The most important tech trends driving government transformation


After nearly a decade of “doing more with less,” CIOs remain under pressure to further optimise IT and business costs while leading digital innovation in the public sector. Gartner research vice president Rick Howard explores the most important technology trends this year to enable government transformation initiatives.

Even in agencies where IT budgets are stable or marginally growing, CIOs face organisational and cultural challenges that are barriers to harnessing the synergistic potential of social, mobile, data analytics, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive transformational change.

Legacy silos of systems, data and processes reinforce “business as usual” practices and behaviours that limit government participation in broader partner ecosystems capable of supporting fully digital end-to-end citizen services.

In the digital service economy, government must make strategic investments in IT or risk perpetuating suboptimal service models that are financially unsustainable in the long term. Government CIOs who are too slow to adopt the technology innovations that are transforming private sector service industries will increase business risk and cost, while compromising the mission of their organisations.

Enabling government transformation

Gartner has identified the 10 most important technology trends for government in 2016 to enable government transformation initiatives. These will help leaders tie strategic digital capabilities directly to business drivers that pose growing risks or significant benefits to government organisations.

  • Digital workplace

The digital workplace is a business strategy to boost employee engagement and agility through a more consumerised work environment. It promotes collaborative work styles; supports decentralised, mobile work environments; and embraces employees’ personal choice of technologies.

  • Multichannel citizen engagement

Delivering an effective citizen experience requires a holistic approach: using data to capture and understand their needs and desires; leveraging effective social media and communications to actively engage them; allowing them to engage on their own terms; understanding their preferred engagement channels; affording seamless transitions among channels; and ultimately delivering a more satisfying set of interactions.

  • Open any data

Open any data in government results from “open by default” or “open by preference” governance policies and information management practices. These make license-free data available in machine-readable formats to anyone who has the right to access it without any requirement for identification or registration.

  • Citizen electronic identification (e-ID)

As government becomes more digitalised, digital identity needs to become more reliable as the core for all digital transactions. Citizen e-ID refers to processes and technologies managed by governments to provide a secure domain for citizens to access core resources or services.

  • Analytics everywhere

The pervasive use of analytics at all stages of business activity and service delivery — analytics everywhere — allows leading government agencies to shift from the dashboard reporting of lagging indicators to autonomous business processes and business intelligence (BI) capabilities that help humans make better context-based decisions in real-time.

  • Smart machines

Smart machines are a diverse combination of digital technologies that do what we once thought only people could do, such as autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants and smart advisors. With capabilities evolving rapidly, government IT leaders must explore smart machines as enhancements to existing business practices, and possibly as foundations for new public services or ways of accomplishing business goals.

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is the network of physical objects (fixed or mobile) that contains embedded technology to communicate, monitor, sense or interact with multiple environments. Government business models are emerging that take advantage of IoT, such as pay-for-use or subscription-based taxation models, smart waste bin collection on city streets, and the remote monitoring of elderly patients in assisted-living settings.

  • Digital government platforms

Governments face constant pressure to improve service delivery and save costs. Digital platforms reduce effort and facilitate user-centric design. They deliver services such as payments, identity management and verification, reusable application services and notifications that are commonly used across multiple domains. Taking a platform approach simplifies processes, improves citizen interaction and reduces expenditure.

  • Software-defined architecture (SDA)

SDA inserts an intermediary between the requester and the provider of a service so that it can change more dynamically — it’s the IT equivalent of changing tyres while a car is moving. Adding a software layer to abstract and virtualise networks, infrastructure or security has proved to be a useful way of deploying and utilising infrastructure. Applying the same technique to software architecture improves the manageability and agility of code, so organisation’s can respond to fluidity requirements of digital government and IoT.

  • Risk-based security

The cybersecurity threat environment is constantly evolving, but represents only one dimension of a complex, multifaceted set of threats and risks. CIOs must adopt a threat-aware, risk-based security approach that allows governments to make knowledgeable and informed decisions in a holistic fashion. This allows for a wiser allocation of resources; more sound decisions about risks and impacts on government missions, operations, assets and people; and engagement of leadership in risk-based decisions.

Impact of technology trends

Many of these technology trends change business models in ways that need to be reflected in more modern policies, especially those related to privacy or regulation. CIOs will need to be front and centre in providing advice to policymaking bodies and working with industry experts who can consult on options and impacts.

The business optimisation of government operating and service models, made possible by these technology trends, will require greater emphasis on — and investment in — effective organisational change management, with a particular focus on situationally adaptive behaviour. It’s important to educate business and mission leaders on the impact of these trends within the industry ecosystems that they support or regulate.

To capitalise on the value of these trends, first evaluate how they can positively impact program operations or service delivery models, then determine the extent to which existing back-office and embedded systems will need to be remediated. Finally, build the organisational capabilities and capacity needed to support them.

About the Author

Rick Howard is a research vice president and government research agenda manager at Gartner. His focus is on public sector IT solutions, management practices and technology trends. In particular, he covers big data analytics, business intelligence, open government data and services, cross-agency case management, CRM, interoperability, as well as emerging business and technology trends in government.

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