What should you do when you know the status quo is no longer a winning strategy? That’s the dilemma facing government agencies and institutions of higher education. Constituent expectations keep rising. The pace of technology change keeps getting faster. Old ways of operating just aren’t working. And longstanding back-office systems and processes have become hindrances rather than enablers to meaningful outcomes.
It all points to the need for massive change—reimagining the workforce and modernizing the core to turn siloed, reactive institutions into nimble, responsive “living” entities. It’s about being able to evolve at the speed of life.
Easier said than done, right? And yet, it can and must be done. Whether you’re exploring options or already well into your journey, I encourage you to consider two key questions.
Question 1: What size “T” do you want?
Every public service organization needs to evolve its core to move ahead of constituent expectations and technology innovations. Precisely how will vary by organization. Start by assessing your organization’s capacity and constraints, both of which affect your ability to change. Think through the ecosystem of partners that can potentially contribute. Given those parameters, what’s the appropriate scope of transformation (see Figure 1)?
Figure 1. Select the Appropriate Scale of Transformation
It might be “little t” transformation focused mostly or totally on implementing new technologies. With this level of transformation, there’s little focus on business process optimization or other broader changes. Cloud migration is a prime example. While there’s a lot of market chatter about how cloud alone will drive transformation—and might even result in some process optimization—it’s still a “little t” transformation. It could advance your journey. But with SaaS/cloud touching less than half of the institution’s back-office processes, it may produce limited results.
Broader transformation, big T, comes from the coupling of concerted, and often concurrent, initiatives (think: further process optimization and reengineering, workforce enablement, and even organizational restructuring to gain efficiencies). When you take on these broader scopes of change, you may find you can achieve even more by establishing a new operating model (think: development of shared services centers or outsourcing of non-core mission functions).
Combining higher-order initiatives trend toward the “Big T” transformations that can position your organization as a “living” entity capable of moving ahead of change.
Question 2: How will you get it done?
Most organizations undertake back-office transformation with the help of a third party—usually a firm skilled in the relevant applications. As you decide what kind of transformation to pursue, you also need to decide how to accomplish it, and which partner(s) are best suited to supporting your goals. Potential partners may offer a wide variety of services, including project management, system design, build, test, deployment, and run services, as well as organizational change management.
Just as there’s a spectrum of transformation, there’s also a range of models for engaging partners. As depicted in Figure 2 below, models range from:
- Low-touch to High-touch Engagement based on the dedication of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) resources and their onsite availability, and
- Advisory Services to Consultancy Services depending on the breadth of services a partner can provide.
When choosing, think carefully about what you expect from both your partner—and from your own organization.
Figure 2. Select the Best Engagement Model
In a Client Driven model, workshare splits under Advisory Services can be as high as a 90/10, client to partner ratio. In this model your organization would tackle the lion’s share of hands-on project work with the partner providing a very low-touch engagement level.
Services under these models—typically coaching on the use of implementation tools and templates—are primarily focused on software configuration, testing and deployment matters. They normally do not entail project management, organizational change management, consultative discussions on options for your organization to consider for configuration, testing, reporting or security, or other related services. Such engagements are often delivered by fractional FTE consultants, who split their time across multiple client projects at the same time, and who primarily work remotely, rather than at the client site resulting in a more ‘transactional’ nature of the engagement.
Experience shows that such models may not align with the reality of what your organization needs or what your team can bring to the table to counterbalance what it actually takes to implement transformation. When such imbalance occurs, you may face tough decisions around scope reduction, project delays and service change orders. So, it is important to be realistic about what your organization can contribute and where you need help.
On the other end of the spectrum is a Joint Partnership model where consultants spend more time onsite with the client team focused on business decisions and outcomes when making system related decisions. The work split in this model is more flexible and can move towards a 60/40, client to partner ratio to supplement client teams especially where skills are scarce. This model can also create an environment of joint accountability for success both contractually and by co-locating team members to have a stronger set of communication channels and increased knowledge transfer to client personnel.
The most important thing? Recognize the urgency of change—and the importance of becoming flexible and adaptable enough to hit fast-moving targets. Be committed to transformation and diligent in following through internally and with your ecosystem of partners.