8 Public Sector Transformation Predictions for 2013

First, the Systemscope crew extends a warm Happy New Year to our friends, clients and associates. May the year ahead bring many successes to you personally and in your various endeavours.

Ahead of the maelstrom that is the fourth quarter for the federal government, we took a moment to mark down some of our insights about transformation in the public sector. These predictions come from interactions with our clients, research of emerging business process and information technology trends and our own exploration of new ideas and approaches. And, frankly, our own gut feelings.

Let’s just say it won’t be a quiet year.

The Fog Starts to Clear

      1. Service delivery models will be architected while being engineered.  The gauntlet has dropped.  Transformational priorities have been thrust upon the community, from GC Web Renewal to regulatory service transformation, through to centralized IT and clustered service delivery.  The GC does not have the luxury of time, nor of resources to demonstrate results.  As a result, gone are the days of infinite strategizing, planning, requirements collection, procurement, design, build, implement, operate… all of which are fraught with risk.  This year we expect to see the GC adopt more agile approaches writ large. The successful ones will embrace the innovative mojo the GC once had in order to enter into an effective cycle of plan-do-measure-learn-improve.  By blending business, information and applications architecture into engineering design, through an agile and iterative approach, we will see lower risk, faster time-to-value, and accelerated benefits realization for clients, stakeholders and the GC.
      2. Lead departments, in the execution of IM strategies that focus on maximizing the use of valuable digital information assets, will radically transform the way digital information is stored, accessed and managed in enterprise information management systems. For too long now in information management the focus has been on designing systems and processes that enable information creation and information retention and disposition but do not enable or facilitate information use. Lead departments, taking cues from successful information rich web and e-commerce sites, will develop systems in which leveraging the value of information for the benefit of the organization will dominate the design paradigm, achieving the necessary, but more mundane, records management requirements in the background.
      3. There will be a surge of true enterprise wide transformation management. Although many people believe we have lived through these types of massive changes before, we’re not sure we agree. It seems like today’s large scale transformations are different, and in many ways are presenting us with the perfect storm.  They involve organizational restructuring, client needs and client service redefinition, and a total reinvention of existing service delivery channels.  And within each of these major initiatives, there are people, process, technology, and system changes.  And if that all wasn’t enough, we are continually being asked to work collaboratively with new ‘partners’ and/or people whom we may have never worked with before.
        We believe that 2013 will be the year that we all stop thinking of transformations from exclusively the project management (PM) perspective.   We are fast learning that they must be approached as enterprise-wide programs that impact each and every individual within an organization.  A PM approach is simply not created for that purpose.  So 2013 (and beyond) will focus on the creation of new enterprise-wide program tools and techniques that will provide the ‘umbrella  approach’ necessary to better weather that perfect storm!

Deadline Schmeadline

      1. ROT will be removed in 2013 whether you like it or not. Some think that ROT is done and gone, but the reality is that the initial thrust has passed with dismal results. I’m seeing 2-3% of content identified as redundant, outdated or trivial which is a far cry from the 40-60% being targeted. That’s not a prediction, just a fact. So where will go from here? I think we will see two different paths followed this year. First, communications branches will start to take the bull by the horns, and rather than trying to get program areas to identify the ROT, Communications is going to do it for them. Comms will start owning the problem, making the decisions, and removing the content as needed. The second path will be for those who continue with inertia. Rather than the department being able to identify their ROT and dissect their pages tactfully with a scalpel, someone is going to come along with a machete and do it for them. While it may end up being efficient, I’m not convinced this will be optimal for departments or users.
      2. GC Web consolidation efforts will initially meet a wall, and then overcome it. The pressure to start implementing “something” in 2013 will produce some initial strategies for information architecture and governance. But with the challenges of handling this huge effort by committee and not by a dedicated team, odds are that progress will be minimal by Q2 and anything visible will not feel like a transformation, but more of the same. Rather than let the momentum falter, there will be a rethink at the drawing board and a better plan that looks more keenly at an enterprise model and sustainable, iterative development. Governance will be framed around the role of content owner and the supporting, centralized mechanisms that must deal with the issues of user experience design, interoperability and performance.

What’s in a Name? That Which We Call…

    1. Intranets will be reborn as digital workspace. Intranets will gain prominence this year, but under the guise of a new “digital workspace”.  Intranets, as we have known them in the past, are outdated, dull and in many departments, a useless junk drawer. I think we’re going to see a new push to turn this around and create useful, effective and efficient digital workspaces for staff, of which the intranets are a component. Why now? There are a few GC priorities and cultural influences that are all now converging, leaving us in a position where we can’t help but look to our digital workspace as a new priority. These include:
      1. The evolving internet renewal driven by TBS priorities: a lot of the good ideas from these are also going to be viewed as good ideas for internal web presences).
      2. Workplace 2.0: with an eye to working differently the collaboration and communication spaces used by staff will need to evolve if there’s to be any success with “working smarter”.
      3. Enterprise Information Management, TBS RK compliance and GC Docs are all going to require some sort of interface and document collaboration space and the internal web space will have a critical role here.
      4. Departments will start to evolve to developing “digital workspace” strategies, rather than IM/IT strategies, to keep pace with public and employee expectations for the delivery of open, efficient and effective government.
      5. A cultural shift in departments where the DRAP ideals of efficiency are now not just being applied to the web sphere, but a driving force behind the scoping and management decisions for our web spaces.
    2. We start caring less about social media but more about mobile. As mobile device ownership overtakes desktop and laptop computers, anywhere anytime access to web content via a smartphone or tablet will be expected by both citizens and government employees. Social media will simply be a component of a basic communications strategy instead of a separate stand-alone channel. Mobile media, however, and the features untethered web access allows for such as location-based services or augmented reality, as well as the mobile wallet, will require clear understanding of user contexts and close alignment of GC-wide enterprise needs to prevent duplicate mobile services and multiple similar-use apps.
    3. Task-based design starts to turn towards transaction-based design. The new TBS standards for the Web have put the concept of “task-based design” in the lime light. Departments are cutting huge swaths out of their websites (in theory) based on defining what tasks users are trying to complete, and what they are not. This isn’t going to go away in 2013 and nor do I think it should. However, I think some of the struggles we have in delivering on this task completion due to internal capacity and alignment of mandates with user needs will give way to a new focus on “transaction-based design”.  As departments get increasingly serious about streamlining their websites this year, I think we will see transactional concepts emerging as the definition for not just “what’s really important to users”, but more so the intersection between important to users and useful content or services that can actually be provided.


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