Eating That [Digital Government] Elephant: The First Five Steps

In a previous blog, I compared the task of digitizing the government services portfolio to eating an elephant – it’s a task that is most sensibly undertaken one bite at a time!

The benefits of digital enablement include cost optimization and a lower administrative burden for the government itself, along with an improved relationship and higher service quality to the citizens. To get you started, here are the prerequisite steps as identified in our latest white paper.

The very first step is to establish consistency across organizational boundaries, certainly in the way governments communicate with citizens. Governments usually have multiple departments with multiple approaches, multiple solutions, multiple timeframes, and multiple objectives. You are never going to eat an entire elephant one bite at a time unless some order is imposed on this potential chaos on the process side. So first create a consistent and innovative business and IT interlocked strategy, preferably at the highest governmental level. Time for solo adventures on interfacing with the citizens must be over.

The next step is to focus on citizen outcomes. This can be tough. Governments have spent many years respectfully looking inwards at internal structures. This was clearly understood and keenly observed; this service delivery followed the organizational set up. However, to digest the digital government elephant, this will now have to change. The transformation team must redesign services and processes around citizen outcomes and not around internal organizations anymore.

To optimize and standardize the solutions portfolio, the next step is to start using a digital reference architecture from day one. No more variations in similar business process flow across departments, with different rules and parameters or an application per process per department. Now all processes and client interactions must be designed and rolled out in the same way. And don’t be deterred by the importance of this undertaking – your approach should be incremental, starting with a first version and expecting to improve this over time.

Another challenge in the mammoth government initiative of digital enablement is the variety of data to be handled. Unstructured video, audio, and social media data needs your attention. So too does fast-growing machine-generated data. All of this big data is coming into the organization and it is increasingly being published by the organization. You need to handle it, secure it, and analyze it. So, the next step is to design systems for structured and unstructured data.

The fifth and final prerequisite step is to organize around publishing qualitative Open Data by default. To be valuable and trustworthy, government data must meet the highest standards of quality and consistency. It must be extracted, transformed, and published the right way or industries will not convert it into apps. Quality comes for quantity (of number of datasets).

When you have achieved these five steps, you’ve made it halfway through your elephant! Click to complete the entire digestive process: read my next blog titled The Final Steps In Eating That [Digital Government] Elephant.

Download the white paper: 10 Steps towards a Digital Government

Yves Vanderbeken is a DXC Chief Technologist and lead enterprise architect for the Flemish government and local governments (Flanders). Since 2011, Vanderbeken has been a core team member of the Flemish government’s Open Data team. He defined the technical strategy for setting up the Open Data platform and extracting, transforming, and publishing information in a consistent manner. He is the co-author of the Open Data Handbook published by the Flemish Government in February 2014. Vanderbeken coaches and advises various departments on their Open Data Master Plan and how to disclose data from their source systems to the Open Data platform, ensuring data quality and consistency across data sets.