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How to use a crisis to move towards digital government

Glenn Archer | Nov. 5, 2014
Agencies continue to view IT as a cost centre.

For example, the UK's GDS investigated agile, cloud and open source technologies, as well as issues around existing contracts and sourcing arrangements during its digital transformation initiative.

More importantly, make sure you're prepared to adopt these the moment approval is given to proceed. This is the time to consider any skills shortages and how gaps can be addressed.

Ideally, the CIO needs to be ready to present this plan to the executive before other options are even under consideration. A fast response will enhance credibility and improve the chances of the executive accepting the proposal.

Implement the plan
Once the decision has been made to proceed, it is imperative that you move quickly to establish a strong, small, central governance body with explicit authority to make decisions and demand compliance from others.

In the context of a crisis - and a plan that will likely require significant changes to business models, systems, policies, organisational structures and relationships with other parties, - it will be critical to ensure authority is put in place to effect change.

It's also important to create a compelling vision explaining why change is needed and what benefits it will deliver, and to promote this aggressively.

Design new services
Just as Einstein stated, a crisis gives IT leaders the opportunity to question past practices, review existing policy and reconsider organisational responsibilities. This is especially true wherever we find unnecessary complexity in service design.

Smart CIOs use the opportunity to redesign the service for the consumer.

Wherever possible, look for opportunities to decommission legacy systems. This is the time to convince the business that you can no longer afford to maintain those older systems. You might consider re-hosting the data or service on a new platform such as cloud, making the back-end service and/or data available through an API.

Citizens are not interested in government business processes or the specific responsibilities of individual agencies. They care only about their own needs.

Design services around them, and hide any internal or bureaucratic complexities, no matter how important you or those agencies might think their relative roles and responsibilities might be.

Finally, it's important that IT leaders have a good understanding of the current and emerging technology landscape. Look beyond your agency. Being prepared and able to leverage emerging technologies can make the difference when radical innovation is deemed appropriate.

Amongst the many roles the CIO has, none can be more important at a time of crisis than being the thought leader on innovation and technology's potential to assist in meeting the challenge that the organisation faces.


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