Digital transformation for the public sector


Digital transformation for government agencies: so far so good, but a long way to go


When Deloitte surveyed almost 800 government officials across eight countries, 74% of them agreed that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. Not particularly newsworthy so far. The interesting part comes when you learn that a greater percentage – 80% – believe that their organisations haven’t come far enough on their digital transformation journey.

What is missing? What more is there to do? And why? This article seeks to answer these questions.

Let’s start with the last question. When government agencies have quickly launched apps, enabled employees to work from home, and facilitated remote service delivery, why is there a need for more? Fundamentally, of course, it comes down to the consumer of government services – the citizen who needs help, access or information. According to McKinsey, citizens who are satisfied with a government service are nine times more likely to trust the government.[1] And on more practical measures, the time- and cost-savings can be large, for government agencies and their customers alike.

According to McKinsey, citizens who are satisfied with a government service are nine times more likely to trust the government.  

In Germany, it was found that providing digital services resulted in citizens spending 50% less time interacting with public administration, and 60% less case-handling effort for agencies, through process automation. On the business side, digitising the 30 most important government services for business is projected to save companies approximately €1 billion a year in administrative costs.[2]

So what is missing, and what more can governments do to reap the digital rewards? Deloitte distinguish between “doing” digital and “being” digital, with the former defined as when “Digital technologies are deployed to improve customer experience resulting in improved services but very little change to government operations.” “Being” digital involves using technology to“radically improve service delivery by transforming government operating models.”[3]

In Australia, there is clear ambition to “be” digital. At the Federal level, the stated aim is that “By 2025, Australia will be one of the top 3 digital governments in the world for the benefit of all Australians”[4]. In NSW, “As businesses and communities struggled to adjust,

delivering smart, simple, and seamless personalised experiences to everyone became more than a vision; it became our mission.”[5] Already, “Customers who engage with NSW Government services online report higher expectation, higher satisfaction, and lower effort.”[6]

At the ground level, Procensol has seen agencies in both phases, but perceive less of a dichotomy between “doing” and “being” digital: we believe that most government agencies are evolving from one state to the other; after all, you have to start somewhere.

A great example is a Queensland government agency we have worked with over several years. They recognised as early as 2015 that their customer-facing operations and systems (largely revolving around permits and licensing) were not fit for purpose. They took their transformation a step at a time, arguably moving over time from “doing” to “being” digital, with self-service processes, automated approvals, personalised and timely communication, and a new user interface for external customers, to deliver an improved customer experience over multiple devices.

This example illustrates another facet of the evolution from “doing” to “being” digital: the further you go along the journey, the more accelerated your transformation becomes. 81% of mature agencies launch pilots frequently, compared to 46% of their less mature brethren; 78% scale frequently compared with 51% at the lower end; and 79% innovate faster compared with just 7% of the less digitally mature.[7]

There is a clear message for government departments and agencies seeking to move from “doing” to “being”: make a start (or carry on what you’re doing) and the momentum will build. We’ve written elsewhere about meeting customer expectations driven by Amazon and Apple, and how to make a start with automation projects: maybe these are your next steps?


[1] McKinsey, ‘Digital public services: How to achieve fast transformation at scale’, 2020

[2] Ibid





[7] Deloitte analysis, ‘Digital Transformation Survey’, 2021