July 9, 2007 By Greg Parston
Governments are restructuring themselves to take advantage of technology's potential. Recently published research in government customer service programs worldwide, Leadership in Customer Service: Delivering on the Promise (Accenture, June 2007), shows that busy times are ahead for public-sector CIOs. We see many governments finally turning their attention to long-overdue technology overhauls.
On the front end, new service delivery channels and the potential for greater data integration signal a new era of customer service. Customer service is now constructed with a citizen-centric view and offers far greater choices in how services are accessed. On the back end, this same potential for integration has governments realigning how processes are designed, with the aim of not only providing new value to citizens via service delivery that is integrated throughout all levels of government, but also with the objective of achieving vast improvements in internal efficiency and effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to deliver greater public service value to citizens and businesses alike.
Governments tend to overlook, or at least underestimate, the restructuring necessary to align people with new technology-enabled ways of working. Large-scale technology implementations are far more likely not to actualize their business case because of people-related factors (resistance to change, inadequate training on new systems and even sabotage) than technology issues.
The lessons of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems from a few years ago are a perfect example. Many clients came to technology consulting companies for help because they had realized incremental benefits from their ERP implementations, but not the organizational and process transformation benefits they had originally hoped for. What consultants found repeatedly was that difficult political issues surrounding work force changes made it tempting to underestimate the scale of needed business process change. In many instances, users ultimately lapsed into old ways of doing things that were still fraught with inefficiencies.
CIOs have a vested interest in the work force aspect of government transformation. Governments are poised to spend significant amounts of money on infrastructure. If these enormous outlays don't yield the expected returns on investment because the work force is improperly aligned to new technology-enabled business processes, CIOs can be sure they'll take some of the heat, even if they don't bear all the blame. It behooves CIOs to care about aligning work force reconfiguration with planned technology changes.
In another report, Transforming Public Services: Workforce Reconfiguration for Social Outcomes (Accenture, May 2007), the Institute for Public Service Value distilled from an extensive body of research the cornerstones and steps of successful work force transformation. From this research, it is clear CIOs have a role to play at many points in the process.
In the beginning, CIOs should provide input in the business case that will affect the planning for the future work force, including making sure work force transformation leaders understand the full power of the technology changes planned. During implementation, they must involve users in system design and testing for user acceptance, and CIOs should consider user input when designing training. After implementation, CIOs should participate in assessments to determine where future improvements will be made (for example, helping to determine whether failure to realize benefits is due to technology glitches or human ones).
Of course, the technology drivers are just one part of a much bigger picture of work force transformation, and CIOs are just one group that should exercise its influence in this area. Still, CIOs must realize they are undeniably key stakeholders in the work force side of change.
So what's the bottom line for public CIOs? It's to be an advocate and active participant in the work force transformation process. Work force transformation is not an arena for CIOs to watch from the sidelines. This is an exhortation as much as an assessment: The technology and people aspects of change are not mutually exclusive exercises. Failure on the work force side can come back to bite the CIO as well.
Greg Parston is the director of the Accenture Institute for Public Service Value.
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