Five reasons why ‘failing fast’ is the secret to digital transformation success in the public sector

Six Degrees’ Rob Walton says it may sound counter-intuitive, but a fail fast attitude may be just what you need to enable the digital transformation your public sector organisation needs

Posted 30 June 2021 by Christine Horton

Public sector organisations are at the forefront of delivering essential citizen services, and the pressure on them has never been greater. Often expected to do more with less budget, public sector organisations are also expected to deliver services that are always on, aid citizens in their daily lives, and keep everything secure at all times. It’s no mean feat.

In the new COVID reality, public sector organisation’ priorities, lower budgets, and citizen needs have put pressure on underpinning technology. More services than ever need to be arranged remotely – whether that means the resident being able to book from home, or the employee not being tied to a desk.

More than ever, ways to work effectively, maximise cost efficiencies and deliver always on, expectational services for residents is underpinned by technology, and digital transformation – cloud adoption – is the centre of this.

Digital transformation isn’t easy, but in the longer term with the right investment it is a resource and cost-efficient way to serve citizens. One way to implement digital transformation and start to test, change and shape technology to enable better resident interactions and services is to adopt a ‘fail fast’ culture.

In this article, we’re going to take you through exactly how failing fast is the secret to digital transformation success in the public sector.

What is failing fast?

Failing fast is all about running multiple smaller experiments to see what works and what doesn’t – fast. Rather than taking on large, monolithic, long-term projects that take months (or even years) to realise, failing fast prioritises small projects that can be realised and then assessed for effectiveness in a short timeframe.

This is an area where the private sector has really taken the lead. Think about large retail businesses like Amazon, ASOS and Ocado – consumers have become used to benefitting from seamless experiences that adapt to how they want to interact. These companies’ ability to respond rapidly to changing consumer demands has been enabled in large part by adopting a fail fast approach, road testing changes with smaller groups to perfect them before they roll them out across their platforms. Increasingly, citizens are expecting an ‘Amazon-like’ experience from public sector organisations that match what they receive from commercial businesses.

What does this mean for your public sector organisation? Well, it means having the ability to test and learn quickly. It means ensuring services remain always on without rigid annual or quarterly development windows that risk leaving citizens without services if something were to break.

And it also means adopting an agile culture, enabling your organisations to adapt to changes, resident needs or internal user needs and to make services efficient and effective.

Top five benefits of failing fast

So, what are the benefits of failing fast that make it the secret to digital transformation success in the public sector? Let’s take you through them one at a time:

  1. Gaining experience. Failing fast is a great way to gain a greater scope of experience in a shorter timeframe, empowering you with knowledge that will be essential to your organisation’s go-forward technology journey.
  2. Collecting feedback. Data-driven analysis on project outcomes is essential to continual service improvement. Failing fast enables you to gather, analyse and utilise this data far more easily and quickly.
  3. Retaining a citizen-focus. Failing fast enables you to develop and test applications that are right for your residents – not that you hope are right. You can be agile when it comes to release schedules, and carry out fixes fast. Failing fast is also great when it comes to the need to react to external or internal requirements and adapt accordingly.
  4. Minimising risk. Counter-intuitively perhaps, failing fast enables you to minimise downtime and maintain consistency of services for all users by minimising the scope and impact of any project failure.
  5. Continually improving. Finally, failing fast enhances your organisation’s ability to learn, improve and get things right. According to a McKinsey report, the success rate of any kind of transformation is consistently low with less than 30% succeeding. These odds look a lot less intimidating when you’re carrying our multiple smaller projects, and failing fast gives you the data and experience to turn the knowledge gained from past failures into fuel for future successes.

The secret to digital transformation success in the public sector

These five benefits align directly to many of the cloud adoption drivers and triggers that public sector leaders speak to me about. By learning from today’s cloud-native commercial organisations that have adopted a fail-fast approach from the start, I believe organisations will be able to realise their cloud drivers.

At Six Degrees, we believe that all digital transformation projects should be undertaken in close alignment with organisations’ go-forward strategies. Whether your organisation is just starting out on its cloud journey, in the early stages, or is cloud-mature but not optimised, our assessment and advisory services will enable you to establish the cloud foundations needed to start benefitting from a fail-fast approach.

In spite of budget restraints, there is a clear desire and willingness from public sector organisations to improve citizen experiences. Adopting a fail fast approach could be the key to unlocking your organisation’s digital transformation and improving the vital citizen services you deliver.

Rob Walton is industry director – public sector at Six Degrees