Digital transformation in government, part 1: 3 reasons THIS is your year

It’s been 15 years since I saw my first workflow automation solution. Hating paper as I did, and facing a compliance challenge at my state agency, I immediately saw the potential of automation to answer some challenges my housing department faced. Of course, I was an IT Director and at that time and had more faith in the power of technology than others. I had no trouble shifting my paradigm, but my peers… not so much. They humored me, but I did not mistake that for acceptance that we could “go digital.”

Jumping forward more than a decade, we constantly hear about digital transformation and many countries have “Digital First” initiatives underway. In the US, this transformation and its potential can intersect with other state IT needs like consolidation, centralization, improved security and better efficiency.

That’s the internal side, but the external side is also critical to consider.

With each of us carrying a smartphone, our customers’ expectations have never been higher. And the old phrase, “customer service,” is being replaced with a hard look at “customer experience.” In the past decade, our staffs connect with customers and make strides every day because of the technology our smartphones put into our pockets.

Today, “going digital” is widely accepted. But it may feel like an overwhelming burden, particularly if you are already understaffed and facing modernization while fighting off cyber attacks. So, while we no longer need a staff paradigm shift to go digital, we may be wary of taking on yet another far-reaching initiative or another strategic value.

Moreover, as a CIO or IT Director, there is no shortage of IT trends you’re expected to evaluate and chase. Cyber-security pokes at us, blockchain and AI are peeking around the corner and you may still be doing an inventory to figure what IoT means for you. These are important trends to watch, but here are three reasons why digital transformation needs to be at the top of your 2018 list:

     1. Persistent budget uncertainty

The volatility of state revenues is historic. Collectively, revenues are up over 2007, but individual states are suffering. Recent tax code changes and their revenue impact is not yet known, and most state legislatures continue to meet in off-budget years to adjust to changing costs and revenue shortfalls. It might be natural to think, “spend nothing, wait for better times,” but we’ve lived through more than 10 years of volatility, and with changes at the federal level, we may face additional budget challenges.

We don’t know if, or when, it will get better, but we do know that digital transformation offers continuous staff efficiency improvement and cost reductions. This means driving savings and efficiency gains that state government needs to offset the continuing revenue uncertainty.

2. The indefensibility of paper-based process

Earlier, I alluded to the change in expectations driven by the devices we carry. In this environment, states fall behind in customer experience if we don’t figure out ways to harness online and self-service options that mirror what the business community offers. Add to this lost documents, paper storage costs, lack of disaster preparation and automation, and the issue is compounded. State agencies that don’t embrace a digital strategy face an indefensible reliance on paper with the possibility of falling further behind in any effort to drive efficiency and cost savings.

3. The “next thing” problem

Every day, an IT analyst somewhere suggests the next big thing that we absolutely, positively must have. It can seem like we will never catch up. I take these pronouncements with a grain of salt, but I do believe that following some trends and tools positions us for continuous improvement.

Digital transformation is one of those moments.

Your work to implement digital transformation initiatives in 2018 will support existing needs to deliver solutions faster, drive efficiency and save money. It will improve customer experience and help you survive the volatility of budgets and political cycles. But here’s another important thought: Organizations that adopt a mindset that embraces IT change as likely and beneficial set themselves up well for the future. Digital transformation, with benefits for staff and customers, is the type of technological moment that reinforces the positive aspects of change for the hard-working staff that have heard these promises before.

If this has helped convince you that, part 2 will show you which tools deliver digital transformation without breaking the bank or the backs of your staff.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10 plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at terri.jones@onbase.com.

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