Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

With Digital Transformation, Change is Not Always Easy

Government agencies have certainly made progress toward achieving digital transformation. However, for most it is still very much a work in progress. At the federal level, for example, most agencies have either complied with or are working toward meeting the White House’s Digital Government Strategy requirements. Many haven’t gotten much further than developing a few applications.

Some of the biggest hurdles agencies face as they move toward digital government are perceived security risks, cost, concerns whether existing infrastructure can keep up, and inability to demonstrate return on investment, according to a study of federal, state and local agencies by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group.

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In a 2015 study on digital government, Deloitte referred to agencies with concerns like these as developing—neither fully behind the curve or fully mature in their move to digital government. The Deloitte study characterizes most government agencies in this category.

Perception and Reality

One of the biggest concerns about digital government voiced by agency leaders in the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, conducted by Beacon Technology Partners, survey was security. Half of respondents were very concerned about security risks related to digital services, while another 33 percent reported being somewhat concerned.

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While security should never be taken lightly, many believe the most pressing security hurdles have been overcome. This is especially true if agencies base their digital government platforms on cloud technology. “At this point, most cloud-based capabilities have better security than any individual agency could do on their own,” says Ray Wang, principal and founder of Constellation Research.

Other experts agree. In a January, 2016 statement, Gartner predicted more government agencies will move to the cloud because of its security. It also predicted that by 2018, improved cloud security will become the primary reason for government’s move to the cloud, displacing cost and agility.

According to the 1105 Public Sector Media Group survey, 82 percent of government IT leaders also worry that their existing IT infrastructure won’t support digital service delivery. Cloud is a solution to not only security, but also infrastructure.

Gartner supports this idea. One of its Top 10 strategic technology trends for government is hybrid cloud. Gartner believes hybrid cloud provides agencies with a more sustainable operating model that can help deliver a more manageable, secure and scalable environment. Cloud architecture provides other benefits as well, such as the ability to test new applications without spending money on hardware that might be too limiting or too much, and avoiding technology lock-in.

And there is plenty of room for growth. The Professional Services Council’s 2015 survey of federal CIOs found only 8 percent report being satisfied with their current level of cloud adoption.

Money Talks

Agencies worry about the cost of digital service development and maintenance, despite evidence it’s not materially more expensive than other types of IT. One of the problems, according to the 1105 Public Sector Media Group survey, is it can be difficult to demonstrate value or Return on Investment (ROI).

There are many soft and hard metrics agencies can use to help demonstrate ROI, such as the number of man-hours saved by tasks that are no longer repetitive, faster response times, higher availability and transparency. More importantly, demonstrating value takes strategy, says Kevin Noonan, lead government analyst at Ovum.

“Often, agencies try to do too much, and then fail,” he says. “It’s better to take small steps that make a real difference, such as creating a service that allows citizens to submit change of address once instead of notifying multiple agencies. It’s a simple service, but its value is larger than the effort involved. It’s transformational, and it’s a good way to demonstrate success.”

Despite both real and perceived hurdles to achieving true digital transformation, it’s entirely possible with the right combination of technology and innovation. There is proof of success in every agency at every level of government.

Methodology and survey demographics

Between January 21, 2016 through February 11, 2016, 108 subscribers of FCW and GCN responded to an e-mail survey about digital services trends. Survey respondents were screened for involvement with, or interest in, customer-facing digital services offered on behalf of their department or agency. Beacon Technology Partners developed the methodology, fielded the survey and compiled the results.

Approximately 73% of respondents were technology decision-makers (CIOs or other IT managers or professionals), while 27 percent were senior managers, program managers or other business decision-makers. Approximately 51 percent came from the federal government (37 percent civilian, 14 percent defense) and 40 percent from state or local government agencies. Nine percent of respondents represented a systems integrator that offers services to government agencies.

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the custom publishing unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Public Sector Media Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Public Sector Media Group's custom publishing, please email us at PSMGCustomMedia@1105media.com.