The rapid advances in technology coupled with unprecedented circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic meant that governments at all levels (local, state and federal) needed to accelerate or reconsider their digital transformation initiatives.
In short, government digital transformation refers to the continuous use of technology to create and manage better government programs and provide quality services to the public. These objectives can only be achieved through the right processes, tools and platforms that will allow government/public employees to perform their jobs effectively and bridge the gap between the government and the general public.
Although there are a multitude of technologies that can help governments digitize their operations, in this blog post, we will mainly focus on the growing role of digital workplace solutions and walkthrough some detailed use cases.
- Break down communications barriers
The major challenges facing governments in developing and even developed countries are often related to communication or lack thereof. Whether at an organizational level or externally, public officials often find themselves trapped in endless email threads as they may lack the proper tools to communicate on an ongoing basis. Additionally, taking the example of a local government, on site local and county workers such as waste collectors, sanitation workers and firefighters usually lack mobile solutions that can facilitate real time interaction with their office counterparts, other governing bodies and partner organizations.
This obviously results in disconnected teams and government entities which can eventually slow processes and lower the quality of service.
Additionally, amid the covid-19 pandemic, the majority of employees had to work remotely to comply with lockdowns and ensure the continuity of critical day-to-day operations. In the US for example, upwards of 57% of all government employees worked from home last year precisely in May 2020 according to the US bureau of labor statistics.
To tackle this, more and more governments leaned towards modern digital workplace and intranet solutions as they come equipped with built-in features designed to support various types of communications such as top-down, bottom-up and peer-to-peer.
Through instant messaging and video conferencing functionalities for example, teams working from remote locations can instantly get in touch with each other using multiple devices.
Additionally, workers can always stay up to date with all the latest news, activities and policies through built-in news features and blogs. The news can be shared within communications hubs and targeted to specific groups, departments and agencies.
- Modernize the overall citizen experience
The concepts of user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) are often associated with the private sector offerings. For example, consumer apps used by millions daily base their strategies on a well and carefully designed experience centered around users’ needs.
With technologies becoming mainstream with each year passing, citizens started to grow even more frustrated with their government experiences and demanded more or less the same treatment they are getting from the private sector. According to a McKinsey report, government services within the seven countries included in the survey, are trailing the leading industries in customer satisfaction scores. The main reasons for this disparity is the very nature of governments. Contrary to the private sector, governments don’t operate for profits and usually prioritize operational efficiency and cost effectiveness over their citizens’ experiences.
However, in recent years, many authorities started to consider a complete overhaul of their existing systems and fully digitize their operations in order to satisfy the growing demands of the public. Not only that, but according to the same McKinsey report, investing in improving the citizen experience can bring a host of benefits to governments including increased trust and public participation, respecting budgets and boosting employee morale.
Convenience, remote access and ease of use are all essential ingredients to build a successful citizen experience. This is why governments have bet on digital workplace and content management solutions to create informational websites and portals.
Instead of having to physically move to a local or a regional government office and waiting in lines for hours on end, citizens can just login to a dedicated web portal. There, they can find all the information they need on specific government programs, policies and procedures.
Additionally, a unified web portal allows citizens to perform a variety of operations ranging from payments and filing tax returns all the way to checking personal medical records and applying or renewing ID cards, passports among a host of other activities.
In addition to simplicity and ease of access and due to the sensitive nature of both operations and the data involved, portals need to be secure and inline with different security protocols and privacy laws. For this, many governments have opted for open source based solutions as they provide maximum integration possibilities and access to the source code for transparency and independent security audits.
- Foster collaboration within and between government agencies
Providing quality services for the public is a process that relies heavily on collaboration whether on an internal or external level.
Let’s start with internal collaboration.
Here, similar in a way to businesses, government agencies at all levels rely on a combination of tools and applications to help foster collaboration and move away from traditional collaboration methods. The drawback, however, in using multiple tools is the confusion created as employees will have to spend more time toggling between apps and less time on productive tasks.
This is mainly the reason that have seen digital workplace solutions and collaborative suites become increasingly adopted by many industries and primarily governments. The holistic approach of such solutions offers a great deal of convenience, flexibility and security. Combining document and project management systems with an added layer of social features and mobility allow users to collaborate easily from anywhere and using any device.
Within a modern digital workplace, cross-departmental collaboration usually occurs within collaborative spaces. The latter can be created to group teams, communities, departments and agencies depending on the organizational structure and ongoing projects. Within each space, the involved parties be it office or onsite staff (such as social workers) can share news, expertise and project updates within the space’s activity stream. Grouping employees within spaces has proven to be an effective way to engage public agents and improve service delivery quality and time to the public.
In addition to internal collaboration, different departments and governmental agencies as well as partner organizations need to collaborate on a continuous basis. That is the premise of collaborative governance, which is simply defined, as quoted from Wikipedia as “the process that involves the government, community and private sectors communicating with each other and working together to achieve more than any one sector could achieve on its own”.
In addition to, of course, the right collaborative governance frameworks, all the involved parties need a collaboration hub, where they can easily and, more importantly, securely, collaborate and exchange information.
Digital workplace solutions can be used to facilitate collaboration and coordination between a government and external stakeholders (businesses, associations and the community). Using collaborative and social features such as spaces, a centralized knowledge base, forums and wikis, involved parties are able to join their efforts to create programs designed for the public.
- Centralize and secure access to knowledge
Traditional intranet solutions within governments only act as an internal website. In it, employees are only able to access limited information which usually offers little to no help on the tasks at hand. This meant that the exchange of information usually happened elsewhere using emails, faxes, paperwork and other applications.
This eventually has the potential to increase the likelihood of critical information getting lost, duplicated and hard to locate as some is still in paper format and even digital data is stored within multiple sources.
This doesn’t only present a productivity challenge but a security one as well. In the context of a governing body, the data in question can be confidential citizens’ personal information such as social security and medical records which pose a real security threat and non compliance with data privacy laws.
Digital workplace solutions, nowadays, offer a convenient way for government entities to create and manage rich knowledge databases containing all relevant data that staff can access to effectively perform their jobs.