Digitisation is not about IT, it's about service. Service is the key issue. That was one of the points made when Greg Godbout, former Director of 18F and Lars Frelle-Petersen, Denmark’s national CIO, discussed digital government at cBrain’s headquarters in Copenhagen recently.
”The future for software solutions is service,” underlined CEO for the Agency of Digitisation, Lars Frelle-Petersen, when he and Greg Godbout compared experiences between Denmark and the US.
It was a packed room full of leaders, government decision makers and government employees. All had turned up for the event: “Delivery is the Strategy,” that took place Thursday 6th of October at cBrain in Copenhagen.
Get rid of the silo thinking
Greg Godbout, who is currently Co-Founder and CEO of cBrain North America, used to be Executive Director of 18F and then Chief Technology Officer at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. From his experience working in Washington two things stood out:
”Often people work for a unit. Not necessarily for the entire organization. Members of IT steering groups are often more focused on covering their own back than developing shared visions,” Greg Godbout said.
In order to succeed with a shared vision he thinks that government needs to break down the silo thinking and stop being territorial - focus on the service that the user needs and how to best to deliver that. We also need to reform the way that change is delivered in government:
”We have to think agile throughout the whole process. Agile management, agile services, agile delivery and agile acquisition. It's not just about software development”
Think alpha, beta and operational scaling
There’s a need for a digital transformation and a culture change within government if we want IT projects to become successful.
”We have to be more experimental and fail faster,” Lars Frelle-Petersen pointed out.
It is import to start small to speed up the learning process. If we fail faster and at smaller scale we can quickly assess what works and what doesn't, and it’s not as painful in terms of cost and time. We have to approach IT projects in another way, Greg Godbout says "We have to be agile. Do an alpha, then beta and if it’s a success scale out the solution within the entire organization."
Agile acquisitions with shorter time limits can be used early on to get a deeper understanding of the business and its problems and allow to build prototypes and do small experiments. Later in the project when you are more sure of exactly what you need you can be more sure about costs and look to optimise for price.
Even though there’s room for a culture change Lars Frelle-Petersen noted that Denmark has a huge advantage when it comes to change: Trust.
The Danes trust Government
”In Danish society we have a high level of trust in individuals and that trust is something we have to maintain,” said Lars Frelle-Petersen.
He gave the example that 4.2 million Danish citizens receive Digital Mail and that their satisfaction level is high - over 80 percent. But there is still further work to be done, and Lars noted that government is increasingly being seen as an attractive place to work for those with digital skills.
”Google and Apple are popular companies to work for... we have to be better explaining that in Government you get to play with some of the biggest tools and be part of developing the future working with data and digitisation,” Lars Frelle-Petersen explained.