How public sector CIOs can lead a citizen services revolution

They need to set a clear vision and break cultural legacies, according to Gartner.

By Adrian M. Reodique
Sept. 14, 2016

CIOs of public sector organisations must create a culture which embraces change, and have a unified vision to lead a citizen services revolution.  

According to market research firm Gartner, the efforts of public sector organisations to harness digital disruption to drive innovation in citizen services are often hindered by top-down hierarchies, cultural legacies, and lack of a compelling vision.

"Public sector organisations often have cultural and organisational mechanisms to buffer them from rapid swings in the political or economic landscape," Elise Olding, Research Vice President at Gartner, said in a press release. "While this provides stability, it also makes large-scale organisational change a difficult prospect."

However, Olding said none of these challenges are insurmountable. "Based on our conversations with public sector CIOs who have seen success in their digital transformation, Gartner has identified three key recommendations."

Setting the vision

According to Gartner, public sector CIOs need a clear business strategy on how technology investments can help achieve the goals of the organisation.

"The best kind of vision should fit on a postcard," said Olding. "It expresses in clear, non-technical terms on one page what is wrong with the status quo, and outlines a set of activities and investments that will improve things."

In line, Gartner said a clear and precise vision allows for engagement with executive leaders to affirm, revise or reject and replace the strategic direction outlined for the IT organisation.

Making the changes inclusive

After setting the vision and getting  buy-in from executives, Olding said: "It's critical to communicate the vision to midlevel management and frontline workers in a way that demonstrates how their role fits into the vision, and how the completed vision will improve their role. A credible answer to the question 'What's in it for me?' builds caring and belief."

As such, Gartner said CIOs must present the vision as an iteration and expansion of previous efforts to win the support of employees.

The firm added CIOs must cultivate "change agents" or employees who can promote the vision and its benefits among their colleagues.

Creating a culture open to change

Gartner said organisational culture can foster myths that are comfortable yet counterproductive. This can be rooted in the language of "that is how we have always done things."

As such, CIOs must initiate the change and break cultural legacies to build an environment open to innovation.

"CIOs who succeed in transforming the business actively confront ingrained behaviours, traditions and legacy processes," Olding noted. "They challenge leadership and are successful in instilling a clearly defined sense of urgency around their vision that gains the trust and support of the entire organisation, from leadership to frontline workers."