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Governments are digitally immature, Gartner finds

By Catherine Knowles
Mon 7 Mar 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Government digital transformation is still at its embryonic stage, largely because of shortages of skilled workers and rigid organisational culture, according to a new survey by Gartner.

The 2016 CIO Agenda survey shows, analytics, infrastructure and cloud computing continue to be the top three technology priorities for government CIOs, but the skills shortage and unadaptable cultures are among the major barriers to implementing digital priorities.

The 2016 CIO Agenda survey asked 2,944 CIOs worldwide about their top digital business opportunities, threats and strategies, and includes responses from 379 government CIOs.

The government survey data indicated that leveraging digital technologies to transform traditional operational and service models has risen to the top of the business agenda for many elected leaders and public officials.

"Government organisations require the sustained focus and commitment of successive administrations to realise the cumulative, step change benefits of moving from system or process-driven business models to operating as a platform within a digital ecosystem," says Rick Howard, Gartner research vice president.

"This calls for better succession management practices and behaviours in government. Progress toward higher levels of digital capability must not be slowed down or derailed by changes in executive leadership. Continuity of vision is the key to building on technology investments made by prior administrations,” Howard says.

Disruption to business processes inevitable

Government CIOs estimate that 44% of business processes are now undergoing digital change, with 62% to be impacted within two years and 80% within five years.

Whether a government CIO is pursuing quick, tactical wins on an ad hoc basis, or as directed by an enterprise digital business strategy, the survey revealed a unanimous agreement that significant digital disruptions to existing and future business processes are inevitable.

"With this much anticipated business process impact on the horizon, there is a high risk to CIOs of not being able to keep up with IT innovations," says Howard.

"This risk will compound over the next five years if IT budget pressures increase and the spread of business unit level IT, or shadow IT is not strategically coordinated and managed," he says.

IT spending remains stable

The survey indicated that almost 40% of government CIOs believe their IT programme budgets are growing in 2016; 44% will remain unchanged; and only 17% report decreasing budgets, mainly in federal and defence agencies.

Despite stable or increasing budgets, financial constraints appear to be a contributing factor for the slow move to digital business in government. Economic uncertainty is on the rise, and it is unlikely overall government IT budget stability or growth will continue in 2016 at the levels reported in the past three years, the survey finds.

Changes to IT operating practices

The 2016 CIO Agenda revealed that government CIOs report a 34% adoption rate of bimodal IT, slightly behind private industry (38%). An additional 26% of CIOs in both sectors plan to operate bimodal IT organisations in the next three years.

The survey data indicates that government CIOs remain focused on speed (faster delivery of predictable work), rather than leading the way toward exploration and exploiting the possible.

"The rapid adoption of bimodal practices - such as crowdsourcing, working with startups or small or midsize businesses, multidisciplinary teams, agile methodologies, bimodal subcultures and adaptive sourcing - is necessary for government CIOs," says Howard.

Technology priorities for 2016

The top areas of new technology spending in government make it clear that significant program focus continues to be on business intelligence and analytics, and that cloud continues to have significant momentum. Infrastructure and data center spending remains high on the list, where it is tied with moving to cloud services as the top investment priority.

"Government CIOs are making the shift from owner-operator to cloud and service practices, which is becoming more dramatic as agencies move beyond the easy workloads of public-facing websites or business services with non-sensitive data, to even more highly regulated applications with sensitive data," says Howard.

The 2016 CIO Agenda survey data showed CIOs in Asia/Pacific and EMEA place digitalisation as a much higher priority than in North America.

This reflects the maturing investments of sustained national e-government and digital government initiatives that have been underway for a number of years, specifically in Asia/Pacific and the Middle East, Gartner says.

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