Digital transformation in the public sector: Balancing speed, security and innovation

BrandPost By Box
Dec 03, 2019
IT Leadership

When it comes to transforming for the digital era, chief information officers from across sectors face a swathe of challenges. Foremost among these is managing the daily expectations of both internal staff and external customers.

Customers are consistently looking for the experience they are used to in the consumer space – fast, easy to use, and seamless. However, it is not only customers looking for this experience. Staff would also like the ease of access across the different systems and data they need to get on with their jobs.

Tech executives from both government and the private sector recently gathered in Wellington, New Zealand, at a lunch sponsored by Box to discuss how they are navigating these challenges and ensure their digital transformation activities deliver what has been promised.


Scott Leader, regional vice president at Box, says there has been an explosion in technology choices to drive productivity and collaboration in the workplace.

“With the consumerisation of technology, the expectation from talent is they will have the best tools available to work both internally, and collaborating externally. The key piece of advice here is to get best of breed within the Cloud when looking for tools to drive a modern digital workplace,” Leader says. 

Michael Cabatbat, iSG ops IT team leader at The Salvation Army NZ, says his IT team is ensuring all its officers and staff across the country can effectively use available resources and technology to carry out the organisation’s mission.

“We are implementing procedures and system processes to meet service level agreements with our internal and external users, and maintain the quality of our service delivery so everyone can consistently produce and share information between centres and appointments,” Cabatbat says.

Educating users to empower them is also vital, adds Cabatbat.

“We collaborate and peer review to champion the use of appropriate technology throughout the territory. Using the right tools, we are able to improve the quality of work and services we are providing,” he says.

As part of its transformation, The Salvation Army is creating systems to automate users’ jobs.

“Though we have on-prem servers, we have migrated most of our data and systems into the Cloud, and we will continue to work on streamlining and developing systems and processes within our budget and scope,” he says.

Jake Davis, chief information officer at Wellington Water, says his organisation wants to be pushed by consumer technology in order to match the experiences users demand outside of work.

“We have to adapt because our staff and customers are interacting with us through consumer technology the majority of the time. Therefore, our technology teams encourage staff to demonstrate these tools to determine if they can be used within the governance rules of the business,” Davis says.

Davis adds Wellington Water is still a young organisation, which means it doesn’t rely on legacy technology.

“We also do not expect our investments to go beyond three to five years for any technology, so we make sure roadmaps include upgrading and/or replacement within this timeframe,” he says.

Developing the right skills

Attendees discussed the skills staff requires as organisations digitise legacy processes. Leader says Box is seeing more demand in the user experience (UX) space.

“As people demand more intuitive and consumer-like experiences when they interact with business apps, a lot of this comes down to UX. In addition, good business analysts are increasingly becoming essential, due to growing demand for the ability to have small teams working across business and tech to deliver rapid and agile releases.”   

The Salvation Army is currently moving from Lotus Notes to the Microsoft platform, and most of the company’s data and systems have been migrated to the Cloud. This means the company is requiring skills in the areas of DevOps, .Net programmers, cloud system engineers specialised in Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Teams, SharePoint, as well as agile project analysts, Cabatbat says.

“We have staff with several years of experience in various IT domains, but we still have to provide them with updated training to align with the new technologies we are using. We also hire contractors and ensure they have transferred their knowledge when they finish their contracts with us,” he says.

Like most organisations, Wellington Water is always on the lookout for solution architects and security specialists who can translate technology to a business need.

“Our successful and long-lasting partnerships are with companies that can not only develop, but also communicate, a solution to our stakeholders,” he says.

Innovating while staying secure

Cyber attacks are becoming more complex and more frequent, and the recent introduction of mandatory data breach notification laws in Australia means organisations are under pressure to ensure security is up to scratch.

Leader says forward-thinking enterprises can deliver on the demands of internal and external stakeholders while ensuring the security of their content. 

“So I would suggest starting with security as a first step, and then build this into the demand schedule to ensure you’re well protected,” he says.

Maintaining your sovereignty

Data sovereignty is a constant challenge for companies, particularly as they expand into new geographies. 

“Leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors offer ‘in country’ storage, so I suggest organisations ensure their service provider can provide them with zones or multi-zones across the globe to store their content,” Leader says. 

Davis says Wellington Water handles this issue by meeting the needs of customers first and foremost when it comes to data sovereignty, through data governance.

“Legislation has not kept up with Cloud services, so we rely on strong agreements between our partners to ensure customer and asset data is protected,” he says.

Cabatbat says The Salvation Army has offices all over the world, so data sovereignty is not a major concern as yet.

“Depending on what type of data we store, and as long as we are compliant with any data security policy and not doing anything against the law, then we have nothing to worry about. We made sure our Cloud provider is following all contractual agreements and we also have our own data backup in in the event of any issues,” he says.

To find out more about Box, click here.