Who’s Really Accountable for Digital Transformation in Government?

December 03, 2021

Contributor: Robert Snow

Very often, the perception of where responsibility lies is misguided.

When planning for digital transformation, government leaders default to IT leadership to deliver. If IT can’t make it happen, they often bring in a chief digital officer (CDO) or chief citizen experience officer (CCXO).

And therein lies the problem. Yes, digital transformation requires technology — but technology is only an enabler. The real driver of transformation, or even optimization, begins with solid planning and strategy to change business policies, processes and rules across organizational silos. Ownership of digital transformation must start with the CEO (or person with the equivalent title) — not the CIO. 

“Governments that put technology leaders in charge of true transformation or optimization fail to deliver results, not because technology leaders don’t know how but because they don’t have the authority to deliver what they don’t control,” says Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst John Kost.

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To help ensure intended outcomes, leaders should map out who the accountable decision makers are and help each of them understand what their role is, why it is required and why failure is inevitable without their active engagement.

Create a RACI chart by identifying individuals as Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed so that everyone knows their role in a digital transformation initiative.

Identifying and understanding the specific roles clarifies the level of leadership required by each decision maker for a particular digital transformation objective.

Typical objectives in a digital transformation initiative, in order of complexity, might include:

  • Enabling work from home
  • Automating transactions
  • Leveraging data
  • Optimizing a business process
  • Transforming a business model

While a CEO must provide the highest level of leadership for an overarching digital transformation initiative, a lower level of leadership is required for a project within that initiative – like enabling the technology to facilitate remote work. For a CEO, digital transformation might involve gaining legislative approval, obtaining funding, creating a leadership structure and overseeing the creation and execution of the organization. Enabling the technology to support non-office work, in comparison, requires the CEO to be accountable, but is ultimately the responsibility of the CIO to ideate and deliver.

As the degree of complexity increases, so does the importance of senior leadership being engaged. Any digital transformation effort is a case of “think, then do” — with a decided emphasis on “think.”

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