E-government transformations: challenges and strategies

Keld Pedersen (Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)

Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy

ISSN: 1750-6166

Publication date: 19 March 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how to analyse the possibilities for e-government transformations in public sector organisations and how these possibilities can be improved.

Design/methodology/approach

The research constructs a model based on a literature review that focusses on the pressure that drives transformations, on the challenges transformations face and on the abilities needed for overcoming these challenges. The resulting model is subsequently used to analyse a successful case and to identify the keys to success in terms of the strategies used to transform.

Findings

The possibilities for transformation depend on the organisational and contextual configuration (a public sector organisation and the context it operates in) which is more or less supportive of transformations. The configuration can be characterized by the pressure to transform, the challenges that must be overcome and the abilities to do so. There are some basic conditions that impact the possibilities for making the configuration more supportive of transformations: the interest of powerful stakeholders, the degree of publicness, the possibilities for changing the configuration are path dependent and the factors that matter for the possibilities for transformation are interrelated and might be governed by different authorities which make it difficult to manage and change them. When improving the possibilities for transformation in a configuration, the pressure can be increased, transformations can be made easier to accomplish by reducing challenges and by providing more support and abilities might be developed to better overcome the challenges. Transformation is accomplished through an interplay between actions that improve and exploit the configuration.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on a single case.

Practical implications

The public sector should find the balance between making transformations easier and increasing capabilities. The lessons from this research suggest that a more balanced strategy focussing more on eliminating the contextual and organisational challenges that make these projects so complex and providing more support might be a better investment than just aiming to increase project level capabilities.

Social implications

Just as practice might benefit from changing the balance between increasing project level capabilities and making transformation easier, e-government research might improve its relevance by changing the balance between suggesting new approaches and researching the basic conditions for the exploitation of IT in public sector organisations. While the essence of public sector organisations in some cases makes transformations very challenging, there are still factors that might be improved upon through research.

Originality/value

Previous research has established knowledge about transformational challenges and solutions. Based on this knowledge this research constructs a model that can be used to systematically analyse the possibilities for success, and strategies for dealing with these challenges are suggested.

Keywords

Citation

Pedersen, K. (2018), "E-government transformations: challenges and strategies", Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 84-109. https://doi.org/10.1108/TG-06-2017-0028

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


1. Introduction

As many other countries (Parisopoulos et al., 2009), Denmark has established ambitious e-government programs. Even though the UN e-government survey from 2016 rates Denmark as one of the most mature nations regarding e-government, it has proved very difficult to realise these goals. This is not just a problem in Denmark: while public sector organisations have succeeded in providing online services to citizens, transforming back-office service production to increase efficiency has been more challenging (Van Veenstra et al., 2011). Within e-government research, this topic has been addressed under the headings of transformational government (t-government) and business process reengineering (BPR) in public sector organisations.

The problem with limited transformational outcome is not new. In the past few decades, researchers have routinely expressed similar concerns. Balutis (2001), West (2004), Kraemer and King (2006), Weerakkody and Dhillon (2008), Montazemi et al. (2010), Bannister and Connolly (2011), Norris and Reddick (2013) and Brown (2015) have indicated doubts about such transformations and the limited results thereby achieved. Even though the general picture is bleak, there are also more productive results. Foley and Alfonso (2009) studied 28 e-government projects and found positive benefits for both users and government, and especially a higher level of positive results from transformational projects. Overall though, the general picture is negative.

From a practical perspective, limited transformational outcomes are very problematic. E-government might become part of the problem and not a part of the solution when public sectors, as now, face disruptive changes in society. Public sectors that rely heavily on e-government to function but are unable to execute transformational change processes that also involve e-government, may find their dynamic capabilities severely reduced. When this occurs, it becomes hard to respond properly to such disruptive alterations. This is expensive and has severe consequences for citizens. In Denmark, a recent failure (a new system to Danish tax authorities combined with a centralisation of tasks from local to central government and significant reductions in the number of employees) has wasted approximately DKK1.2bn without any positive results. Because of the failed transformation, taxes have not been collected properly and substantial fraud has been committed. Within health care, police and unemployment services similar failed transformations have taken place through the last years. A resent implementation of a health-care system led to a productivity loss costing approximately DKK600m and increased waiting time for seriously ill patients.

From a theoretical perspective, limited transformational outcome is also a serious concern. Several possible explanations for the limited transformational outcome have been offered such as e-government enabled transformations in many cases not being in the interest of “the organisational elite” (Kraemer and King, 2006), being very complicated (Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008), that IT primarily is used for its “legitimacy and reputational benefits” (Brown, 2015), that organisations invest in IT but do not change the way they work (Montazemi et al., 2010) and the incremental nature of public sector organisations (Norris and Reddick, 2013). Previous research has also identified a large number of challenges and solutions for e-government related transformations. A deeper understanding of e-government transformation, however, is still lacking (Nograšek and Vintar, 2014). New approaches with the goal of transforming the public sector are continuously introduced such as open government, open innovation, open data, the exploitation of social media, etc. but there is little hope of success before we understand challenges for e-government-related transformations, and how organisations successfully might overcome these challenges and realise transformational outcomes. As an example, Mergel (2015) investigated the outcomes of open innovation and found only limited outcomes.

This research addresses the problem of limited transformational outcomes by focussing on the following research question:

RQ1.

How can we analyse the possibilities for e-government transformations in public sector organisations, and how can these possibilities be improved?

Being able to analyse the possibilities for e-government transformations and systematically trying to improve these possibilities in the public sector might increase the transformational outcomes. It might also increase the relevance of new approaches (such as open data) in the sense that the answer to this research question can be used to evaluate these approaches, for example, focussing on the extent to which they actually address real challenges and increase the possibilities for transformational success.

