Adopting a digital transformation strategy offers city and council leaders flexibility and a more mature, nuanced public-private dynamic.
A truly collaborative partnership, built on mutual trust and aligned incentives, promotes talent development, whilst instilling best practices from the private sector. With a shared vision and commitment to outcomes– as opposed to processes – public service organisations can build the capabilities and capacity to be more self-sufficient, long-term.
So, what does digital transformation look like? What is the right approach? Consider these key attributes as you start your journey:
- User-centered design – Digital transformation places the citizen at the core. It invests time in listening to validate assumptions, learn from pain points and understand how citizens want to engage public services. Ethnographic studies and continuous re-engagement with citizens ensures real personalisation.
- Place at the heart – The digital transformation of our councils and combined authorities will encourage a more place-based mindset. It will work to overcome the siloes that exist through legacy allegiances, as well as infrastructure ownership. Deeper insights into citizens’ needs encourages more cross-agency collaboration and helps rally folks to collectively solve complex system issues, such as air quality.
- Innovative commercial construct – Alignment of incentives across public sector bodies and their business partners is fundamental to the success of digital transformation. Both parties must understand and be motivated to achieve the key outcomes that cities and councils aspire (e.g. efficiency savings, citizen satisfaction levels, availability of affordable homes, safer, cleaner streets etc.). This requires the ability to effectively benchmark and then weave these performance metrics into a more outcomes-based commercial construct.
- Proactive knowledge transfer – The end goal of a successful digital transformation programme is a self-sufficient public agency. This means that the organisation has benefited from extensive interaction with the creative approaches of the private sector; creating new ways of working. Knowledge transfer needs to be a stated objective and key component of any digital transformation programme.
- Agility – You are not confined to delivering on the strategy as it’s written on the page. Adapt the work as your needs and requirements evolve. Within a digital transformation, the final outcomes may remain relatively static, but the delivery may change. In our work with West Midlands Police, we are jointly aspiring to save 20% year-on-year of costs, whilst improving citizen satisfaction levels. However, the mode to achieve this goal is variable. By operating in an agile manner, we continue to adhere to the core principles of the future target operating model, but we can adjust delivery methods (e.g. in-house or third-party) based on regular reviews of the relevancy and usefulness of the strategy.
- Data-driven culture– A digital transformation can help you unravel the value of your data and use it to accelerate your work. Alongside human-centred design aspects, digital transformation is also about unlocking the value of an organisation’s data. Leveraging more real-time data insights can improve and better support operational and strategic decision making. Such approaches have proved incredible value in Rotterdam and New York.
What’s your view on these six approaches? Are you already implementing one or more within your digital transformation? I am keen to understand the challenges and opportunities you have encountered on your journey so far. Please leave a comment below or visit our cities content hub.