A new global survey by Deloitte Digital aims to understand what factors contribute to digital transformation success in government and the barriers that lead to some agencies becoming digital laggards.

In a 44-page study based on the survey and more than 140 interviews with public sector officials from more than 70 countries, Deloitte authors William Eggers and Joel Bellman conclude that what separates the digital leaders from the digital laggards is a clear strategy combined with tech-savvy leadership, workforce skills, digital culture, and user focus.

Among the key findings of the global survey is that different governments are at varying stages in the journey to digital transformation. While a small percentage are what Deloitte considers “maturing,” the overwhelming majority of government organizations are still in the early or developing stages. “In fact, when asked about their organization’s digital capabilities, only about 30 percent assessed their digital capabilities as ahead of their public sector peers; nearly 70 percent said they lagged behind the private sector,” according to the study.

“While strategy forms the bedrock of the transformation process, leaders may not even realize its significance or importance. More than half of those surveyed say their organizations lack a clear digital strategy,” the study says. The lack of a strategy often leads to employees having low overall satisfaction rates with their organization’s current reaction to digital trends and confidence in its readiness to respond to digital trends.

But what accounts for those governments and agencies that are actually experiencing success in digital transformation? “Cost and budget pressures and citizen demands are far and away the two primary drivers, accounting for 75 percent of responses, whereas government directives drive only 14 percent of agencies,” according to the study.

Leadership Gaps

In the new digital era, leaders are required to make decisions more quickly in the face of constant changes. Yet, just 38 percent of survey respondents said they believe their leadership has sufficient skills for digitally transforming public services.

“The presence or absence of a digitally savvy leadership plays a big role in whether the organization takes steps to upskill its workforce,” the study concludes. “Leaders who understand digital trends and technologies are almost three times more likely to provide organizational support to their workforce to help them build digital skills, compared to those who lack that understanding.”

Workforce challenges extend well beyond the most senior ranks of public agencies. According to the report, public sector executives increasingly expect HR functions to adapt and embrace digital solutions to tackle workforce-management challenges. “But only 40 percent of respondents from the HR function report fundamental transformation of processes as a strategic objective. Furthermore, less than 30 percent cite innovation as an objective of their digital strategy,” the report states. “These ratios are the lowest across all functions surveyed—a real concern, considering the difficulties governments currently face in acquiring needed digital skills for their workforce.”

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Only 34 percent say their organization has sufficient skills to execute its digital strategy.
  • Only 33 percent say their organization provides the right resources or opportunities to obtain the digital skills they need.
  • 94 percent of maturing organizations have a digital strategy aimed at improving customer/citizen experience and engagement, compared to only 55 percent of early-stage organizations. This clearly separates the leaders from the laggards; agencies moving ahead on the maturity curve have the “citizen” at front and center in their digital strategy.
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