Digital perspectives
New views. Applied now.

Digital Perspectives

New Views. Applied Now.

May 16, 2018
Waves of disruption
By: Keith Joughin

The overwhelming evidence today suggests that the pace of digital disruption is set increase significantly. On the technology front, we’ve seen the impact of the so-called SMAC agenda (Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud); and now we’re seeing the disruptive impacts of technologies such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. One can hypothesise for each sector and government department on the next big disruptor and the impact it will have.

Challenge: how is the public service going to create a leadership model, culture and organisational structure that embraces and responds to continuous waves of disruption?

Only 34 percent of business leaders feel well prepared for digital. However, with the pace and impacts of change likely to accelerate, departments need to consider several factors so that managing disruption and change becomes the norm. The good news is that research paints a picture of positivity—Accenture research, for example, shows that 63 percent of the workforce think digital will improve the work experience and 57 percent think job prospects will actually improve. So, what can public service organisations do to prepare for future digital disruption?

Ideas & Considerations

  • Structure for Disruption: public service departments need to set-up teams and functions in advance of continuous disruption. This could include setting up a central portfolio level function across a department, to manage technology investment and scan and engage the marketplace for latest trends and technologies.
  • Continuous Impact Assessment: quite often the approach for determining, measuring and managing the "change impacts" of disruptive technologies isn’t done early enough, and nor is it conducted strategically across multiple programmes. Having the methodology and structure in place is key to determining the holistic impact of a new technology (including process, roles, culture and ways of working).
  • Digital Leadership: leaders in the civil service need to lead by example and build their own digital brand (think social media, blogs, etc.) as well as harnessing the digital champions in their teams to help serve as a catalyst for change. This also involves communicating with certainty and building trust about disruption and change.
  • Digital Judgement: intelligent machines will enable faster, more accurate and collaborative decision making. However, this will need to go hand-in-hand with the ability of leaders to exercise judgement. Paradoxically, the truly human skills from leadership to creativity, will remain highly relevant and success will require departments to create the right balance.
  • Emergent Digital Strategy: departments need to execute "deliberate" departmental strategies and make investments in relation to digital, particularly with governance and procurement in the public sector. However, they also need to be responsive to an ‘emergent’ strategy – i.e. as thinking emerges and evolves based on the development of technology, particularly in relation to agile development, running pilots and ‘minimum viable products’ being development.

Change is certain. But with the right approach in place, public sector organisations will not only be able to weather change but exploit it to their—and the public’s—advantage.

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