Government organizations worldwide are striving to succeed in their missions and improve performance in increasingly complex and dynamic environments. Geopolitical conflicts affecting global markets and regional security, rising political rancor, and impacts of climate change are raising new challenges. Concurrently, deep and far-ranging technology advances are challenging established ways of leading and running organizations. Adaption, resilience and agility are essential elements of success, in government as in business.
We are experiencing an accelerated sort of highly varied, continual upheaval on many economic, political and social fronts. As a professional services firm working for governments, businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions around the world, we compile a Global Disruption Index that helps shape perspective in serving clients and running our diverse global enterprise. This composite measure of economic, social, geopolitical, climate, consumer and technology disruption indicators exploded over the past five years, increasing 200 percent from 2017-2022 vs. remaining relatively flat (4 percent increase) from 2011-2016.
What does this mean for government organizations? In times of upheaval, people, communities and businesses by-and-large rely ever more on the public sector for service stability and continuity. Core public service functions of safety, security, education, infrastructure and public health, among others, are under pressure from growing and often shifting demands. Many public agencies made rapid, innovative changes during the pandemic, for instance, quickly launching remote workforces and expanding use of chatbots to handle massive new demands on benefit programs. But the pace and extent of continued disruption calls for a deeper rethinking of ways of working and running organizations.
The focused approach of Total Enterprise Reinvention in Public Service is intended as an ongoing process/model to unlock greater human and organizational potential in tandem with enabling next-generation capabilities.
Reinvention will look different for every public service organization. At the most basic level, it depends on recognition that change is constant and an organization’s failure to evolve will undermine its ability to deliver on core objectives. Technology change is accelerating and so learning from and deploying today’s “best practices” will still leave organizations behind. Rather than best practices and investments in static organizational overhauls, government organizations – just as the most successful businesses are beginning to realize – should embrace continuous change. The drive should be to cultivate agile and resilient practices and innovation, empowering employees and managers to succeed in the midst of disruption and change.
The public service toolbox for improved government outcomes, operational productivity and readiness is based on five connected priorities: resetting vision and horizons, reimagining experience and response, reorienting operations to outcomes, rethinking talent and workforce, and engaging and igniting the digital core.
Resetting Vision and Horizons
Articulating organizational mission and revisiting priorities should be a regular and frequent practice, spanning leadership and the broader workforce. Missions are of core importance to public service organizations and should be guided by inspiration and ideas from inside and outside government to advance beyond the status quo. Rapid technological changes driving new opportunities as well as risks require organizations to shift to a mode of continually pressure testing their focus and ability to remain relevant and effective in the midst of continual change.
Reimagining Experience and Response
Advances in broadband availability and digital capabilities have rapidly changed how people want and need to be served and how employees want and need to work. Organizations should be explicitly removing bureaucratic and service silos to provide higher quality, secure and seamless experiences across related agencies and functions. Leveraging data and major technology advances to more effectively serve and protect citizen and public needs is an increasingly vital area of expertise in government. Tapping data insights and advanced technology are of growing importance to the success of virtually all public services, enabling better understanding of customers and fact-based policy and resource allocation.
Reorienting Operations to Outcomes
Focused operations are essential for organizations to deliver on their core missions and support continual improvements in outcomes for those they serve and employ. Prevalent in government are long-outdated legacy systems, siloed operations and insufficient collaboration across related agencies, undermining prospects for service and operational improvements. Even without budget increases for organizational modernization or technology programs, applying human-centered design makes sense. Improving efficiencies and redirecting staff time to high-value work are served by building an organization culture that encourages ongoing consideration of which data to use, where and how to use data insights, and how to do so within the guardrails of a clear governance strategy.
Rethinking Talent and Workforce
Public sector leaders and organizations are in the midst of a convergence of socio-economic trends and labor market disruption that pose strong challenges to their ability to secure and maintain needed employees and skills. The pandemic and now the emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence are among the forces changing how, where and when work is done. Organizational structures and operating models are evolving, with major implications for recruiting, reskilling and retaining in-demand skills. Working with external partners to provide learning programs and career pipelines tied to in-demand skills for hard-to-fill roles is of growing importance, as is building a culture of continuous learning within government.
Engaging and Igniting the Digital Core
The journey to a cloud-based, secure and nimble IT infrastructure can unlock the power of data, analytics and new delivery methods to significantly enhance services and quality for all stakeholders. It is also essential to support continual service improvement and innovation. But the reality is that many government organizations are early in the move from outdated and disconnected/standalone systems to integrated, interoperable systems that provide agency customers, employees and managers the ability to meet changing demands and prepare for the future.
Government organizations, by and large, should be focusing now on building their digital core as foundational to their missions. The success of public-sector organizations in cost-effectively meeting their responsibilities and citizen demands depends on a strong, stable digital core harnessing the power of cloud computing, data analytics and AI. Providing secure, appropriate, flexible services on top of a rapidly evolving technology landscape is becoming ever more fundamental to the success of every type of government organization.
Total enterprise reinvention in public service is built on an explicit commitment to continuous improvement in services and operations. The goal is to seize rapidly rising opportunities and capabilities to improve the value and success of government, for organizations challenged on multiple fronts, simultaneously, to maintain their relevance as technology advances and disruptions continue.
Emergence from the accelerated transformation pressures of the pandemic offers momentum to develop a more integrated, active and flexible framework for public services. We are at the beginning of a rising wave of commitment to evolve public services, built on recognition of the need to re-evaluate and finetune missions, operational, workforce and customer service plans in keeping with the ever-growing multitude of public service challenges.
Ryan Oakes, is Accenture Health & Public Service Global Industry Chair and Anita Puri, is Global Managing Director for Accenture Public Service.