We are living in the Transformative Age. Fast-moving and unpredictable social, economic and geopolitical changes pose new challenges for government, and increase the urgency to solve complex, long-standing problems.
Current and emerging technology offers governments one way of meeting new demands and solving persistent problems. But while governments are making attempts to deploy digital technologies, many do not achieve the intended benefits from their investments. There are as many examples of costly implementation failures and cost overruns as there are tangible successes.
Analysis of the success or failure of government digital transformation projects tends to focus on the technology that has been introduced. Seldom discussed is the role played by organizational culture and by a government’s willingness to embrace new approaches and working practices. And yet factors such as an ability to transcend bureaucratic working styles and collaborate with external partners are just as vital to success as deploying the right IT.
This blind spot is a significant barrier for governments, preventing them from sharing best practice and learning from the experience of others who have been on the digital transformation journey. To shed new light on this area, EY and INSEAD have worked on a groundbreaking academic study, examining in depth five important digital implementations in Russia, the UAE, Spain, Italy and France.
The study, Inside the Black Box: Journey Mapping Digital Innovation in Government (pdf), used a range of qualitative research tools including rich pictures, journey maps and self-reporting questionnaires to tease out individual characteristics of team members, team sentiment, organizational governance and the role played by cultural factors. The approach was unique in that it captured the nuances of the process of digital innovation, rather than merely measuring inputs and outputs.
The aim of the study was to look inside the “black box” of digital transformation to find out what really goes on within the teams responsible for delivery. In every case, the implementation journey involved ups and downs, advances and setbacks, but there were always valuable lessons to learn. We have extracted the six key insights for governments, outlined below, to provide guidance for government and public sector leaders who are embarking on their own innovation journey.