Why Digital Transformation in the Public Sector Remains a Major Focus this Year – Part 1, Priorities

Chad Davis Miniatura
Chad Davis
Published November 17, 2022

With so many competing priorities within public sector agencies, both in IT departments and agency-wide, it can be difficult to realize any meaningful agency-wide digital transformation gains. And let’s be honest, hypothetically, even if they dedicated 100% of their IT resources toward digital transformation, achieving the immediate game-changing, desired results would still be a long shot. Nonetheless, agencies stand to gain significant improvements from digital transformation over time, despite resource constraints, and it remains a major focus in the sector this year.

Specifically, many agencies are finding that the legacy applications they have solely relied on to support their mission and IT operations are now unable to keep up with the evolving business requirements of innovation, agility, and efficiency. In other words, agencies need more modern architectures in place to complement their legacy ones to improve both constituent and employee digital experiences and operational efficiency, which are key drivers behind their digital investments.

This is part one of a two-part series covering digital transformation in the public sector. In this blog, learn why digital transformation remains a major focus in the public sector and which priorities are leading the way. In part two, I’ll cover the strategic approach of digital transformation in government and some of its biggest challenges.

Government Digital Transformation Momentum

The heat is on in government digital transformation, but is it cooling off from the hyped-digital-era of the pandemic? According to the Forrester infographic, The State of Digital Transformation in Government, 2021 (SDTG), global government employee survey recipients indicated a decline in its prioritization when responding to the question: Which of the following initiatives are likely to be your organization’s top business priorities over the next 12 months? Their response dropped from 28% in mid-2020 to 20% in 2021 for the category, “Accelerate our shift to digital business.” While 20% is still a significant number of recipients listing a shift to digital business as a priority, an 8% decline is a head-scratcher for some.

“The public sector stands to gain enormous efficiencies and reduced costs in a more digital world,” says Lori MacVittie, Distinguished Engineer from F5’s Office of the CTO.” She continues, “So, deprioritizing the modernization needed to address rising costs is probably not the best strategy with the looming financial outlook of 2023.”

Leading IT Priorities in Government

According to a recent NASCIO study, 89% of U.S. State CIOs reported that hybrid cloud is their ideal cloud scenario. Agencies require these more modern environments to take full advantage of the innovation, agility, and efficiency digital transformation promises. However, the move to hybrid cloud environments means a greater attack surface with less visibility.

It’s no surprise to see “increase the use of cloud” (27%) and “increase our security and privacy capabilities” (29%) as the top two answers from the Forrester SDTG infographic survey question: Which of the following technology initiatives is your IT organization prioritizing over the next 12 months?

Agencies’ traditional WAF and DDoS solutions are increasingly ineffective to protect a complex mix of apps and APIs from an increasing number of risks and evolving threats, especially with threats on the rise against governments from increasingly sophisticated nefarious organizations.

Accordingly, it’s wise to consider a security solution delivered via a SaaS form factor that runs across clouds and architectures, seamlessly deploying customized protections that maximize visibility and security efficacy without introducing friction to the application development lifecycle or constituent experience.

Key Drivers of Government Digital Transformation

As previously mentioned, agency IT departments are often saddled with legacy solutions that are unable to handle the growing complexity of modern requirements by themselves, and don’t have the measure of automation more modern infrastructures provide to streamline configuration and shorten time to market. In fact, research from IBM's Market Development and Insights team on microservices revealed that 51% of IT executives surveyed lament the “lack of modern infrastructure needed to effectively run microservices.”

This is clearly an impediment of some of the leading IT priorities previously mentioned, such as improving constituent and employee digital experiences and improving operational efficiencies—which are listed as key drivers behind government digital transformation according to the Forrester SDTG infographic at 41% and 34%, respectively. What’s more, with so many agencies struggling to hire enough tech talent to do all the digital work required, it amplifies the call for more modern dev architecture and associated automation. Without these key digital transformation ingredients, agencies are struggling to gain the agility required to achieve some of their most vital goals, like doing more with less, automating app delivery, and eliminating tech sprawl.

This has been part one of a two-part blog series focused on some of the critical priorities for the public sector to move the needle on their digital transformation initiatives. In part two, we’ll delve into government strategy and execution tied to digital transformation success.


Download the Forrester infographic, The State of Digital Transformation in Government, 2021 now for additional insights on this important topic.