Digital Transformation in Government and the Public Sector

Written by

Chris Benthien

Governments the world over are looking to transform the way they deliver services to citizens, improving access to services, simplifying processes and reducing costs.

Recently we had the pleasure of hosting a planning roundtable of public sector leaders, as part of the Public Sector Network’s WA Government Innovation Showcase. Using the Jibility method and tool, we developed a generic strategic roadmap for public sector digital transformation — in only one hour. That’s how quickly it can be done.

While the focus of this roadmap was government, it’s equally applicable to the private sector (just rename ‘citizen’ to ‘customer’) and it creates a great foundation for planning any corporate digital transformation.

Creating a strategic roadmap for digital transformation of government and citizen services

We only had a very short time to develop a strategic roadmap for public sector digital transformation. So, we needed a method and tool that would allow us to rapidly build a strategy and roadmap in hours what would normally take days or weeks. Enter Jibility: an approach and tool based on capability-based planning, built for just this scenario!

We used the simple six-step Jibility method to develop the strategic roadmap as outlined below:

Jibility Six Steps

Huddled around a large round table, our sixteen public sector leaders rose to the challenge of building a strategic roadmap in a very short period of time. They were an amazing team that worked collaboratively under pressure to create what is a very solid foundation for any government function to develop their own fully-fledged roadmap for digital transformation.

So how did we do it?

What challenges are facing public sector digital transformation?

Digitally transforming government can be a huge undertaking and you will face many significant challenges and opportunities. But what are the key challenges that you must focus on to be successful?

Our group of public sector leaders identified a vast list of challenges that they were facing (and some opportunities) when transforming their organizations. Furiously writing down challenges and opportunities, they quickly filled the table with a kaleidoscope of sticky notes.

We then spent some time discussing the challenges and grouping similar ones together, after which we gave each participant six dot stickers each. We asked them to place dots on what they considered to be the highest priority challenges to be resolved if they were to digitally transform government.

Challenges identified in Public Sector workshop

When using the Jibility method, we always encourage focus. We strongly recommend that you create no more than 4-6 challenges and 1-3 objectives per challenge. This ensures your roadmap is anchored in the top priorities for your organization.

After all the dust settled and the votes were tallied, the top six challenges and their associated objectives were:

Challenges and objectives of digital transformation in the public sector
Click image to download full summary of the highest priority challenges and associated objectives.

Topping the list by far was the investment required in people: new skills, new ways of thinking, and transforming the culture of the organization to enable digital transformation.

This was followed by getting access to data that was often siloed in disparate legacy systems; typical public sector issues of financial and policy constraints; and the need for collaboration across the various arms of government.

Above all, they were facing unprecedented demand and pressure from their citizens for a seamless and connected digital experience when engaging with government services.

Now armed with a prioritized set of challenges and corresponding objectives, the team focused on what organizational capabilities government would need to focus on to underpin digital transformation.

What does the public sector need to invest in?

The next task for the team was to define the core capabilities that the public sector needs to develop in order to deliver against the digital transformation objectives they had set. Capabilities are the key bridge between challenges and objectives and the actions that you take.

Starting with the pre-canned capabilities that are provided out-of-the-box by the Jibility tool, they added to and refined these to represent what they considered to be the common set of capabilities across most public sector organizations.

Again, it’s all about focus and getting the most from tight budgets – so out came the sticky dots again. Each team member placed their dots on those capabilities that they considered to be the capabilities in government that needed the greatest level of focus and change.

Capabilities prioritised in Public Sector Network workshop

What the photo above from our workshop shows is that the highest priority areas for investment are:

  • Citizen Management
  • Government Service Planning
  • Government Service Management
  • Strategic Planning and Enterprise Architecture
  • Data Analytics
  • Organizational Culture

After entering the priorities in Jibility, we get the below capability heatmap:

Capability map for public sector digital transformation
Click image to download full capability map.

Other capability areas of note were Cyber Security, Innovation Management and Change Management. I expected the Cloud Computing capability to be a lot more highly rated, but I guess that reflects that most organizations seem to have a cloud strategy in place and have commenced their cloud migration journey. And, after all, the platforms in place should be driven by and support the core capabilities of providing services to the citizens.

What actions can government take?

Back to ideation again. We gave everyone a wad of sticky notes and then asked them to identify actions that government can or should take to strengthen the capabilities that were identified above. After a fast and furious brainstorming session everyone had a big mound of actions in front of them. Some of these were actions the participants had or were already executing, so they had proven to be successful.

We allocated these actions back to the capabilities that they would primarily impact and pruned out the duplicate ones to create a clean set of actions.

Actions for digital transformation in the public sector
Click image to download full list of actions mapped to capabilities.

How should we execute these actions?

We put on the table a large printed A0 sized roadmap spanning three horizons. Down the vertical axis we listed what we felt were the major strategic themes that arose when we prioritized the capability map.

These themes were:

  • Digital Services and Citizen Engagement
  • People, Culture & Collaboration
  • Process and Technology Transformation
  • Data and Insights

From here, we started to place our sticky note actions onto the roadmap, allocating them to the theme with which they were logically associated, and in the horizon that we felt they should be executed. We then did another pass to group actions together into logical initiatives for execution. Below is a summary of the final actions grouped into logical initiatives for execution.

Initiatives to digitally transform government
Click image to download full list of actions and initiatives.

After a bit of polishing to identify dependencies, filling in some obvious action and initiative gaps (e.g. capabilities with insufficient actions), and a last-minute burst of action ideas from some of the participants — hey presto! A roadmap for public sector digital transformation was born.

Roadmap for digital transformation strategy in the public sector
Click image to download full roadmap.

The big takeaway from this planning session was the need to focus on the citizen. If you do nothing else, understand who your citizens are, map their journey, and design your services from their point of view. Progressively and iteratively transforming individual services that you offer will naturally drive out the priority of other initiatives and actions needed to support this transformation.

Creating your own roadmap

What our group created forms a fantastic foundation for you to create your own strategic roadmap for digital transformation. Your capabilities will of course be specific to your own operations, and your priorities, actions and initiatives will be quite different depending on where you are in your digital transformation journey — but overall, it will give you a solid starting block.

Download the complete public sector roadmap in PDF


A really enthusiastic and talented group of public sector leaders did a great job under pressure to create this foundational roadmap for government digital transformation. We would like to thank Ines, Steve, Joanne, Danielle, Lorna, Kirsty, Lien, Tracy, Michelle, Hoff, Anny, Cynthia, Martin, Shaun and Peter.