What is Government Digital Transformation?

The operative word in “digital transformation” is transformation. The application of digital technology does not a transformation make. That’s why much of the hype about digital transformation is underwhelming. Brian Solis of Altimeter defines it as “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to drive new value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.” Does this notion of business model changes using technology apply to government. Yes, according to William Eggers of the Deloitte Center for Government Insight,  in his book Delivering on Digital: “much of what government does is information-based — and therefore inherently digital and convertible to bits and bytes.”

The Government Digital Mindset

Government digital transformation is about technology investment changes. It is about driving new value for citizens. And, it’s about “business model” changes. It’s about change. Most importantly, a digital mindset is needed.
Efficiency improvement through digital technology does not transform value received by citizens. Incrementalism is the enemy of transformation and value. We’ve identified 11 factors, at the FreeBalance Strategy and Innovation Group, for the government digital mindset:

  1. From Government as Service Provider to Government as Platform
  2. From Institution-Centric to Citizen Centric:
    • a transition from governments as sets of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) with overlapping mandates to a single view of government services seamlessly coordinated across MDA, as described by the McKinsey Center for Governmentleveraging customer experience (CX) techniques
    • a view to”hacking bureaucracy” as described in Delivering on Digital, including hacking delivery and silos to create “horizontal government”
  3. From Compliance to Results:
  4. From Risk Avoidance to Risk Management:
  5. From Standardization to Personalization:
    • a transition from standardizing and homogenizing government services to providing the right service in the most effective manner based on context
  6. From Out-of-Network to In-Network:
    • a transition from government operating as broadcaster of information to active social networking as described in my Embracing Government 2.0 white paper co-authored by Martha Batorski
  7. From Analog-First to Digital-First:
    • a transition from thinking about digitizing manual processes, and thinking about government processes as manual and electronic documents to process reinvention based on digital technology, as described by the McKinsey Center of Government
  8. From Dogma-Driven to Data-Driven:
    • a transition of policy as driven by political dogma to data-driven and evidence-based policy
  9. From “Tried & True” to Experimentation & Innovation:
    • a transition from using conservative methods of procurement with long projects, waterfall methods, and large vendors to small projects with experiments to drive government innovation though agile government procurement described by Eggers and John O’Leary at Deloitte
  10. From Solution-Focused to Problem-Focused:
  11. From Reactive to Proactive:
    • a transition from reacting to social and economic changes to scenario planning and predictive analytics to prevent problems before they occur

Change Implications

We’ve also identified 11 change management implications to enable the government digital mindset:

  1. Mandate & Purpose:
    • government institutions need to reconsider or clarify mandates away from fuzzy objectives to coalesce stakeholder support
    • outcomes, rather than inputs and outputs need to be part of government organizational mandates
  2. Organization:
    • governments need to consider reorganization to create pockets of innovation like Centres of Excellence, and digital services groups for experimentation, and to troubleshoot technology problems, leveraging public servants on secondment and contract employees from the private sector
  3. Expectations:
    • government leaders need to communicate that fast failures are expected in digital initiatives – that the agile concept of experimentation for learning is the how public servants will be judged
  4. Incentives:
    • public servant incentives need to reflect the switch to the digital mindset, including advancement based on digital merit
    • performance structures, and performance appraisal methods need to transform
  5. Talent & Capacity:
    • digital talent needs nurturing, and training and mentoring programs are needed to build digital capacity
  6. Trust:
    • transformation to digital needs trust, where leadership actions are consistent with expectation and incentive changes, and leaders trust public servants to experiment
  7. Transparency:
    • policy, programs, actions, and expectations need to be transparent to foster trust
  8. Accountability:
    • accountability goes hand-in-hand with incentives and trust
  9. Anticipatory:
    • decision-makers need to transition from focus on reporting on the past, to finding patterns that predict the future
    • scenario planning becomes critical skill
  10. Agility:
    • digital mindset requires leveraging agile techniques such as lean, SCRUM, Kanban, design thinking and PDIA
  11. Technology:
    • legacy technology is often the biggest inhibitor to holistic digital services and transformation, current investment in obsolete technologies and, what the Gartner Group calls Legacy ERP needs to be reconsidered, with transition to cloud technologies as enabler



Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More