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Transforming public administration through three key steps

Discover three steps to operational efficiency and government productivity for public administration transformation.


In today’s complex environment, governments must reinvent how they work. To do so, many government agencies focus on citizen-facing services because they account for the majority of the operating budget—ideally 85 to 90 percent. Yet by overlooking government administration transformation, agencies might miss a critical opportunity to close the gap between expectation and expenditure and deliver better outcomes at less cost. The time has come to think differently about transforming public administration.

Although it does not directly deliver services, public administration is the backbone of the work of government, no matter an agency’s specific focus. As such, at a time when governments must deliver the public service outcomes that citizens want at costs that can be sustained over time, transforming government administration is essential to delivering public service for the future. But how can governments get it done—and what steps can they take to drive change?


It’s no surprise that many governments face a nearly impossible balancing act today. A review of common headlines paints the challenging picture. Government agencies must meet greater demand for services with fewer resources—a dilemma complicated by budget shortages, an anemic economy and the fact that the public has little tolerance for tax and fee increases.

For many public organizations, it is a battle to simply stay afloat. In fact, Delivering Public Service for the Future: Navigating the Shifts research conducted of 10 representative countries by Accenture and Oxford Economics reveals shortfalls of multiple billions of dollars over the next dozen years just to be able to deliver public services at current levels to future populations. The countries surveyed include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.


How can agencies move past today’s challenges to begin to increase government productivity and create new efficiencies in the back office?

  1. Make the case—and back it up. Organizations must know the current state of their initiative, identify specific improvement areas for the highest return, and understand the outcomes they can realistically target.

  2. Develop the vision—and stick to it. Create a vision based on the business case that answers these important questions about government administration functions:

    • What leading practices will be adopted for improvement?

    • Which processes should be a primary focus in driving new value?

    • Which processes should be accepted based on success in other industries?

    • What specific organizational and cultural changes are needed?

    • Will any functions be centralized or outsourced?

  3. Develop the vision—and stick to it.Create a roadmap—and get creative. Moving beyond the status quo with innovative funding sources can help accelerate government transformation. One approach may be to adopt leading practices that generate hard cash savings that can be reinvested in transformation. This concept is essentially about going after the low-hanging fruit first.


Public organizations are often challenged to get the support to improve public administration. Funding limitations, resource shortages, lack of organizational readiness, and political and headline risk commonly are complicating factors.

However, every organization is different when it comes to transforming public administration. Leadership and culture, processes, technologies and legislative and public engagement can influence an agency’s fitness for change. Whatever the unique circumstances, getting results means doing the following:

  • Making a case.

  • Developing a vision.

  • Pursuing the best opportunities for immediate action.

  • Creating a roadmap to improve government productivity and efficiency.