There’s a scene in the 1980s comedy “Beetlejuice” with an “afterlife waiting room” that functions as a sort of bureaucratic DMV, with case workers, century-long waits, and nightmarish paperwork. The joke was that we’ll never escape the painstakingly slow processes of government—even in the afterlife.
But state and local governments have become more nimble—especially in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred many governments to quickly change, match the urgency of the moment, and align their disparate efforts for the common good. They raced to provide essential services and information in new ways, often building vital resources that kept communities healthy, safe, working, and connected.
Still, the crisis also revealed a critical challenge for many governments: The technology and operations that underpin their work can hinder the need for a fast, coordinated response to an unprecedented crisis. And while public sector leaders have addressed some of those tech issues, there are signs that the momentum for positive change has slowed.
“The main risk of deferring digital transformation is it requires governments to spend their resources on overhead activities rather than on citizen services,” says Rowan Miranda, senior managing partner for government strategy at Workday.
Reinventing government is no easy task, especially in a world where accelerated change seems to be the only constant and global trends pose thorny challenges.
To get a sense of what that future might mean for state and local governments, we asked industry thought leaders, including public officials and tech experts, for their predictions on the trends that will have the greatest impact on the public sector. What follows are fresh perspectives on where organizations should focus, from the people who live and breathe government every day.
1. Creating a Connected Data Landscape
We are creating more data than ever before. By 2025 global data creation is expected to grow more than 180 zettabytes—twice what was created in 2022. For government agencies, their legacy systems and data silos are already limiting the insights they can use to better serve their citizens. They’re struggling to harness data’s potential as a result.
Workday’s digital acceleration survey found that 59% of government leaders say their inability to connect operational, people, and financial data to business outcomes harms the organization’s agility. The survey also discovered that 80% of government leaders believe the ability to integrate data between disparate systems is the most important factor in improving their ability to make real-time decisions.
What’s needed is a connected data landscape. By 2024, at least 60% of government artificial intelligence and data and analytics investments will directly impact real-time operational decisions, according to Gartner. Data is and will be the core of strong decision-making and organizational resilience, and governments can be working toward that vision now.
“Governments at all levels have sought to improve performance measurement of agency activities, outputs, and outcomes,” says Miranda. And here’s the good news: “We are finally at a point where combining finance, human resources, and operational data is within reach.”
Yet, the survey found that only 2% of government leaders say their organization’s data is fully accessible, while 61% say it’s either somewhat or completely siloed.
Emailing spreadsheets will no longer cut it. To scale with a data-driven future, organizations will need to embrace technology that integrates disparate systems and organizational roadblocks—giving them a single source of truth within these oceans of data.