In her newest published paper ‘Digital service teams in government’ in Government Information Quarterly (GIQ), Dr. Ines Mergel, Professor of Public Administration at the University of Konstanz, elaborated on how national governments are setting up digital service teams (DST), in order to respond to complex IT governance and societal challenges and to introduce digital transformation to public administrations.
As Dr. Ines Mergel explains, DSTs are IT units outside the centralised CIO’s office that ‘emerge as a third space between centralised and decentralised IT departments that are triggered by large-scale IT failures and the need to abandon black swan IT projects – tasks that traditional CIO offices were not able to handle so far’. In particular, their design principles have been replicated from the initial idea of the UK’s Government Digital Service team that was further implemented in countries like the U.S., Canada, Italy, and Finland.
This article laid a first groundwork for the study of digital service teams by providing the contextual factors of their initiation and their current operating modes. Furthermore, a qualitative interpretative approach was followed in order to understand external and internal context factors that contribute to the emergence of digital service teams.
Some key highlights:
- The inception of DSTs can be traced back to political, environmental, and economic tipping points in each of the countries, such as previous black swan IT failures, changes in citizen needs, dependence on external contractors, and an inward tendency to rely exclusively on national resources.
- In almost all the cases, digital service teams are led by private sector executives transferring new capabilities and skills from the IT industry, which have not been applied in the public sector yet.
- The organisational level within which DSTs are placed and operate plays an important role, as the growth and acceptance of digital service teams need to be attributed to the fact that they are located high up in each national governments’ hierarchy.
- The professionalisation of DSTs is driven by the adoption of approaches, principles, and innovative HR policies like agile IT acquisition practices and human-centred design and development.
- In summary, DSTs emerge based on similar developments in their external context variables, while at the same time the internal context factors are similarly replicated across the countries and then adapted to the local context.
You can read the whole paper here.
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