By Shonte Eldridge, Executive Government Advisor, Amazon Web Services (AWS)
During the pandemic, agencies adopted many technologies out of necessity and not particularly from a holistic standpoint. Now, leaders must move beyond emergency measures and create digital transformation strategies that are resilient, cost-effective and comprehensive.
To ensure your digital strategy transforms your organization into a modern, inclusive government and meets your technology and business goals, the following five steps are recommended. (Read part 1 to see the answers to three common digital transformation strategy questions before diving into these steps.)
1. Stakeholder engagement – Include all departments and levels of staff in the strategy process
When the topic of digital transformation is brought up, most executives defer to their IT leaders and leave the business units out. For a successful digital transformation to occur, both need to be at the table, as a successful transformation changes the entire enterprise’s way of operating, not just the IT department.
In addition, the digital transformation strategy should not be a top-down approach where C-suite leaders dictate the changes. All levels of staff should be included throughout the development process, given that front-line employees have the most information about what the public needs and in most cases will use the new technology the most. By excluding their feedback, you run the risk of deploying technology that does not provide the intended outcome.
2. Communication – Develop a digital transformation communications plan
Employees and end users are the true drivers of an organization’s digital transformation. Therefore, they need to be aware of the “why” behind the new course of action. Increasing employee and community awareness of the digital transformation strategy is the only way to build long-term trust and ultimately change the organization’s culture. Missing this step can put your digital transformation strategy at risk of slow adoption, or worse, rejection by the very people it’s intended to serve.
3. Alignment – Align business and IT goals
It’s quite simple: Technology enables the business and the business drives the technology. Creating a digital transformation strategy where both are not aligned is a recipe for disaster. Continuously launching technology that isn’t aligned to the administration’s stated business goals can also erode the public’s trust and stifle the organization’s growth, as time and resources are wasted on efforts that are not rooted in the organization’s core mission.
Designing digital transformation strategies that align IT solutions with the administration’s business goals not only helps with enterprisewide budget planning but improves its ability to deliver high-quality government services that meet the constituent’s needs.
4. Partners – Use your technology partners to enhance your strategy
According to Futurum’s 2018 Digital Transformation Index, less than 30% of technology vendors are active partners in their customers’ digital transformation initiatives – even though partnering with vendors has shown to be one of the best practices to avoid failure. The fear of violating procurement regulations is understandable, however, the only way to gain insight on digital transformation best practices is to ask those who help others regularly transform. Vendors can also help you launch proof-of-concept projects and close your organization’s skills and talent gaps, which can be a huge transformation hurdle. Identifying the areas of need and determining how you will procure and partner with vendors throughout your digital transformation is a crucial step that shouldn’t be skipped.
5. Community – Involve the community in the strategic process
The ultimate goal of a government’s digital transformation is to provide better service to constituents. Engaging the community along the digital transformation lifecycle can inform leaders how the proposed technology is enhancing or potentially harming their lives. Consider the statistics below:
- 25% of adults ages 65 and older report never going online. (Pew Research Center)
- About four in 10 adults with lower incomes do not have home broadband services (43%) or a desktop or laptop computer (41%). (Pew Research Center)
- 3 million residents in the United States now speak a language other than English at home, a number equal to the entire population of France. (Center for Immigration Studies)
By engaging all end users in the digital transformation strategy – not just the tech-savvy or those with internet access – and incorporating their insights and feedback, governments will be able to create intuitive, easy-to-use services that serve everyone and identify gaps they need to address.
The public’s demand for digital services is not going away. If anything, the requests are going to increase and evolve. And although public sector entities do not have the same financial and technical resources as large private companies, it does not mean their transformations will fail. Following a robust and inclusive strategy not only enhances government entities’ ability to dramatically affect their constituents’ quality of life but increases their odds of digital transformation success.
Shonte Eldridge serves as an Executive Government Advisor with Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this role, she helps government leaders cut through the noise and transform their organizations into best-in-class, modern operations. Before joining AWS, Shonte worked in the public sector for over two decades and held several senior positions including the Deputy Chief of Operations for the City of Baltimore. She is known for helping government leaders use technology to solve complex operational challenges, and in 2020 was recognized as one of the year’s 25 women to watch by the Baltimore Sun Newspaper.