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4 Key Best Practices for Next-Level Digital Transformation

Credit Shutterstock/Sashkin

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in state and local government, as organizations quickly pivoted to stand up a remote work infrastructure and enhance digital service delivery.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in state and local government, as organizations quickly pivoted to stand up a remote work infrastructure and enhance digital service delivery. However, as they transition into a post-pandemic world, governments need to focus on purposeful digital transformation to continue their modernization journey.

Purposeful digital transformation involves using digital technology to create strategic goals that drive better business outcomes. In state and local government, this often means delivering constituent services more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Far too often, digital transformation has centered around siloed IT projects, but the pandemic has taught state and local governments a valuable lesson about the need for enterprise-wide transformation.

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) recently surveyed 128 leaders across all levels of government to assess the role and impact of purposeful digital transformation within these organizations and how they can accelerate cloud modernization, embrace a new digital workforce and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to maximize their often-limited resources. The survey highlighted four key best practices that can help state and local governments take their digital transformation to the next level:

  1. Focus on ROI
  2. Nurture a culture of innovation through education
  3. Build bridges across agencies and departments
  4. Leverage public-private partnerships

Focus on ROI

Demand for IT resources was identified as a primary challenge by the majority of government officials CDG surveyed. However, state and county governments were 30 percent more likely than cities to say they experienced challenges due to increased IT demand and needs, perhaps due to their larger size.

During the pandemic, many state and local governments either got by with legacy systems or quickly implemented solutions to rapidly respond to increased demand for services. Going forward, they’ll need to ensure they’re making more strategic digital investments.

Nearly 66 percent of survey respondents said they will increase their use of digital platforms for information sharing, and nearly 36 percent plan to implement cloud-based solutions to improve business processes.

A robust strategy should not just center on new technology — it should focus on outcomes. For example, if a government agency decides to implement a chatbot, it should align with strategic goals, such as expanding citizen self-service tools, accelerating the recertification process for different social service programs or reducing the time spent by staff answering routine questions.

If agencies start by setting key goals and work backward from there, they’ll be more likely to invest in technologies that will meet their needs long-term.

Nurture a Culture of Innovation Through Education

State and local leaders are clearly aware of some of the internal challenges they will face as they move toward next-level digital transformation. In the survey, they said cultural change, organizational buy-in and education would be key challenges as they begin to implement their transformation plans.

Governments can overcome these challenges by setting a vision at the top. Leaders must clearly explain why the organization is making these changes, how it will execute its transformation plans with minimal disruption and the value modernization will ultimately deliver for employees. The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), for example, has created a digital transformation guide for state agencies [1] that outlines a five-step process for advancing digital transformation.

Similarly, setting the vision for digital transformation — and clearly and repeatedly articulating it — can help agencies across the country nurture a culture of innovation through education.

Build Bridges Across Agencies and Departments

Many of the technology challenges state and local governments faced during the pandemic can be traced back to organizational silos.

In many jurisdictions, each agency has its own procurement process, so dozens or hundreds of disparate solutions may exist across the enterprise. However, next-level digital transformation requires not only interoperable solutions, but collaborative government.

Agencies can take a variety of approaches to break existing silos, including creating a central point of contact within each department that serves as a liaison to other agencies or adopting a platform approach or a new shared services model to streamline information sharing and create a common language and operational framework across the business. Along with greater collaboration, these tactics can nurture more trust within government organizations and build bridges that lead to the creation of a more connected enterprise.

Leverage Public-Private Partnerships

The funding environment has never been more favorable for state and local governments. Now is the perfect time for these organizations to foster strong strategic partnerships with technology providers and modernize their IT infrastructure.

In the survey, nearly 23 percent of state and local leaders said they plan to leverage public-private partnerships. This is already being seen in the form of broadband partnerships and cloud services models that allow governments to modernize more quickly and cost-effectively.

As state and local governments focus on enterprise-wide transformation, forging strong relationships with the private sector will help them access the tools, guidance and training they need for successful digital transformation.

Implementing Next-Level Digital Transformation in Government

Governments are more focused than ever on modernization. About 80 percent of the government officials CDG surveyed said digital transformation either has become more important or mission-critical for their agencies since the pandemic.

It’s apparent that this once-in-a-generation crisis has led to long-awaited innovation within government. By focusing on ROI, breaking down traditional silos, leveraging public-private partnerships and embracing cultural change, state and local governments can ensure that innovation isn’t just a byproduct of the pandemic, but a long-lasting shift in how they do business and fulfill their mission.