CIO Digital Government

Citizens First: Digital Government and the Transformation of Public Services

Public sector leaders must reshape services from the outside in.

Governments today are in the midst of a journey – a perpetual journey to transform their services to digital. The catalysts for this transformation are citizens and entrepreneurs armed with myriad new digital technologies at their disposal. They are driving governments not only to adapt but to design services with them in mind – citizen-centric services that give people the freedom to do business as they see fit.

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The stakes are high for both government and citizens. Digital innovation in the wider society, alongside changing demographics, means citizens expect more, better and different services from the public sector. They want to interact with national and local government and their agencies seamlessly, and across platforms. They expect the public sector to work together with the private sector to deliver enhanced services, and all this must be achieved while public finances are under intense strain.

The price of failure is also high – decaying public services and a threat to social cohesion. Success, though, can significantly improve the general quality of life for citizens and those who serve them, cut costs, stimulate growth and bring about support for future waves of innovation.

Necessities of data-driven transformation

Digital technologies offer the opportunity to fundamentally redesign public services by putting the needs of citizens first.
Digital technologies offer the opportunity to fundamentally redesign public services by putting the needs of citizens first. By designing services from the outside in, citizens and their customer journeys are placed at the centre of a fundamental re-engineering of systems and processes.

The lifeblood of this digital transformation is data. Data can open up new opportunities and drive innovation. And data can be the evidence base for efforts to revolutionize service delivery. A data-driven government – one that shares properly authenticated, trustworthy and single-sourced data across the public sector – can cut bureaucracy, eliminate waste and allow the creation of new, truly citizen-centric services.

Further, data can provide the evidence of the success of new systems and inspire the creation of whole new services, according to Frank Huynen, Industry Executive at DXC Technology’s Digital Government Experience (DGX) Centre; a place where government agencies can collaborate, co-create and accelerate their digital transformation, with the support of industry experts and the latest technology solutions.

“Digital is driving a fundamental change in the way people communicate, work, socialize, shop, share and explore. Our aim at the DGX Centre is to help governments adapt and be as agile and responsive as any other enterprise in the way they engage with citizens and businesses, at local, regional, national and international levels,” explains Huynen.

Creating citizen-centric services

Around the world governments are understanding the need to move beyond current practice, which sees most public sector online activity constrained into departmental-based systems. When you break down siloes and create truly citizen-centric services you get results.

The DGX Centre has, for example, helped the government of Flanders deliver a set of services built around citizen requirements rather than departmental procedures. The core business proposition, now enshrined in legislation, is ‘Only Ask Once’. For the citizen, that means a highly-personalized experience when dealing with a government department or multiple departments and agencies. For the government, it means real data sharing between departments, with all the process and infrastructure benefits this brings.

Delivering such initiatives requires new thinking. A citizen’s needs do not stop at the ‘border’ of a department or agency, and neither should the services provided to meet those needs. Services must be integrated across departments and agencies, and redesigned on citizen-centric principles, to map real customer journeys, and be delivered in an end-to-end digital process.

This sort of transformation cannot be achieved piecemeal, nor can it be driven by IT departments or traditional approaches to IT systems procurement and delivery. It is an ongoing journey marked by continuous change.

The key to success lies in teasing out the business case and the KPIs, and then looking to implement the technology to deliver those desired results. “When customers consider with us what the real business KPIs are, they arrive at questions such as business model innovation or business process transformation and customer experiences,” explains Sukhi Gill, DXC Fellow and Chief Technologist for Digital Transformation.

Collaboration is key

One way of establishing core business requirements and KPIs from the start is the Design Studio concept at DGX – a methodology that accelerates innovation through interactive co-creation and concept prototyping.

Design Studio participants include business owners, end users and people from the IT organization who will be involved in the future implementation, as well as a neutral facilitator, a DXC senior domain expert and an experienced user of visualization tools.

“The aim is to ensure the right mix of interest, involvement, skills and experience, so we can rapidly and objectively shape potential solutions for business issues. The process goes from discovery to prototyping in only three days,” reveals Yves Vanderbeken, DGX Chief Technologist.

Day one deals with the business context – identifying the issues to discuss and the desired outcomes. The aim is to unite divergent business needs into a single, common goal. On day two, the high-level concept is transformed into visual mock-ups. Visualizing a theoretical concept helps people to imagine the technical feasibility and functionality of the solution, says Huynen.

On the final day, a set of mock-ups are distilled into one prototype through critical and continuous evaluation. The aim is to create a ready-to-use prototype suitable for agile development of the solution.

“We see everywhere a real demand for jointly developing prototypes and sharing best practices. That’s why collaboration is at the heart of everything we do at the DGX Centre,” explains Vanderbeken. “We add value by offering many different engagement experiences, enabling governments to explore every aspect of their transformation road map.”

Huynen and his colleagues will aim to repeat successful Design Studio exercises, such as that carried out with the Flemish Energy Agency. They will also draw on DXC public sector success stories, including the information and data sharing exchange for the Flanders government mentioned and the analytics-driven transformation of public transport in Auckland, New Zealand.

Technology as enabler of strategic business transformation

Accessing the business and technical experience that has helped deliver such solutions, users of the DGX Centre will be able to see technology as the enabler of desired outcomes, rather than the determinant of the services their organization can offer citizens.

In a refreshing take on both the importance and place of technology in the process of digital transformation, Vanderbeken says, “At the DGX [Centre], we will use our experience to map out your journey together. Technology will be the source of inspiration, but the last item we will address in this journey.”

The bottom line for public sector digital transformation? “With the right digital solutions in place, governments can simplify processes; reuse data over different policy domains; declutter and streamline legislation; and eliminate low-value, repetitive civil service tasks through automation, which frees people up to focus on high-value, knowledge- and expertise-based activities. All of this ensures a lower cost per transaction,” reveals Huynen.

The Digital Government Experience Centre is part of the new IT services company DXC Technology which came into effect on 3 April, 2017, from the merger between CSC and the Enterprise Services division of HPE.

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Mike Simons

Author: Mike Simons

Mike Simons is an award-winning IT and business journalist, Mike has a particularly focused on major IT projects and public sector IT. His fascination with the business and social impact of technology began at university, where he obtained an MSc at the Science Policy Research Unit of Sussex University.