Does Public Administration really need to make the digitisation journey?
While businesses have been dealing with digitisation for quite some time and are under pressure to keep changing and adapting or risk becoming obsolete, the case for Public Administrations is rather different. It is unlikely that any of these organisations will ever be threatened by a more digitally advanced competitor, so with the “do or die” argument weakened, there would seem to be no major reason to invest in digitisation, right?
Not really. There is actually a vast array of opportunities in digitisation that compel Public Administrations to do more and do it better. From the potential additional revenues and cost savings that can ease the strain on public budgets to the capacity to attract investment, talent and knowledge, digitisation allows for greater effectiveness and efficiency which are critical and what citizens expect from these organisations. After all, they are the ones funding them and the ones who should benefit. On top of that, the digitisation of Public Administrations is a major incentive for businesses to accelerate their own digital transformation processes.
The challenges Public Administrations face during this digitisation journey are not that different from those businesses face, but there is one significant difference: getting everyone on-board, engaged and actively contributing to the process throughout is much harder and also much more critical. Therefore, to drive digitisation in a decentralized organisation like the European Commission which has more than 35.000 officials and 40 Directorate-Generals and no “do or die” drive is a remarkable undertaking.
But how did the European Commission digitisation journey begin?
Gertrud Ingestad, Director-General at DIGIT (European Commission) pointed out in her presentation during CIOCITY17 that, for the European Commission, the moment the key was put in the ignition was when Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President, called for a plan to improve the European Commission’s general effectiveness and efficiency. That was when the opportunity for IT to get the motors ready, turn the key and start driving the digitisation process came about.
As was also shared by Gertrud Ingestad during her talk, it was and is all about people. People and trust to sustain the long journey. For IT this meant that they had to move away from the perception of being a dark force and become more transparent, more accountable and more flexible. In order to achieve this change and ensure people’s trust throughout the process, the first step before getting on with the actual driving had to involve all the relevant stakeholders. So, the process started with a structured discussion with all the Directors-General to have the plans analysed, shaped and endorsed by everyone. Once the decision about where they needed to go and what the best route to get there would be, the European Commission digitisation journey really began.
Where is this journey heading to?
The European Commission digitisation journey, much like the journeys of other Public Administration institutions and of businesses in general is heading to a state where, no matter what the budget constraints or complex challenges it may face, it is able to continuously provide services that not only meet, but exceed the ever changing needs and expectations of its internal (each Directorate-General) and external clients (citizens and businesses).
And how far has the European Commission gone so far?
From the initial structured discussion with all the Directors-General resulted a plan which focused on 7 key areas: following the money, reinforcing security, unlocking data, becoming digital by default, creating reusable building blocks, standardising and centralising and consolidating data centres. Although the journey is only partway through, for Gertrud Ingestad it has been one amazing and naturally inspiring ride so far. If you want to learn where the digitisation of the European Commission is currently at, be sure to view her full presentation made at CIOCITY17.