Nowadays, there is a certain ambiguity – as well as lack of systematic empirical evidence – over how public administrators are defining digital transformation, based on their own daily practices, how they are approaching digital transformation projects, and what their anticipated outcomes are.
In their newest published paper ‘Defining digital transformation: Results from expert interviews’ in Government Information Quarterly (GIQ), Ines Mergel (University of Konstanz), Noella Edelmann (Danube University Krems), and Nathalie Haug (University of Konstanz) provide an empirically based definition of digital transformation ‘resulting from expert interviews’ and develop ‘a conceptual framework with reasons for, processes to, and expected outcomes of digital transformation in the public sector’.
On the basis of the existing digital government literature, the authors derived a semi-structured interview guide for the expert interviews. ‘Forty interviews were conducted with experts knowledgeable about digital transformation projects between January and May 2018. The experts included public managers on the national, regional, and municipal government levels, IT service providers and enterprises working only for government clients, quasi-government employees from consultancies, and a representative from the European Commission. The interview guideline addressed topics such as prerequisites, internal changes, and expected outcomes‘.
Their findings are based on Co-VAL’s Work Package 3 ’Digital transformation of public administrations’ and specifically on Task 3.1 ’Expert interviews to define digital transformation in the public sector’. The authors pinpoint how digital transformation is changing citizens’ expectations regarding governments’ ability to ‘deliver high-value, real-time digital services’. They furthermore mention that in response to these changing expectations, governments strive to be ‘more efficient and effective in their designs and achieve objectives such as increased transparency, interoperability, or citizen satisfaction’, in order to improve public service delivery.
Highlights of the paper:
- Empirically grounded definition of digital transformation focuses on holistic process to change products and culture.
- Digital transformation goes beyond digitization and digitalization by including the whole organization.
- Digital transformation changes bureaucratic and organizational culture and relationships to stakeholders.
- Short-term output focus on measurable increases in new digital services.
- Long-term impact and outcome focus on increases effectiveness and citizen satisfaction.
You can read the paper here.
You may also find interesting Co-VAL’s Report summarising policy and process tracing of international digital transformation practices, written by Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel of the University of Konstanz. The Report aims to describe the mechanisms, activities and policies that have led to digital transformation in selected European public administrations. You can download the Report here.
Professor Dr. Ines Mergel is full Professor of Public Administration in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Konstanz, Germany, member of the Co-VAL consortium. Prof. Mergel is Associate Editor of the journal Government Information Quarterly, serves on the editorial boards of Public Administration Review and Information Polity, and the board of directors of the Public Management Research Association. In 2016, Prof. Mergel was appointed as a Senior Fellow at the German Research Institute for Public Administration.