Being in the National Capital Region (NCR), surrounded by countless towering government buildings, it is fair to assume that we do a lot business in the public sector. Over the past five years, we have observed our government customers doing their best to adopt progressive approaches to digital transformation. They have digital playbooks telling them how to tackle big projects, embrace service design and design thinking, and are making a big effort to adopt agile.
After multiple ideation and planning sessions with customers and a new idea has evolved into something that will, without a doubt, positively transform how a program or service will be delivered digitally, we have the difficult task of introducing the concept of an environmental scan.
In the context of public sector digital transformation consulting, an environment scan is simply seeing what other government entities do to solve the same problem (or one that is similar). When Becker-Carroll is performing a scan, we typically like to understand the technology used, time and cost of implementation, potential portability to our customer’s environment, and most importantly find out about lessons learned in implementing the solution. It is in everybody’s interest that our customers do not make the same mistakes that others have made during the implementation process. It is also important to point out that environmental scans can sometimes be performed prior to an ideation session, depending on the situation.
Governments have a huge advantage over private sector organizations primarily becuase they don’t really compete with each other. For example, If during an environmental scan for a municipality we discover that a Federal Government of Canada agency has an app that would be very useful for them, we can literally pick up the phone and call them to ask questions about it. In almost every case, the agency will make people available to provide virtually any information that we are looking for on behalf of the municipality. We would likely not be able to call Toyota in a similar situation and get the same level of cooperation if General Motors of Canada was our customer.
In the past, we had limited ability to perform environmental scans for private sector customers. Organizations with similar initiatives were either competitors to our customer, or companies that had nothing to gain by cooperating. Now that we are a part of Converge Technology Partners (Converge), that has changed. In addition to having sister companies with many customers from a wide array of industries and geographies, we have vendors willing to work with us like never before. Vendors like IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell / EMC, and others have long-time established partnerships with other Converge companies. Many times, these vendors have entire teams dedicated to a particular industry and incredible access to the information we need to perform environmental scans for any given customer.
Sadly, very few (public or private sector) organizations do environmental scans of this nature before starting a new digital transformation project. If they do, it is high-level and cursory at best. We find that there is often significant pushback when suggesting an engagement of this type. The belief is always that their situation is highly-unique, and that it is unlikely that another organization would have anything of value to offer. Over the years, we have performed many and it has never happened that a customer regretted doing it.
The following is a high-level description of a typical environmental scan deliverable:
- Executive Summary
- Description of customer organization
- Description of Industry
- High-level problem description
- Detailed problem description
- How was problem identified
- How does it effect the line of business
- How does it effect users / customers
- Cost / risks associated with doing nothing
- High-level description of potential solutions
- How have other organizations (competitors or others) solved this problem (usually 3 are highlighted)
- Name / background of organization studied
- Description of their problem
- Description of their solution
- Technology used
- Time and cost of implementation
- Lessons learned
- Delta (difference between their situation and the customers)
- Portability of solution (what’s involved in buying / copying / building this solution)
- Summary of Findings