Digital transformation—using technology to change how your government agency operates—can sound intimidating, and with governments practically being forced to go digital, it’s true that things can get overwhelming.
Many articles discuss digital transformation like it’s a complete overhaul of government, but it’s really about making the best use of technology to serve your population.
You probably already have several software solutions running throughout your agency. From tracking tax bills to managing permits to providing community program registration, your “software stack” is likely substantial—so substantial that you can probably advance your digital transformation without significant software upgrades or purchases.
Here’s a strategy for optimizing your existing solutions to make life easier for your staff and the community you serve.
What's Possible With Your Existing Software?
Maybe you’ve been hearing complaints and requests from citizens or businesses. Or maybe your team just got back from a conference where they learned about the latest and greatest technology.
Before you search for software vendors or convince your political leaders to invest millions in new solutions, start with a review of what you have.
You may find:
- you’re able to unlock or use existing features
- upgrades that could improve user experience and fix bugs are available
- your user interfaces and messaging are confusing and could simply be clarified
- you can connect or integrate programs to automate tasks and improve information flow
- you need to communicate with the public to make them aware of the services you offer and how they can access them
- you need to train staff to ensure they’re using the software properly and to its full potential
Clearly Define Your Objective
Always start a project with a clear “why.” Create a small team—sort of a steering committee—and write down an objective to guide the project.
Don’t choose things like “save money” or “use all existing software features.” They’re a distraction.
First, digital transformation isn’t about saving money (although it can happen by making processes more efficient). Second, you might not need all those features, so it would be a waste of time to turn them on and learn to use them.
We recommend focusing on what your users—the staff and citizens who use your software—need. A project objective like “ensure software is set up and being used to best serve our staff and the public” should help you plan and prioritize appropriately.
Next, choose success metrics to judge your progress. You can’t set specific, quantifiable targets until later in the project, but getting a framework together early will ensure you don’t skip this critical step.
Your success metrics should include more than just project milestones like “review all applications” or “engage with the public.” Instead, identify the problems you’re trying to solve and pinpoint how you’ll know when they’re solved.
Gather Your Requirements
Now, ensure your team has identified the right problems to solve by talking to your users.
It’s helpful to have a business analyst or technology consultant on your team. They can help you determine who to engage with and how. Here are some tips based on our experience at Vision33.
- Who are the primary users? They might be staff, individual residents, business representatives, associations, and other governments.
- What information do you have about the users? Maybe you’ve already surveyed them, or perhaps there’s a record of complaints and requests.
- What are the key pain points? Don’t assume the answer to this question; carefully plan and facilitate engagement with a representative sampling of these users.
- What currently works well? This may be harder to determine because people don’t complain when things are working well, but if a change would break a favored service, you want to know.
When interacting with your users, explain what you’re trying to achieve. You want to understand their frustrations and desires because it will help you prioritize which changes to make and how to communicate when you start implementing them.
Conduct a Systems Analysis
“Systems analysis” is a fancy term for determining the current state of your software stack. What are the main applications, what do you use them for, and how do they interact?
It’s valuable to look beyond the IT department for this information. Again, talk to the users— you’ll learn more than just technical details. Be prepared with questions like, “What programs do you use?” and “Can you walk me through a typical day interacting with the software?”
A helpful approach is journey mapping, which is visualizing the process a user goes through to achieve specific goals. It will highlight challenges and opportunities and encourage the users to be more thoughtful in the details they share with you.
By digging deeper with questions like “How do you wish things worked differently?”, you’ll get a clear picture of how everyone would like your system to operate when the project is complete.
You can call this picture the “future state” of the system. Write this vision down and do a gap analysis by comparing it with the current state and identifying the differences.
The gap analysis results plus the technical constraints of your current setup will dictate how you prioritize and implement a plan to use your technology more effectively. Create a list of requirements, prioritize them, identify potential difficulties/costs, and categorize them based on the “What’s Possible” list at the beginning of this article.
Create an Implementation Plan
Now that you have your well-organized requirements list, it’s time to plan how you’ll roll them out!
This step involves identifying the resources you’ll need to implement the requirements. Who will train users? Do you have IT professionals who can configure your software or roll out upgrades? Can your communications team engage the public about potential changes or downtime?
It’s also time to determine the expected budget and timelines and get approvals. Can you break the project down into phases? Can you delegate some requirements to individual departments? Will you hire external resources to assist?
Put the details into a project document and include a concise executive summary that explains the “why,” summarizes the problems, and briefly describes how you’ll achieve this without significant investments in new technology.
Technology is advancing rapidly, which is both exciting and intimidating. Hopefully, this guide has shown that you can make a lot of progress without replacing extensive software investments or reinventing the wheel.
Vision33 has decades of experience in implementing major technology solutions and assisting public agencies in maximizing the return on their technology investments.
If you’d like to discuss these ideas or have questions about how your agency can use technology to better serve your organization and community, please contact us!