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Public Sector

How Public Sector Organizations Will Transform in 2022

Emerging trends in remote work, employee experience, and data security are poised to define the year ahead.

two women with their heads close together looking at the same smart tablet: public sector organizations
The gap between digital expectation and delivery has widened but the good news is that governments are open to change.

We all talk a lot about how technology is shaping the future. After all, technology is seemingly everywhere, and certainly at the center of our interactions with most institutions. This is becoming increasingly true for the way public sector organizations worldwide connect with their communities.

Public sector organizations are critical to the personal and professional lives of every member of our society. When these organizations make decisions, they affect the trajectory of global economies and health initiatives, environment 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 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 optimize 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 organizations 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. 

Organizations that focus on employee experience as well as customer experience see exponential growth in employee engagement and realize 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.

Enhancing the citizen experience requires an investment in new tools, capabilities and processes. Making investments in these areas will yield long-term benefits like a workforce with higher morale — and a desire to stay.

Mia jordan, digital transformation executive

As a result, we expect to see the public sector continue to increase its focus on digitizing 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 organizations to stay ahead of the curve, they must refocus and provide their teams with a modernized 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 organizations 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 behaviors, 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 standardized ESG practices has never been louder. Public sector organizations, including government agencies and private sector contractors alike, play a huge role. Many organizations have chosen to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which cover a wide breadth of ESG-related impact areas. 

Stakeholders increasingly expect businesses and governments to focus on ESG excellence. They’re demanding that we step up and take action.

Sunya Norman, vice president of ESG strategy and engagement

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 organizations that hope to maintain growth and relevance will lean into opportunities to uncover areas to optimize and advance ESG initiatives, adopt more sustainable practices in how they acquire and use technology, and prioritize 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 organizations 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 organizations don’t face. Change is not only possible, it’s inevitable and can be realized 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 organizations. 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 organizations have begun to ask how to implement zero trust architectures to safeguard data and maintain public trust in government systems.

Public sector organizations 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 digitization, 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 organizations 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 organizations the leverage to scale — especially public sector organizations that respond to rapidly changing constituent and business needs. 

Looking ahead, public sector organizations are well-served to continue prioritizing 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 organizations can build human-centered 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 organization in a fair and equitable way. 

Leading-edge technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to benefit public-sector organizations in a multitude of ways – from smarter policymaking to reimagined service delivery. If implemented in smart ways, public sector organizations can ensure they strike a balance that keeps people at the center of the good business they’re doing.

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