Digital transformation in the public sector: 4 strategies for increasing clarity, alignment, and adaptability

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Topics:

  • Hybrid work
  • Digital transformation

The public sector is facing more pressure than ever to digitize their organizations—and the bar is set high.

Citizens expect their government interactions, like renewing a passport or filing taxes, to deliver the same seamless, user-friendly experiences they receive when banking or shopping online. And public sector employees’ expectations for their work experiences, like meetings and communication, are just as high.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for government digital transformation efforts, revealing that digitization is necessary for more than innovation and modernization—it’s also a critical component of resilience

Yet 80% of major change efforts in the public sector fall short of meeting their objectives. Despite the obvious benefits available, digital transformation in the government is no easy feat.

But it is possible. For public sector digital transformation to succeed, leaders need an approach that prioritizes clarity, alignment, and adaptability. 

Why public sector digital transformations fall short

It’s no secret that the public sector is up against a lot of challenges when it comes to implementing digital solutions. From tight budgets and strict budgetary cycles to long procurement processes, politicized decision-making, and strict security and compliance requirements, there’s a lot working against them.

Perhaps the biggest reason government digital transformations fall short, though, is that they’re complex. And when initiatives are complex, it’s difficult to make decisions, manage budgets, and enact change to move forward. 

In the public sector, digital transformation complexity stems from a few main factors:

  • New territory introduces many unknowns: For starters, there are so many digital opportunities to pursue, from digitizing documentation to implementing cutting-edge technology like generative AI. It’s difficult to prioritize efforts and determine their impact—or even more intimidating, their risk. And when an initiative is decided upon, it’s often unclear who will lead the effort and how they’ll do it. 
  • Siloed agencies and departments: According to Gartner, organizational silos are the number-one challenge (above a risk-averse culture and insufficient funding) that government CIOs face when implementing digital solutions. Without a proper way to collaborate across silos, determining implementation and funding strategies for digital transformation efforts is a convoluted process. 
  • Hierarchical structures: To further add to the complexity, government projects typically involve many major stakeholders, both internal and external—and often considerably more than in the private sector—which can drastically slow down decision-making and even halt progress altogether. 

Public sector organizations that address the root cause of their digitization challenges—complexity—will be better suited to improve employee and citizen experience, boost efficiency, and increase resiliency. 

How the public sector can manage complexity and accelerate digital transformation

When dealing with complexity, the goal isn’t necessarily to create order or simplicity. The goal is to understand the complexity, and over time, as you learn more about the situation, solutions will emerge. 

For that reason, a successful government digital transformation hinges on the public sector’s ability to create clarity wherever possible, align teams around the change, and adapt strategies regularly. 

The following strategies can help the public sector achieve the level of clarity, alignment, and adaptability they need to manage complexity and digitally transform their organizations. 

Define your vision, priorities, and strategy

According to Deloitte, one of the greatest challenges governments face in digital transformation, regardless of digital maturity, is too many competing priorities. With so many stakeholders involved, reaching an agreement on what the top priorities are—and how you’ll achieve them—can be a long and arduous process. 

By nature, this type of decision-making is highly collaborative. It requires ongoing communication, information sharing, and feedback. And when decisions are made, keeping teams aligned on their role in the process is an ongoing challenge. 

To accelerate decision-making and align teams around priorities, public sector organizations can try these strategies:

Leverage solutions to capture feedback. To ensure the right voices have a chance to weigh in, you can’t rely purely on written communication like email (where important messages get buried and miscommunications slow progress) or synchronous meetings (where those that can’t attend live are left out). Instead, use solutions that allow contributors across teams or agencies to share ideas, questions, and concerns in context—in real time or asynchronously.  

For example, with Lucid, public sector teams can use Visual Activities to collectively determine priorities, assessing factors like risk, impact, and business value. Teams can simply share an interactive, cloud-based activity to stakeholders, then automatically aggregate results after everyone’s weighed in to see areas of agreement or dissent. Visual Activities can be used during a meeting, asynchronously, or with a mix of both to help make group decisions quickly.

A visual, cloud-based solution helps public sector teams capture feedback from stakeholders, align across silos, and make informed decisions.

Bake adaptability into your plan. Using the priorities you’ve defined, build a roadmap that clarifies key milestones, dependencies, and roles—but leave room for iteration. Experimentation is key to digital transformation, so treat your roadmap as a living document and adjust your plans as you uncover new insights. Use success metrics, like OKRs, to determine if you’re meeting your digitization goals or if it’s time to change course. 

Identify quick wins. If you’re just beginning your digital transformation, start with near-term, quick wins. Smaller digitization efforts can help you get better data to drive future decisions, show value, and build a foundation for larger-scale digital initiatives later on. Plus, by sharing wins, you’ll help the entire organization see the potential from digital transformation. 

Use visuals to clarify your digital transformation timelines. Click on the image to create your own roadmap.

Build a flexible, modular solution and data architecture  

A flexible architecture is one of the most foundational elements needed to support digital transformation. Public sector organizations should adopt service-oriented architecture that enables fast experimentation, democratizes application building, and connects silos. 

But designing flexible, modular architecture requires full visibility into what data you already have—and a way to visualize your future state. Here’s where to start:

Use intelligent tools to visualize your data and architecture. Visualization is key to gaining clarity into your systems, their relationships, and the impact of changes. You’ll want to start by visualizing the current state of your solution and systems architecture down to your APIs and data architecture. Then, you can work with stakeholders to brainstorm what a future state would look like and map that out. Use these visuals to get organizational buy-in.

