Gartner Survey Finds Governments Making Slow Progress with Digital Initiatives

Digital business initiatives are high on governments’ agendas. However, governments’ ability to scale these initiatives is increasing slowly and progress lags behind that of other industries, according to a survey* by Gartner, Inc.

Half the government respondents to the survey are looking to digital government to support a combination of transformation and optimization goals. The other half is focusing on a single ambition, either optimization (33 percent) or transformation (17 percent).

Gartner distinguishes five stages on the road to digital transformation: desire, designing, delivering, scaling and harvesting (see Figure 1). “Ninety-one percent of government respondents consider themselves at one of the first three stages, which focus on the development and introduction of new services,” said Dean Lacheca, research director at Gartner. “Only 9 percent identify their digital initiatives as being in the later stages, where the focus is on scaling the service and exceeding the value of comparable nondigital initiatives.”

Figure 1. Scaling Digital Government: Ambition Versus Progress

Figure 1. Scaling Digital Government: Ambition Versus Progress
Source: Gartner (September 2018)

“The survey results indicate a lack of effectiveness by government organizations at scaling their digital business,” said Mr. Lacheca. “We envisage two possible internal barriers — misalignment between digital strategy and business priorities, and lack of urgency and readiness for change.”

A digital business and technology strategy cannot exist on its own. It must be part of a larger business transformation journey. “If strategy and ambition are aligned with business priorities, but progress remains elusive, the focus should be on the urgency and readiness of the organization for digital change,” Mr. Lacheca added. “If there is no urgency to act, or if the culture is not ready to accept change, progress will remain slow.”

Increase Investment in External Ecosystems to Boost Digital Impact

Ecosystems are also key to helping government organizations scale their digital business. Collaboration with partners, including employees, citizens, consumers, startups, digital giants and service providers, can play a major role in scaling the benefits of digital government.

The survey shows that government respondents already use a range of business ecosystems. Over half of respondents use third-party developers to deliver value to citizens. This figure is substantially higher than that for all the survey respondents (41 percent).

“Government support of services built by third-party developers can be directly linked to open data, open APIs and support for civic technology. This a big step in the right direction,” said Mr. Lacheca. “To exploit the full potential of ecosystems, government CIOs should explore new partnerships. Other external ecosystems, like those of startups and citizens themselves, offer tremendous opportunities. Establishing or engaging citizen ecosystems can significantly boost civic engagement and thus have a positive impact on society as a whole.”

Governments Recognize the Importance of Digitally Skilled Staff

The survey also found that governments are working to improve the digital dexterity of their employees. Forty-eight percent of government respondents rated this critical to the success of their digital business. Nevertheless, 58 percent indicated that they have no formal program to ensure their workforce has the digital skills needed for digital business success.

“A digital workplace program is the most effective way to bring together a higher standard of workplace technologies with the development of digital skills needed to increase digital dexterity,” said Mr. Lacheca. “Government CIOs should work with HR to assess the current state of digital dexterity and develop an organizationwide program.”

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