Meeting the Challenges of Administrative Digitisation with Agile Methods

Digitalisation has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency, transparency and quality of public administration. However, administrations face a number of challenges in implementing digital solutions. In this article, we would like to look at the four main challenges of administrative digitisation and explain how agile methods can help to overcome them.

1.    Cultural Change:

Comprehensive digitalisation is also accompanied by a fundamental cultural change within administrative units. Traditional hierarchical structures and bureaucratic processes are being made more flexible and adaptable in order to fully exploit the potential of digitising processes. Agile frameworks and methods such as Scrum, Kanban or SAFe® offer tools to continuously improve collaboration and communication, promote new cooperation models to decentralise responsibility and establish an iterative solution approach. Fast learning and feedback cycles are essential here. By using agile methods, a continuous change process is set in motion that addresses and helps to reduce reservations about necessary modernisation. This triggers a change towards working at eye level and team-based decision-making. The use of modern technologies and tools helps to make the risks of digitalisation manageable.

2.    Complexity of Systems:

Administrative processes are often complex and have grown over decades. They often extend over several systems, use different, heterogeneous data management systems and have an almost unmanageable variety of interfaces. The modernisation and harmonisation of existing applications as well as the contemporary integration of the different systems into a functioning overall system is the challenge of administrative digitisation in the coming years. Agile methods enable an incremental approach in which systems can be modernised step by step and, if necessary, also newly developed without additionally endangering ongoing administrative operations. By focusing on short development cycles and continuous feedback, errors in this complex modernisation process can be detected and remedied at an early stage. Agile methods enable effective cooperation between the various groups involved, from the departmental level to interdepartmental cooperation.

3.    Skills Shortages and Skills Needs:

Digitalisation requires specialised professionals with skills in IT, data analytics and project management. The public sector often struggles to attract and retain such talent. Agile methods can help increase the attractiveness of the public sector as an employer. By introducing agile ways of working, employees are enabled to work independently and creatively. This promotes motivation and enables the development of new skills to meet the skills needs in the area of digitalisation and to further develop the administration towards a learning system.

4.    Citizen Centricity and User Friendliness:

The digitalisation of the administration aims to offer citizens a better service. Often, existing digital solutions are complex and not very user-friendly. Agile methods, especially the concept of citizen centricity customer centricity, make it possible to identify the needs of citizens at an early stage and to continuously include them in the development process. Through continuous feedback and usability tests, digital solutions can be iteratively improved and continuously adapted to the needs of citizens.
The digitisation of the administration holds great opportunities, but also challenges. Agile methods provide a framework to address these challenges and reap the full benefits of digitalisation. By fostering cultural change, managing complexity, protecting data, developing skilled workers and focusing on the needs of citizens, administrations can be successfully led into the digital future.