Until recently, the public sector wasn’t one typically associated with embracing new technologies and ways of working. Burdened with legacy systems, restricted budgets and chronically under-resourced, it has been constantly behind the curve when it comes to tech. But things are starting to change — and the key to continuing this momentum lies in digital evolution.
In a recent talk with Digital Leaders: Insight Live Public Sector, our Head of Local Government Glen Ocskó offered his take on this topic. He explained why the only way to move forward — literally — in the public sector lies in digital evolution, not transformation. Hit play to watch, or read on for our three key takeaways.
1. Digital evolution is a direction, not an end goal
Glen started out by explaining that one key problem with the idea of digital transformation is that it implies a clear end point, or a one-time, unidirectional change.
Digital evolution, on the other hand, refers to a continuous, intentional process that accelerates an organisation’s rate of digital adoption and change.
From a practical point of view, digital evolution means organisations must research and define an overall digital strategy as their first priority. But, as Glen cautioned, it’s about reframing evolution as a continuous process or direction, not a one-time event.
“It involves defining an overall strategy for where you want to go,” he noted. “Even if you don’t know the overall destination — you’ve got a clear direction. We should be evolving to have more adaptable, interactive and interoperable platforms and systems that can evolve and change as the world changes itself.”
2. Covid-19 has turbo-charged public sector digital progress
Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum — and often, we need an outside influence to drive it. And over the course of the past year, we can attribute a lot of public sector digital change to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“[Covid-19] has been awful, but it has turbo-charged digital evolution,” Glen explained. “We’ve seen several years’ worth of development taking place in several months. This would not have been possible without the challenges we’ve had to face. Moving people to remote working, making sure data was available to them in a secure and safe manner, and linking together systems that previously were locked away in physical locations behind firewalls and physical doors.”
Glen added that these challenges have allowed the public sector to boost the speed and pace of its digital evolution to a depth never seen before. As a result, we’ve had to evolve quickly in response to new, unforeseen challenges.
3. Evolution is constant process — but we must keep challenging it
Evolution, historically, is a process that follows cycles of constant change, growth, and repetition. And it’s precisely our understanding of this process which defines how we move forward with the changing tech landscape for the public sector.
“It’s a similar process that needs to be trusted and repeated,” explained Glen. “We need to constantly go back and challenge ourselves to ask if we’re still best meeting the needs of our service users. Are there new tools out there to explore? Have expectations of our users changed?”
“As the world changes, we need to look at what we’ve done afresh and reimagine it,” he added. “We need to retain the essence of what was good from the previous versions, but see if there’s a better fit for the modern world.”
But, Glen cautioned, challenging our processes and systems doesn’t always mean we need to change all the time — nor should we focus on pet projects. Instead, we should focus on evolving the systems around these projects, creating interoperable ecosystems where our digital estates feed into each other and nurture each other.