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How data, technology and process enhance government performance

Public sector leaders share their thoughts on transformation in the government and public sector.

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The narrative around public sector modernization is often one focused on what’s lacking, but agencies have been making leaps keeping up with technological innovations and government mandates. Agencies are working to radically improve their operations and services through changing functions, processes, strategies and technological systems. These efforts, often referred to as transformation programs, range from extremely technical projects, such as digital service delivery, to non-technical initiatives related to workforce and organizational issues.

To identify the role data, technology and process each play in efforts to enhance government performance, Government Business Council (GBC) partnered with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) to survey the men and women on the public service front lines.

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Learn more about the EY Agency Transformation Framework

These are exciting times, as the promise of technology, robotics, and automation inspire public sector leaders to visualize more productive and impactful government services. To realize the promise, as the survey respondents report, it is critical that agencies get the people dimensions right.

Roberta Mourao
EY Government and Public Sector (GPS) Solutions Leader

Key findings

Despite moderate success within their organizations, public sector transformation programs are not widely seen as meeting their objectives.

  • Only 39% of those surveyed feel that public sector transformation programs in their organization meet their stated objectives. Programs that have succeeded in meeting their goals tend to be security-related, whereas those that have been least successful are more often related to overall mission impact. Conflicting priorities, lack of coordination between departments and inadequate funding are cited as the primary challenges to transformation initiatives at most organizations.

Organizations see a need for transformation programs across multiple departments and are driven to implement them for a variety of reasons.

  • Respondents identify human resources and information technology as the areas most in need of transformation, with program delivery, acquisition and procurement also being top priorities. Respondents are motivated to undergo transformation programs primarily out of a desire to redesign outdated practices, but other key drivers cited include imperatives to meet changes in compliance as well as achieving cost savings.

Respondents see enormous value in data analytics, but find current processes inadequate.

  • Of the emerging technologies mentioned in the survey, data analytics is perceived as having the greatest potential impact on public sector transformation going forward. Despite its recognized importance, however, only 6% of respondents are very satisfied with the data access their organization provides them to support the decision-making process.

Of those surveyed, only 39% feel that public sector transformation programs in their organization meet their stated objectives.

Successful transformation efforts need to have peers and counterparts from the operational side of the agency involved in and knowledgeable of a change effort. Understanding your peers business and mission drivers and designing solutions that meet mutual needs and objectives is a win-win. The time invested upfront in joint measures of success will pay dividends along the way.

Victoria Wassmer
Former VP for Administration and Finance & CFO for the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Assistant Administrator for Finance & Management at the Federal Aviation Administration

Next steps

Looking forward, leaders of public sector transformation programs should…

Acknowledge that people are at the core of any successful technological transformation.

  • Human capital is the largest bottleneck to successfully meeting the objectives of transformation programs, as many current staff are not trained on new systems, and recruiting top talent proves challenging. Our survey found that meeting staffing needs was harder to accomplish than meeting budgetary goals. Agencies must focus on developing strategies for training current staff and hiring new employees in order to accomplish mission goals. Additionally, to ensure that there is one unifying and widely-understood strategy and plan fueling a transformation program, agencies should optimize their available platforms to coherently voice their transformation objectives.

Improve communication.

  • Government employees feel that open, frequent communication and staff engagement are the most significant drivers of successful transformation programs. In that same vein, respondents identify lack of coordination between departments and conflicting priorities as top challenges. While digital transformation inherently involves new technology, government agencies should use IT and novel systems to augment collaboration, rather than reduce interpersonal communication opportunities.

Prioritize data analysis systems and expanding data access.

  • As more and more government agencies integrate smart devices and interactive applications to their user portals, the number of data points agencies collect is growing exponentially. This can result in feelings of futility amongst employees and users if the data is not properly utilized. Survey respondents feel that data analytics will have the greatest impact on their transformation efforts. As more technology vendors are meeting security compliance standards, agencies should make use of the abundance of data analytics tools available to optimize their missions.

At EY, we help governments create new ways of working, with the aim of achieving better outcomes for our communities and better experiences for government employees. We deliver integrated capabilities (digital, financial, supply chain, change and performance management to name a few) that are required to address the most pressing challenges in the public sector.