As global events over the past year have shown, disruption always lurks around the corner. Unfortunately, disruption more often than not can’t be predicted. Who knew that a worldwide pandemic would force organizations to support a tremendous surge in remote workers and scramble to devise new ways to conduct business, virtually overnight?
Government organizations have had to execute this sharp shift in digital operations to maintain operational continuity during and into the post-pandemic world. Those that have been most successful were able to leverage the flexibility and resiliency inherent in digitally mature organizations.
So how do you define digital maturity? According to Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, “Digital maturity means understanding what the technology can actually do to help me run my business better.”
The first step on the journey to digital maturity is developing a strategy for how technology can help your organization achieve its goals. This includes conducting an assessment to determine what technologies and skills you’ll need to achieve your strategic objectives.
Government organizations must make the needs of their residents and workforce the top strategic priority. The most basic need for these customers is uninterrupted and secure access to digital resources, which may require the purchase of devices such as laptops and tablets, providing or upgrading internet access in homes, and installing productivity and security applications.
Another essential element of digital maturity is scalability. As government organizations discovered earlier this year, a seismic event such as a pandemic can test the limits of your infrastructure, including VPNs, servers, and connectivity. And severe disruption may expose an organization’s inability to support an exponentially greater number of devices, connections, and bandwidth, especially if the bulk of the support must be provided remotely to end users of varying levels of technological ability.
Other obstacles to digital maturity include:
- A mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You’ve been running the same version of SAP for 20 years and haven’t upgraded it because you never thought 80% or 100% of your staff suddenly might be working remotely. Surprise!
- Budget constraints and priorities. Government and educational organizations typically operate on tight purse strings, making it hard to allocate funds and resources for long-range initiatives or to guard against remote possibilities, particularly when there are pressing and legitimate short-term challenges.
Organizations lacking digital maturity also make themselves vulnerable when suddenly faced with supporting a largely remote work force or user base. The pandemic forced organizations to quickly connect employees working from home, some of whom were using personal computers. These organizations may have had no idea whether the personal PCs being used by workers were 12 years old or infected with viruses.
Many government are turning to the cloud and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) platforms to securely deliver access and services to end users. The most digitally mature organizations build their infrastructures in a way that prepares them for unforeseen events and demands. The cloud enables this by removing the burden and complications of on-premises back-end infrastructure, allowing IT to focus on end-user infrastructure and end-user needs.
Gold recommends that IT decision-makers lacking the resources or knowledge to build a digitally mature infrastructure should “go out and get help.”
“It’s not free, but you’re not going to be able to update and mature if you aren’t willing to spend some money,” he says. “That’s just the bottom line.” These investments will enable new capabilities that can repay the costs and help better serve the organization, clients, and end-users.
Perhaps most critically, you can’t achieve digital maturity without user and management buy-in. IT and business leaders must make a point of collaborating with end users to choose the right tools for them to be productive. And IT must be able to successfully make a business case for technological investments. For government, this means the ability to provide the access and services required by end users.
The pandemic is a sobering reminder that nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. But by implementing a long-term infrastructure strategy based on cloud computing and VDI, government organizations have the flexibility and scalability to respond to disruption.