Two thirds of Government executives acknowledge that their organisation needs to change faster over next three years to keep up with changing business conditions – but just 27 per cent feel significant or extreme pressure to adapt to the rapid change required. In addition 55 per cent are expecting slight or no technology-led disruption over the next three years, compared to just 29 per cent of business executives across all sectors. This lack of urgency and minimal perceived pressure among government leaders to change is revealed in a study called The Challenge of Speed, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Ricoh.
However, the report also shows that a clear majority of government executives (71 per cent) have already experienced technology-driven changes to the way they operate in the last three years. In addition they do have a vision to further improve their organisational agility and rank recruiting new staff (45 per cent) and improving core business processes (44 per cent) as the top two areas where they expect to see most change over the next three years.
"The most important areas of change identified and the previous experiences from technology-led disruption will bode well for European Governments, as more change is on its way," says Carsten Bruhn, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Europe.
"The e-government goals in the European Union are set; they indicate that 50 per cent of citizens and 80 per cent of businesses should be interacting with the government digitally by 2015. The digital adoption rate last measured in 2012 was 44 per cent . So progress is positive and may help to explain why government executives are not feeling extreme pressure or expecting further significant disruption. However further changes are inevitable and will need to happen in a short space of time. The pressure to change faster is also likely to increase, as citizens continue to demand easier ways to communicate with government bodies. They no longer expect to take part in complex, document heavy processes when in most other aspects of their life; everything is faster and digital."
Government executives acknowledge there are several critical areas of focus if they are to improve citizen satisfaction. The areas cited as most crucial to their organisation in the future are 1) recruiting new staff, 2) attracting and retaining customers (citizens) 3) improving core business processes and 4) accessing business critical information. This broad mix of priorities indicates that there is a lot to do, but many governments are already benefitting significantly from their digital transformations. The report highlights several examples - 'in Spain, three out of four administrative procedures are now initiated online. This cuts red tape and has saved companies 19 billion euros in the past five years alone.' In Estonia '100 information systems [are] connected through a legally-mandated data exchange layer. This interoperability
has enabled [it] to provide about 2,500 e-services' for its citizens.' And in Denmark, they are 'working towards making the use of the digital channels mandatory by law..., progressing to use a digital channel for at least 80 per cent of all written communications between citizens or businesses and public authorities by 2015.'
However many of the government executives surveyed in Europe show concern that rapid change will bring increased risk to their citizen communications. They rated the IT function (45 per cent) and marketing (45 per cent) of equal primary concern when changing business functions quickly. However, as e-government becomes the norm, opening online paths to communicate is more essential than ever before and must be managed alongside the needs to those citizens that have not readily embraced the digital world.
Bruhn adds "Cross-media communications, data security, analytics, clearly defined processes and integrated technology platforms are essential ingredients to minimise risk, maximise citizen satisfaction and create efficiencies. When in place, there is so much to gain. Take a look at a public railway network in Spain, were we managed its concessionary travel cards process. There are more than 80,000 applications from citizens each year. By automating the process, interacting directly with the travellers, validating data and issuing personalised travel cards, the waiting time was reduced by 50 per cent. This single example of tailored process optimisation highlights just how much time can be saved and supports the goal to increase citizen satisfaction."
And of course, with effective digitised processes there are cost savings too, derived from reduced duplication, increased productivity and less waste. Yih-Jeou Wang, Head of International Co-operation at Denmark's agency for digitisation, interviewed in the Economist Intelligence Unit report sums up the challenge of speed for government organisations by saying, "We're looking for cost savings, but not by cutting back the quality of public services. In fact, we see the smart use of ICT as a way of empowering our citizens in the sense that they are experiencing more freedom in living their everyday lives".