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Becoming Digital First: Innovations that Transform

Digital transformation offers government agencies an opportunity to drive reform of service delivery, improve business operations and adopt new technologies. But along the way, Chief Information Officers encounter a long list of challenges ranging from compliance requirements, budget uncertainty and cultural allegiance to old technologies.

During the GovLoop Innovators Virtual Summit, speaker Helju Nommik, Director of Digital Strategy for Cisco Public Sector, discussed the key drivers that government leaders must address to implement a successful, agency-wide digital strategy.

Rising expectations in the digital world

We live in an era of accelerated digital transformation. There’s a rise in AI and machine learning both in government and the private sector as well as an overall lifestyle shift toward a hyper-connectivity. Nommik defines digital transformation as the acceleration of business activities, processes, competencies and operating models through the adoption of digital technologies.

“Digital transformation shapes and reinvents every aspect of business,” Nommik said. “Some organizations look at it as a way to reinvent themselves and for others, it’s looking at how tech reinvestment can be made in a way that impacts other parts of the organization.”

Every organization is under pressure to leverage digital technologies to thrive in a digital age and meet growing expectations, especially the public sector. There are numerous government technologies and capabilities that have yet to meet citizen’s digital needs and just as many barriers to success.

The obstacles to transforming an organization

Digital transformation is about more than technology. As with any process, success is tied to motivation, resources, support and proper strategy. There are agency-wide cultural and leadership changes that have to occur to properly leverage new tech. According to Nommik, most agencies identify cultural changes as the biggest obstacle to digital transformation, but these changes vary depending on agency’s digital maturity.

“For organizations in the early stages of transformation, a lack of an overall strategy is the main obstacle,” she said. “Without a strategy, it’s difficult to move in one direction.” The more digitally mature organizations that are part way through their transformations are more likely to encounter issues with competing priorities and insufficient funding. “Once an agency notices some momentum, the organization may feel that the project was successful,” Nommik explained. This mindset can lead to less funding and a decrease in motivation toward completing the project.

How do organizations at all stages of digital maturity overcome these obstacles and execute an effective transformation?

How agencies can accelerate their digital journey

In order to successfully transform all aspect of an organization, agencies must take into account the role of people, processes, technology and the physical environment in which the product will be delivered. This certainly makes for a complicated process. “You have to simultaneously think through all of these four aspects as well as how you will ensure security and privacy,” Nommik insisted. “There are processes embedded in every aspect of these initiatives.”

1. Establish a sense of urgency for the organization. Explain that employees and citizen expectations are changing and agencies have to keep up. “It’s about executing modernization efforts to provide platforms and capabilities and deliver to the expectations of employees, citizens and other customers,” Nommik said.

2. Have a plan that aligns with overall organization strategic directions. “You have to take a step back and look at the emerging trends, expectations and threats that you need to address,” Once a goal is established, agencies can map a strategy that will fundamentally change the organization.

3. Focus on cross-functional collaboration and break cultural norms. “If you start to engage all of the different stakeholders and departments, you can ensure that you are headed on the same journey,” Nommik said. “It’s important that everyone understands what you’re trying to achieve and how, because you have to align resources, stakeholders and budget to achieve your goals.”

4. Create and leverage quick wins to keep momentum. Small instances of success throughout the digital journey will keep team members motivated and ready to power forward. “Having those quick wins is important,” Nommik insisted. “You have to be prescriptive in adding quick wins to your plan and making sure you achieve them so that you continue to receive the support, commitment and resources that you need.”

5. Define meaningful metrics to drive behavior. Some metrics don’t drive in the right direction “what are the meaningful measures, how do you measure success and measure it from the standpoint of different stakeholders.”

In order for agencies to be truly successful, they must focus on the human element of modernization and make digital transformation a part of the overall agency strategy.  “We need digital transformation and we have to figure out how to leverage it to the best of our abilities,” Nommik said. “If we do, we all have an amazing opportunity ahead of us.”

Check out the rest of our coverage and insights from the 2018 Government Innovators Virtual Summit:

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