expensive and very much a hassle.
If we keep the user at the center of the digital transformation, we will have great chances to succeed – even in a more challenging realm, such as the public sector. And here, keeping it simple for users is key. Collecting and processing feedback and keeping users at the same place through offering in-app guidance and using a DAS can be extremely helpful to face the challenges of the digital transformation.
Our company offers a secure option to boost digital adoption in the public sector, and everyone at Newired would like to see a successful digital transformation of more and more countries in the world. Today, we can say that digitalization is an extraordinary thing, and we are definitely going to see more of it in the near future. We are ready to help you!