Architecture templates

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Work backwards by first understanding your citizen experience. For example, if your goal is to develop an online payment processing system, begin by mapping out the ideal citizen experience for making payments online. Then, use an experience map as a guide to determine how you need to structure, segment, and connect your data and systems to make that experience possible.  

Improve your architecture incrementally. For many public sector organizations, a modular data architecture and strong API strategy may represent a dramatic shift from their current systems setup. Keep in mind that you don’t need to rearchitect the whole system at once. Instead, build flexibility into your architecture over time, starting with systems you need to adjust to support your roadmap. 

Lucid case study: Visualizing complex architectures

A large public health agency’s modernization goals were delayed because they lacked the proper visibility into their architecture. They tried using SharePoint and Visio for diagramming, but the limited collaborative functionality made it difficult to share the diagrams and align stakeholders on the architectures' current state.

By transitioning to Lucid, the agency could collaborate in real time, eliminating versioning issues and centralizing documentation. Lucid helped them gain visibility into their entire architecture, which allowed the DevOps teams to make confident decisions quickly.

Use a collaborative platform like Lucid to visualize your architecture, work with stakeholders to identify changes, and make confident decisions around your data.

Centralize and streamline documentation 

Documentation is one of the most important elements to align cross-functional teams and identify new opportunities for automation, improvement, or digitization. In digital transformation, public sector teams need to document everything from internal processes and organizational structure to implementation plans and supporting systems.  

Without an easy way to create, maintain, and house all this documentation, it’s easy to see how versioning issues, misunderstandings, and difficulty finding information could slow down important projects. 

That’s why for digital transformation in the government to succeed, agencies must prioritize ways to streamline their documentation process. Here’s how:

Create documentation as you work. Instead of treating documentation like a separate process, look for ways to create documentation naturally as you work. For example, if you use a virtual whiteboard to collaborate, you can naturally create a record of your ideas, decisions, plans, and more in one place.

Use cloud-based platforms to house documentation. A cloud-based platform ensures that teams can access the documents they need anytime, anywhere. To reduce the risk of important information leaving the organization when employees leave, look for platforms with advanced admin controls like document retention, domain control, and user permissions.

The public sector’s toolkit for effortless documentation

Documentation doesn’t have to be tedious or stagnant. Access Lucid’s top templates to create, share, and centralize the documentation you need for digital transformation.

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Modernize and consolidate your tech stack 

In order to collaborate on priorities, understand architecture requirements, and centralize documentation, you need the right tools. 

As McKinsey explains, “The most successful government transformations are much more likely to use real-time data than other programs and to deploy cutting-edge digital tools such as hybrid work platforms to strengthen their collaboration, communication, and decision-making.”

Visual collaboration has emerged as the most powerful solution to support collaboration and alignment for hybrid teams. And the best part is that a comprehensive visual collaboration platform, like Lucid, can replace multiple point solutions and help the public sector do more with less. 

But not all collaboration platforms are created equal. For the public sector to truly simplify their tech stack, it’s important to look for a solution that:

  • Supports different teams’ use cases. Prioritize a platform that can support flexible, real-time brainstorming to advanced, technical diagramming.
  • Leverages automation and data to increase efficiency. Look for solutions that use automation for key use cases (such as creating cloud infrastructure diagrams) to help you gain clarity and alignment quickly. 
  • Is easy to implement and learn. It’s important that each new solution the public sector adopts be user-friendly and easy to start using. And if you’re transitioning from legacy diagramming solutions like Visio, look for solutions that offer tools or services to migrate your work over. 
  • Advanced security and governance controls. Not all collaboration platforms have the security controls the public sector needs to safeguard their data. Look for solutions that prioritize security so your teams can collaborate with confidence. 

Buyer’s guide

Learn how to choose the right collaboration platform for your collaboration, diagramming, and security requirements.

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How Lucid accelerates digital transformation for the public sector 

With the power of Lucid, many public sector organizations have successfully digitized their core processes, increased innovation, and improved alignment for their hybrid workforce. In fact, 88% of our customers say Lucid enables them to be more productive, and 83% say Lucid increases alignment among their hybrid teams.

Here’s how Lucid powers digital transformation for the public sector:

  • One platform for all collaboration needs: By combining intelligent diagramming, virtual whiteboarding, and cloud visualization in one platform, Lucid helps public sector organizations consolidate their tech stack. And with Lucid’s universal canvas, it’s easy for teams and stakeholders to collaborate seamlessly across the entire project lifecycle. 
  • Collaboration from anywhere, anytime: Lucid is cloud-based, meaning that collaborators can brainstorm, plan, give feedback, and work together—regardless of location, time, or device.
  • Visual single-source-of-truth documentation: In Lucid, teams can centralize documentation around processes, architectures, plans, and anything else to increase alignment. And with Lucidscale, teams can automatically generate cloud infrastructure diagrams to reach a shared understanding faster than ever. 
  • Professional services: With an experienced team of professional services experts, Lucid can provide strategic guidance for each organization’s unique digital transformation needs. From document migration services (from platforms such as Visio) to tailored onboarding, we partner with you every step of the way. 
  • Secure and compliant: Lucid is FedRAMP In Process at the Moderate impact level, so public sector organizations can trust Lucid to power their mission-critical objectives. Lucid is built on AWS GovCloud infrastructure and is used by U.S. DoD agencies and contractors for defense, ITAR, and other controlled information.

Lucid for public sector

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About Lucid

Lucid Software is a pioneer and leader in visual collaboration dedicated to helping teams build the future. With its products—Lucidchart, Lucidspark, and Lucidscale—teams are supported from ideation to execution and are empowered to align around a shared vision, clarify complexity, and collaborate visually, no matter where they are. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucid.co.

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