Creating sustainable structures in public administration with digital consulting

In public administration, there are many services and projects that are supported by external consultants, and not only due to a lack of resources. But what should this collaboration ideally look like so that, at the end of the project, the administration is able to work sustainably with the structures created? We provide insights into our work and our consulting services for public software projects.

Short & concise

  • The primary goal of our consulting services is to create sustainable structures in public administration.
  • At the end of the projects, the knowledge generated is returned to the administration.
  • Authorities are then able to work independently with the structures created.

The digitalization of public administration is a long-term and permanent task. It is not uncommon for authorities and offices to be supported by external consultants in all aspects of software projects – from strategic consulting, change management and IT coordination to operation and rollout. It is important to always have a clear goal in mind. What do we want to achieve with the project in the end? What means will we use to get there? What exactly is the task of the consultants and how is it filled with life? Kazembi Zatjirua and Anna Voigt, consultants at mgm and currently jointly responsible for the OZG program management of a northern German federal state, provide insights into their work, their experiences and their self-image as consultants.

Editorial team: As advisors, you have been involved in the project for a long time. How did you fill your roles with life and what was particularly important to you?

Kazembi: The primary goal of our consulting is always to create added value for the customer and to meet their goals and needs. The result of this work leads to the generation of artifacts, methods and knowledge that are fed back into the administrative structures at the end of the process. We are there to enable the authorities to work independently with the structures created at the end of the project. This should be clearly communicated from the outset and throughout the entire process.

Anna: Exactly, because the overarching goal is to create sustainable structures. To ensure this, the “handover phase” should not be neglected at the end. In this phase, the jointly created structures are handed over to the administration in an orderly fashion. Where possible, we support the transition until the new procedures have been embedded and established.

Kazembi: This should also be internalized by the authorities themselves. The focus should not only be on the services to be implemented, but also on the long-term sustainability of the project results. To achieve this, the foundations and framework conditions must first be created and organizational, technical, financial and legal issues addressed. Challenges and risks can be minimized by identifying and managing cross-project dependencies. Only then can a standardized procedure for the digitalization of administrative services be set up.

Anna: We have found that other priorities are often set within public administration. The focus is on the concrete and rapid implementation of digital services, even though the framework conditions have not yet been created. Our task is then also to repeatedly encourage public administrations to focus on this major, overarching goal of continuity and empowerment so that important, long-term details relating to sustainability are not overlooked in favour of rapid digitalization.

Editorial team: What phases do digitization processes go through in the OZG environment?

Anna: We have identified various development phases in our OZG program management project.

  • Phase 0:
    In this preliminary phase, the program is set up and objectives are defined and agreed. Ideally, the prerequisites for empowering administrative staff should also be considered right from the start.
  • Phase 1:
    This phase begins with the clarification and creation of framework conditions. The connection to constantly changing framework conditions must be maintained and there must be sufficient adaptability in the program in order to be able to implement this effectively. Stakeholder analysis and the early identification and involvement of interest groups are particularly important here, as well as continuous observation and, if necessary, adaptation to take new stakeholders into account.
  • Phase 2:
    Here, the organizational, legal, technical and financial framework has already been largely established. Processes and structures are being set up and standardized – enabling the digitalization of services to take place more quickly and efficiently.
  • Phase 3:
    In this final phase, the program begins to wind down and preparations are made for the transfer of knowledge. The acquired knowledge is transferred to the official structures in a sustainable manner.

It is particularly important to us that the programme or project sees itself as a “learning organization” that continues to develop on the basis of experience gained and results achieved. These learnings can be transferred to the administrative structures and must therefore be continuously considered in preparation for the handover in phase 3.

Kazembi: During the phases, it becomes clear that it’s not just about building up knowledge that ultimately leaves with the consultants. Rather, this knowledge should be anchored in the authorities and thus enable them to continue their work without us. Of course, the resources in the administration also play a major role here. As a rule, the teams of external consultants are much larger than the actual employees on the administrative side. Therefore, in the end, the question often remains to whom the generated knowledge is ultimately transferred – whether structures or resources can be found so that nothing is lost.

Anna: This is not only important for us as consultants, but we also see the greatest added value for our clients. We want to leave every project with the feeling that we have done the best we can for our clients and leave them with ongoing structures. If we succeed in doing this, we have successfully completed our task – that is our claim as consultants.

Kazembi: And one thing we definitely don’t want is to leave the customer in pain. If we manage to ensure that they don’t notice that we are no longer there once the project is complete, then we have done everything right.

Ultimately, the following points should be considered:

  • Extract features and findings of the program and make them accessible.
  • Process valuable experience and knowledge gained and make it usable for future programs and projects.
  • Recognize that program completion is the end AND a new beginning for the emerging structure and offers an opportunity for an orderly transition of responsibility and the positive continuation of administrative digitization.

Editorial team: Thank you very much for the interview. You can find all information about our services for the public sector here.