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Smoothing the path to digital transformation in SA's public sector

Amritesh Anand, Associate Vice President at In2IT Technologies.
Amritesh Anand, Associate Vice President at In2IT Technologies.

Digital transformation has been a challenge for public sector organisations, but the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the transition. While legacy architecture and infrastructure remain a challenge, it is often the mindsets of people that are the biggest stumbling block.

The right IT partner can be an invaluable asset in smoothing the path toward digital transformation and helping the public sector deliver projects that add value for the citizens of the country, while improving productivity and efficiency.

Where the value lies

Any digital transformation initiative needs to focus on delivering tangible, value-creating outcomes for the public. However, lack of a clear digital transformation strategy has historically proven to be a challenge for the public sector.

Public sector initiatives are also more likely to exceed initial cost and time estimates due to a number of factors, such as less effective risk management; difficulties in recruiting, retaining, and developing talent; slower governance processes; and less pressure to deliver minimum viable products.

The success rate of public sector IT for efficient digital transformation is thus low. This is where the choice of a right IT partner is crucial, as they are an essential element of ensuring a seamless transition from legacy to digital. The success of an IT project is dependent on staying within budget, completing the project on time, and delivering the project’s intended benefits.

To achieve this, four key performance levers should be addressed, specifically strategy, technology, governance, and adoption. Choosing the right IT partner will not only assist in timely and efficient delivery of the project, it will also help in the long-term support and maintenance of the system.

Addressing the user adoption challenge

Adoption is one of the critical pillars of a successful digital transformation execution. In the public sector, driving adoption often involves complex bureaucratic and long-established processes, whereas the private sector is generally less constrained. To avoid all these time-consuming processes, public institutions can start by understanding the operational requirements - which calls for the involvement of business departments early on - and then introducing organisational change.

Best practices for change management, which a specialist IT partner will be able to deliver, include communicating with transparency, transferring ownership of the project to the business, involving frontline management, co-creating, and delivering on-the-job training, and building trust with the employees whose work will change in the new operating model.

The key to success

Public sector should also consider that employee experience will take a lead in digital transformation plans. Enhancing this experience requires an investment in new tools, capabilities, and processes.

Making investments in these areas will yield long-term benefits – a study by McKinsey and company found that, if implemented correctly, accelerated adoption of digital technologies could triple South Africa’s productivity growth and employment creation by 2030.

Investment into skills development is critical not only for driving digital transformation in the private sector, but also in economic stability and growth of the country as a whole. The development and elevation of skills within the ICT sector is key to successful digital transformation, which in turn is essential for South Africa’s future success.

Partnering with the right IT service provider is essential in delivering a smooth transition and maximised user adoption to bring the public sector into the digital age.

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