July, 2016
Friday, November, 1, 2013
Can the Government Become a Postdigital Enterprise?
Tags: postdigital enterprise
Posted By Dr. Gregg “Skip” Bailey, Federal Cloud Lead, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Have you noticed the pace of change is quickening?  Technology is hard at work enabling and disrupting operating models and capabilities. The forces of cloud, social media, mobility, analytics big data, and cyber intelligence are all emerging at the same time and each affecting business in their own way. But taken together, they have an even greater influence on the way government does business.

Organizations have evolved over the years from a post-industrial environment to a digital environment and to now a “post-digital enterprise.” The post-digital age is like the post-industrial age, in that during the post-industrial age we didn’t abandon or lose industrialization, it just became the new normal for business. The same applies to the post-digital age because we certainly won’t abandon digital products or processes, but instead use them in very natural ways.

The “Postdigital Enterprise” is a trademarked term that Deloitte uses to describe an organization that operates in a future state or where these five disruptive technologies have combined to create new opportunities to move the organization forward. Each of these five technologies has been a disruptive force in the market. What's different is that these revolutionary trends have evolved in the mainstream almost simultaneously…and I don’t use the term “revolutionary” lightly. It’s the convergence of these five forces acting together that truly has the potential to be transformational.  Many federal agencies may not have invested in all five of these technologies right now, but they do have some subset of these five. As an agency moves toward the Postdigital Enterprise, they can begin to look at the intersection of the technologies they already have. For example, an agency may leverage cloud, social and analytics to follow what is being seen in the social media sites that can be evaluated to improve service to the citizens that use their agencies’ products or services.

What kind of transformation?

When these technologies are combined and baked into an organization, rather that bolted on, they create tremendous new opportunities. One of the keys to understanding the Postdigital Enterprise is to realize that this is not necessarily a new investment, but learning how to leverage what you probably already own.

 The power of baked-in technology is becoming obvious in everyday life. Recently my daughter was about to give birth to her third child. Her husband was about to be deployed so our daughter came home to give birth. The day came and my job was to babysit my grandchildren while my wife and daughter went to the hospital. I patiently waited for information about our new grandchild and after a few hours received a call. The call came but not from the hospital as I expected but instead from one of my daughters who was at work in southern Maryland. She told me that the baby was born and shared the vital statistics. At first I was surprised (and maybe a little peeved) that my wife who was in the delivery room with a cell phone did not call me first. Later, however, my wife told me I was the first person that she had called before they had even left the delivery room.

How could that be? How could my daughter, working in the next county, have found out so quickly? And here’s how fast everything moved. It turns out that my daughter had taken her iPad into the delivery room with her so that she could Skype with her husband. While he participated in the birth of his daughter electronically, he updated his Facebook page. Another of my daughters in Oklahoma saw the Facebook update, called her sister in southern Maryland, who then called me. All of this happened in the minutes before my wife who was in the room could call me.

And there it is—social, mobile, cloud, and cyber were all baked in. None of these users were technology wizards, but they simply used their devices and software in very natural ways. And they were able to function at Internet speed, the social media sites and communication application very likely used analytics in this situation as well.  All five technologies converged in a baked-in way. The result was a simple but powerful transformation of a traditional process to a new way of doing things that greatly enhanced and quickened communication.

Baked-in federal style

Federal agencies are in a position to take advantage of the transition to a postdigital environment, too. In the Postdigital Enterprise, all five technologies are well established and even common, but the power comes from the intersection of some or all of these technologies. As fiscal pressures increase the government is doing more with less. CIOs can seize this opportunity to act as a catalyst to transform their organization into a Postdigital Enterprise. The proper execution of these technologies may enable federal agencies to do much more without substantial investment. In some cases there may even be reductions in cost. The benefits are for the agency mission as well as the internal administration of the agency.  An organization can leverage tools they may already have, even if they do not have mature solution for all five of the disruptive technologies, they can leverage the intersections of the technologies they have already invested in. 

The five disruptive technologies are not all the same. Three technologies have direct benefits that consumers are looking for (mobile, social, and analytics). One is the engine (cloud) and one is the brakes (cyber).  People are not seeking cloud for cloud’s sake, but focused on an outcome or mission task that is supported by the cloud. In an automobile, brakes were added to allow one to go faster. It is tempting to say that the brakes function is to stop the automobile, but in the bigger picture brakes allow us to go faster safely. Cyber also should be viewed this way. If the cyber intelligence is elegantly deployed, it should allow an organization to do more than ever before, in a safe way.

We have already seen the disruptive power of these technologies alone or in pairs. As we prepare for and move into the post-digital age, we will see the level of disruption accelerate. Although disruption can bring chaos, it also can bring opportunity depending on how prepared you are and how you manage it. The world will move at a faster pace, demanding change at a faster pace and there will be shifts in the marketplace. To be effective, the federal CIO should get ahead of the curve and not wait for the safe flow behind the curve. This is a time for innovation in connecting IT to the agency mission. CIOs earn their seat at the table through operational excellence, and by harnessing the power of technology.

For organizations to be, successful they will need to manage and take advantage of the change. Here are some characteristics of the changing landscape.

  • Influence may shift toward the end user or customer as well as the employees.
  • Organizational and data silos could be minimized to favor a more collaborative environment.
  • Mobility can un-tether organizations so that authorized users truly have information at any time and any place they need it.
  • Social and business networks will be even more important than they are now.
  • Workers will function in a data rich environment where they can focus on the critical pieces of information.
  • Elasticity and agility will be key drivers in moving forward.
  • Organizations will move past static ecosystems and have a dynamic value chain.
  • Decisions will be enriched with research-based innovations and direct insight. We will be able to move from hindsight to insight to foresight. We will be able to think bigger than ever before, while starting small and failing fast, then scaling to very large efforts.

The convergence of the five technologies discussed here help an organization to not only survive this change but to thrive. It is rare for so many technologies to have such an impact at the same time and this convergence creates great opportunity. As the organization learns to leverage these transformational technologies, that organization will be in a position to move their mission forward in a significant way. Such a movement will require us to see, think and act differently. These technologies only will be transformative if we make the changes that allow us to take advantage of them.


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