Thanks to the Coronavirus crisis, the public sector is undergoing radical change. For the very first time, government institutions have switched to remote work and are communicating digitally. However, this comes with significant problems as even simple prerequisites such as laptops are still lacking, not to even think of mobile devices. In most countries, public sector spending accounts for about 50% of the GDP – this means that the digital transformation of the state represents the greatest transformation of all.
These transitions have to occur at both the process and IT levels, and are generally more challenging to implement in this sector than in private companies. Therefore, the pandemic can be seen as a vital driver for the digitization of the public sector, bringing administration and management in line with the latest standards. You can see examples of what can be achieved when looking at initiatives like Germany’s Corona Warn App or even the first trials of applications for the military or defense force organizations.
At the same time, the health sector is experimenting with e-health solutions, and the education sector is developing digital teaching aids to support children outside the classroom. Strategic leaders everywhere need to drive digital, and especially mobile initiatives, to relieve stressed-out citizens and overworked employees.
To realize these ambitions quickly, you need agile teams, but more importantly, you need adequate technology that is easy to implement and use. Crucially, it needs to offer solutions for essential and everyday requirements. Let us look at three examples from our own customer projects, and learn how digital transformation in the public sector can be carried out quickly and successfully.
What can utilities companies learn from Amazon? Example from the German city of Würzburg for mobile maintenance
Publicly owned German utility company WVV has to handle almost all households within its city. At some point, the city of Würzburg was struggling with an enormous number of interfaces that made its work processes error-prone. The challenge was mapping the workflow in its full scope while ensuring an uninterrupted flow of information. This would allow the technician on-site and the person in central administration to access all the information they needed in a synced workflow. The use of configurable and modular sets of individual SAP Fiori Apps, which are accessed centrally via a launchpad, fit the requirements perfectly.
How does it work exactly? The technicians take orders and assign them to the mechanics. The mechanics process the orders and enter checklists, messages, times, images, operating equipment data and material withdrawals. After the order has been processed, the mechanic is given feedback. The technician then checks the order and carries out the technical completion – all this on mobile devices.
To ensure that the digital transformation went smoothly, the system was rolled out step by step. This enabled the company to create a smooth transition from analog to digital and significantly reduced the amount of training required.
What can the military learn from IKEA? A solution for digitized logistics
A smoothly functioning logistics operation is vital, especially for the military. This was the case for the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF), who wanted to convert their logistics processes to a digital system. The inspiration came from none other than IKEA, a company that has to deal with incredibly complex logistics and master them with excellent customer satisfaction. Similar to IKEA and other large logistics companies, NZDF wanted to eliminate manual processes and simplify the self-service process with a digital application.
With the decision to use a low-code platform to digitize old processes, all military equipment is now tagged with RFID tags. An NZDF employee can stand in front of a storage room, a boat or an airplane, and using an RFID scanner, the system automatically recognizes any weapon or piece of equipment within the scanner range. The time-consuming process of clearing out shelves, manually noting and checking each serial number, as well as errors and duplicate entries, are now a thing of the past.
A low-code platform as the basis for digitizing logistics processes is a prime example of how complex and costly processes can be simplified quickly and provide an instant overview at any time. It is a win-win situation for all sides, and the soldiers can concentrate on the critical tasks.
What can the University of Nebraska learn from Fortune 500 companies? An online portal as a mobile solution for an entire campus
17,000 employees and 10,000 students at the University of Nebraska despaired of their self-service online portal, called Firefly. It did not meet the needs of the university's management and staff, nor did it meet the students' needs to view and manage relevant information. In addition, the portal was neither mobile nor iOS compatible and did not have a user-friendly design. Due to its legacy, and following Franz Kafka’s axiom of "Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have," the system was kept alive, but delivered hardly any benefit.
A new digitization project – to replace the entire portal – was a major challenge for an organization in the education sector. To improve the user experience and make apps available on all mobile devices, the university decided to consolidate more than 25 web applications and convert them into apps based on the modern SAP Fiori user experience. Budget considerations had to be taken into account because although there is a great need for modernization and digitization initiatives in the public sector, money is always in short supply.
The University of Nebraska met all of these requirements by converting the entire portal within one year without requiring even one piece of new hardware. A highlight for the educational institution is the staff cataloging, where all relevant information can be found using a simple interface. The user-friendly interface eliminated the need for training and made the project a reality for over 27,000 users at no additional cost.
Digitization and mobilization of the public sector are among the biggest challenges for today's new digital society. We should therefore urge governments to invest in this area for greater benefit to all. From specific examples, we have seen that modernizing processes is possible and does not have to cost years or need an excessive budget. If we keep the user – employees and citizens – at the center of the digital transformation, we have an excellent chance of success, even in a demanding area such as the public sector. The key is to keep it simple for users, even if it looks complex at first glance.