We talk a lot about how technology is shaping the future. After all, technology is seemingly everywhere, and certainly at the centre of our interactions with most institutions. This is becoming increasingly true for the way public sector organisations worldwide connect with their communities.
Public sector organisations are critical to the personal and professional lives of every member of our society. When these organisations make decisions, they affect the trajectory of global economies and health initiatives, environmental sustainability, equity practices, data privacy standards, and a host of other impact areas.
I asked five Salesforce industry experts to share their observations on market motions that continue to gain momentum from the past two years of rapid learning and growth, as well as emerging trends that are poised to define the year ahead. They shared their best ideas and shed some light on what it all means for the global public sector outlook.
Among the common themes: the continued rise of remote work, an emphasis on employee experience, trusted and responsible enterprises, increased data security, and work automation through artificial intelligence (AI). Here’s what they had to say.
1. Employee experience will take a lead in digital transformation plans
— Mia Jordan, digital transformation executive, public sector
In our new success-from-anywhere world, we must optimise processes and technology to enable people to do their best work and collaborate in creative ways regardless of location. This all-digital, work-from-anywhere landscape will endure, continuing far beyond the pandemic. In fact, one-third of global civil servants will become permanent hybrid workers, and many organisations are now permanently changing the way they work. This poses a unique challenge for government workers, who often do not have all the digital tools to carry out their mission in this new virtual world.
Organisations that focus on employee experience as well as customer experience see exponential growth in employee engagement and realise significant productivity gains. To add another layer to this perspective, when we’re discussing how to best leverage digital service delivery and digital tools, not only would the public sector benefit from placing additional emphasis on transforming the back office but it’s important to note that declining to do so will ultimately result in a much slower return on your digital investments. In short, maintaining the status quo in this scenario has the potential to have detrimental impacts.
As a result, we expect to see the public sector continue to increase its focus on digitising and automating HR-related processes like onboarding and provisioning. Additionally, governments must be more open to leveraging emerging technologies to build cultures of inclusivity, attract and retain the best talent, and offer opportunities for employees to continually upskill and sharpen their ability to compete in the digital economy.
For organisations to stay ahead of the curve, they must refocus and provide their teams with a modernised approach to the employee life cycle. Making it easier for employees to meet their needs and do their jobs remotely means better results for everyone.
2. Focusing on ESG initiatives is the rule — not the exception
— Sunya Norman, vice president of ESG strategy and engagement
By 2029, the Millennial and Gen Z generations will make up 72% of the world’s workforce. These generations put more focus on environmental and social concerns than their predecessors do – and expect more from employers on these issues.
Stakeholders will continue to push for greater environmental, social, and governance (ESG) accountability and transparency from companies and government organisations to ensure that policies are being developed that not only improve service delivery and economic outcomes but also improve society.
Public sector agencies have the power to implement new behaviours, operating models, and policies that work toward the greater good of the planet and society and, going into the next year, this is where we’ll see a growing focus.
The call for net zero commitments and broader, more standardised ESG practices has never been louder. Public sector organisations, including government agencies and private sector contractors alike, play a huge role. Many organisations have chosen to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which cover a wide breadth of ESG-related impact areas.
As the world’s largest employer and a large user of energy, the public sector now has an opportunity to lead the way in accelerating positive change. In 2022 and beyond, there are a multitude of opportunities for governments and government contractors to take advantage of more sustainable solutions from their technology providers.
Moving into the new year, public sector organisations that hope to maintain growth and relevance will lean into opportunities to uncover areas to optimise and advance ESG initiatives, adopt more sustainable practices in how they acquire and use technology, and prioritise transparency amongst stakeholders.
3. Trust is an invaluable — and often overlooked — component of success
— Eva Skidmore, vice president of marketing, global public sector
We surveyed 24,500 people across 36 countries about using digital channels for government services, and 87% of them said that an exceptional digital government customer experience would increase their degree of trust. While trust may not lead most digital transformation conversations, our public sector customers know all too well that trust can make operations more efficient.
Constituents now expect the same efficiency from the government that they get from the private sector. That gap between digital expectation and delivery has widened but the good news is that governments are open to change.
It is still true that public sector organisations often have to contend with processes that are usually more complex and require more time to navigate, which means adopting new tools and processes. That often presents unique challenges that private sector organisations don’t face. Change is not only possible, it’s inevitable and can be realised much faster with a solid transformation roadmap that leads with constituent and customer trust in mind.
4. Future-proofing data will produce a higher ROI
— Nasi Jazayeri, executive vice president and general manager, public sector
As the global workforce continues to adapt to flexible, work-from-anywhere conditions, security and accessibility are becoming increasingly important for all organisations. Whether it’s empowering employees, enabling government agencies to deliver services, or engaging customers remotely, authentication and accessibility are testing the limits of zero-trust security architectures. Unfortunately, they’re also constantly creating new threat vectors for attackers.
Ransomware in particular has set new records in 2021, and many global government organisations have begun to ask how to implement zero-trust architectures to safeguard data and maintain public trust in government systems.
Public sector organisations will need to maintain strong cybersecurity standards and ensure technology platforms are built to national and international compliance standards. In addition, they need to scale safely and keep risks — and total cost of ownership — low, without sacrificing the need to accelerate delivery times to market.
Speed is still a key component of success in today’s environment of accelerated digitisation, but we’ve also seen growth in the IT delivery gap between what users need and what IT teams are resourced to deliver. And this growing delivery gap underscores another underlying risk: relying on legacy processes and systems that cannot meet modern demands.
Looking ahead, public sector organisations have a wonderful opportunity to preserve their current data by building on the foundation of existing systems. They can roll that data into new, integrated, purpose-built platform solutions that fully conform to end-to-end security and compliance standards. Agencies will look to ‘future-ready’ and ‘future-proof’ solutions that allow them to evolve at the speed of innovation.
5. AI will introduce new ways to bridge the gap between process and people
— Nadia Hansen, digital transformation executive, public sector, state and local
Creating smooth and seamless processes takes considerable time, money, and effort. It is hard to be agile and adapt to changing business needs with complex process logic and data in disparate systems. Orchestrating work across multiple departments amongst siloed teams that have their own processes complicates things further. This is where we have seen the most uptake in applications that use leading-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The ability to automate repetitive, low-impact tasks frees up employees to focus on high-impact strategic work and gives organisations the leverage to scale — especially public sector organisations that respond to rapidly changing constituent and business needs.
Looking ahead, public sector organisations are well-served to continue prioritising the use of automation tools. Equity is an imperative part of the conversations we should be having about how to use these technologies to better serve a broad and increasingly diverse constituency.
Remember that technology is only as good as its source of information. Public sector organisations can build human-centred models using data that is highly representative of the needs of the populations that benefit from them. Continually testing these systems to both mitigate the risk of bias and diversify representative data can accelerate transformation across your organisation in a fair and equitable way.
Leading-edge technology, like AI, has the potential to benefit public-sector organisations in a multitude of ways — from smarter policymaking to reimagined service delivery. If implemented in smart ways, public sector organisations can ensure they strike a balance that keeps people at the centre of the good business they’re doing.
Working in the public sector? Download our report on the public appetite around personalised government services.