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The public service is historically, and understandably, risk averse. In turn, this attitude and culture tends to impede experimentation, progress and cross-government implementation of forward-looking technologies. Digital transformation within the public service isn’t just about technology – organizational culture and attitudes are key.

If the public service is to commit to becoming digital-first, a focus needs be on quantifying the risk of maintaining the status quo, as compared to the risks associated with digital transformation. The use of agile methods in environments other than tech has helped leaders and teams experience early and ongoing achievements and reduced the fear of failure. Additionally, there are models in government such as approaches to de-risk procurement that could be studied.

The important question is how can these and other lessons translate into tools and supports for transformation leaders in the public service?

Through interviews, a survey, and a roundtable discussion, the research team gleaned insights from representatives of federal, provincial, and international governments. The research focused on understanding the challenges facing digital transformation and identifying strategies to mitigate and overcome the risk of maintaining the digital status quo.