Governments around the world have long recognized the need to undertake some form of digital transformation. Many have been working for some time on transformation strategies designed to support the incremental adoption of digital technologies to increase productivity, improve efficiency and enable better management of resources.
Whatever form these strategies took, they had a common goal: to create the next-generation digital infrastructure that would improve service delivery to citizens, from responsive health services and personalized education to personalized administrative services and safer care for all. Two years ago, however, the pandemic changed everything.
Suddenly, governments’ mid- and long-term digital transformation goals had become redundant. Government workforces have had to quickly shift to working remotely, while governments themselves have had to adapt to find ways to continue delivering services to citizens. Fortunately, the wealth of digital tools available has enabled governments at all levels to move their operations and service delivery online.
One small step
These are not the only things that have changed. Life under COVID has changed society’s expectations of how the world should work. More than half of public and private sector workers say they would like to work from home at least three days a week now that the worst of the pandemic is over, for example, while 55% of companies think the pandemic has sparked a need for more digitization.
To meet these expectations, governments must, once again, accelerate their digital transformation strategies. Indeed, the current hybrid work trend should be a short intermediate step towards a digital workplace.
In a digital workplace, advanced data and digital technologies will enable greater collaboration and communication among government employees, as well as between governments and citizens. This, in turn, will support new forms of governance and public service delivery that are more innovative, agile and, above all, participatory.
The European Commission explains that the digital workplace “will provide staff with the right IT tools, platforms and services, enabling users to work and collaborate anywhere, anytime with adequate security and optimizing their experience. and their productivity. It will be adaptive and flexible to integrate different types of users, new behaviors and new technologies.
Employees will use a single platform for unified communication, collaboration, messaging, calendar and task management tools, all of which will be accessible wherever – and whenever – people choose to work. Ultimately, the digital workplace will allow employees to work more flexibly, with the autonomy they need to work in the way that works best for them.
Harnessing the benefits of the digital workplace requires looking beyond the immediate demands of hybrid working, to ensuring that governments are able to meet the expectations of workers and citizens – long after the health crisis has become a distant memory. To this end, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that creating the digital workplace requires the complete digitization of the public sector.
This digitization should apply to both external government processes and internal operations. Self-service digital portals should become the norm for most government services that do not require citizens to connect directly with government employees. In this way, citizens will be able to access the services they need more quickly, wherever they are and when they need them.
And in cases where citizens need to connect with a government employee, those employees will have the digital tools they need to access information and respond to questions and requests in real time – a much better experience for both parties.
The move to a digital workplace will not be without challenges, however.
Take on the challenge
Without the right technologies and the right digital tools, no digitization effort will ever reach its full potential. Governments must therefore consider various technological challenges.
It is vital, for example, to ensure that employees and citizens always have secure access to applications and important data wherever they are via public, private or hybrid cloud environments. Robust connectivity is also essential if employees and citizens are to have access to the network, applications and data that power the digital workplace. IT silos, created over time by dividing responsibilities among multiple internal teams for office tools, citizen interfaces, and network and communication services, must be streamlined to operate effectively. And, of course, these must be protected at every stage of the communication and collaboration process.
By addressing these challenges, governments can build a strong technological foundation for a digital workplace that will meet the needs of employees and allow them to meet the service expectations of citizens.
Build a foundation
Enabling efficient and effective communications and collaboration should be the overarching goal of any technology foundation on which a government can build a digital workplace. But, if that foundation includes several disparate pieces, it won’t provide the seamless technology integration necessary to meet not only the immediate needs of the organization, but also a smooth transition to more complex workplaces in the future. .
The ideal technology base should streamline communications among employees and enable more efficient communications with citizens. A single integrated environment is the right foundation for integrating specialized applications and improving communications with services such as common calendars and directories, chatbots and more complex AI-based cognitive technology.
Wired and wireless connectivity is a given, giving employees and citizens access to networks that enable connections, support advanced applications and facilitate the flow of information. But governments must also provide inclusive technology to citizens who may not have the tools to access digital services. This can involve creating publicly accessible digital hotspots – kiosks or service points equipped with tablets or computers that citizens can use to connect to government services.
And the entire communication and collaboration environment must be underpinned by pervasive, advanced security practices, policies and procedures, constantly updated to protect the network and the data it contains from potential intrusions, every time. stage of the value chain.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the digital transformation of the public sector. Long-planned strategies have been put on hold to ensure business as usual. And now, as life returns to normal and organizations everywhere adopt hybrid working practices, it seems that impact is irrevocable. Governments should see it as an evolutionary step. The future of the public sector lies in the digital workplace. By overcoming potential challenges now, governments and citizens will benefit from more efficient and effective service delivery for the benefit of all.