The first part of the research question is addressed through a literature review especially of the t-government literature. Several lists of factors that challenge or support e-government transformations are published (Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008). Here, the literature is reviewed and synthesized into a model that can be used to understand the possibilities for e-government transformation in a specific organisation. The model is used as the starting point for answering the second part of the research question. This is done by analysing the strategies of a successful organisation that has dealt with the factors described in the model and transformed itself. Both the model used for the analysis and the strategies for improvement are relevant for policymakers, other practitioners and researchers interested in e-government-based transformations and might help increase the outcome of transformational e-government initiatives.

This article is structured in the following way: Section 2 describes transformational government and the constructed model, Section 3 describes the research method, Section 4 uses the model to analyse the case, Section 5 contains the discussion and Section 6 the conclusion. Appendix contains a description of all the identified factors.

2. Transformational government

First, we look into the expected transformational outcome, then we define how transformation is perceived in this paper and which factors that impact transformations. These factors are then used to construct a model that can be used to analyse the possibilities for successful e-government transformations. Finally, the conditions and limitations for improving the possibilities for transformation in a public sector context are explored.

2.1 The outcome

The major driver behind t-government is the ambition to create citizen centric, demand-driven public sector organisations and reduce operating costs (Weerakkody et al., 2011):

The two outcomes mirror the dynamic capabilities concepts of evolutionary and technical fitness (Helfat et al., 2007). Evolutionary fitness expresses how well organisational capabilities match requirements from the external environment (e.g. citizens), while technical fitness expresses how efficiently a capability performs its intended function (e.g. in terms of costs). Thus, the two t-government aspirations actually reflect the more general concern of most organisations: To offer relevant services to customers or citizens in the most efficient way possible.

2.2 Transformation

Theoretically, transformation is not a well-defined concept, and it is difficult to measure empirically whether changes are transformational or not (Bannister and Connolly, 2011). In this research, transformation is not to be understood as a single project, but as a state of dynamic stability of continuous “value creation, value innovation and business process transformation” that exploits “an ever-changing technological environment” (Parisopoulos et al., 2009). Scholl (2005) differentiates between first-order and second-order organisational changes, where first-order changes are incremental improvements and second-order changes are discontinuous and radical. Scholl further argues that transformation – in terms not only of improving status quo but changing the very essence of an organisation – can be achieved both through second-order changes as well as a series of first-order changes. Previous research describes how t-government has been realised through combinations of a second-order change followed by a set of first-order changes (Weerakkody et al., 2011). Nograšek and Vintar (2014) characterise transformations using two dimensions: depth and nature. The depth is whether the transformation is a first- or second-order change, while the nature is concerned with the organisational elements (processes, people, culture and structure) affected by the transformation.

2.3 Factors impacting transformations

The t-government literature has identified many factors that make transformation difficult (e.g. confusing and complex organisational processes) and possible solutions (mostly the use of BPR). The literature review identified approximately 100 individual factors that might impact e-government transformations. These factors were subsequently categorized into 14 categories. For example, factors related to integrating systems across organisations such as complexity, incompatibility and lack of standards were categorized as “technical integration”. Each of these categories were then placed in three different domains: contextual, organisational or transformational. Contextual factors characterise the environment that organisations operate in, organisational factors describe key attributes, e.g. related to the organizational culture, that makes organisations more or less challenging to change, and transformational factors such as choosing the right approach for transformation are related to the transformational process itself. Table I describes the 14 categories. A thorough description of all the categories and the individual factors is available in Appendix.

While the t-government literature has identified numerous transformational challenges, there is a shortage of empirically validated solutions.

2.4 Contextual and organisational configurations

While previous research has identified a large number of factors, especially challenges that impact e-government transformations, there has been no attempts to exploit this knowledge by using it to construct a model that can help us understand transformations. This is attempted here and illustrated in Figure 1. The model builds upon the categories described in Table I. The level of pressure for transformation is the incentive for transformation. The remaining contextual categories as wells as the organizational categories can make transformations more or less challenging while the transformational categories impact the organisations’ ability to respond to the external pressure, overcome the challenges and succeed with transformation. For any public sector organisation, these categories establish a configuration that is more or less supportive of transformations. The challenges might be more or less difficult. One organisation might have the capabilities and resources for transformation, but experiences little pressure for transformation, while another organisation might experience lots of pressure, but lacks capabilities or resources to overcome the organisational challenges or the challenges related to inter-organisational collaboration.

The model in Figure 1 is weakest regarding capabilities. The logic behind the four categories in “transformational ability” is that transformations aiming at becoming more citizen-centric require an understanding of the citizens and their needs, it requires both capabilities and resources, and these capabilities and resources must be exploited using a well-defined approach. We have some knowledge about the capabilities needed for succeeding with e-government (Klievink and Janssen, 2009), but it is not a well-researched area. Our knowledge about the relationship between external pressure for transformation and e-government transformations is also weak. While the private sector IS literature has a strong tradition for researching the relationship between the context organisations operate within and IS [exemplified by Porter’s work about strategy and the internet (2001)], there is not a similar strong research tradition, or theoretical models, focusing on how e-government might help public sector organisations to respond to external pressure or exploit external possibilities.

2.5 The conditions under which a configuration might be improved

The next obvious question is to which degree the challenges might be removed, abilities developed or the pressure increased? Five conditions that impact the extent to which a specific configuration might be improved have been identified: the interest of powerful stakeholders, the level of publicness, path dependency, the interrelated nature of the factors that impacts transformations and the distribution of responsibility of the factors across different public sector authorities.

According to Kraemer and King (2006), IT in the public sector is used to reinforce existing “organisational arrangements and power distributions”, and IT is only used to transform public sector organisations to the degree that it is in the interest of the “organizational elite”. It is fair to assume that the same applies for attempts to optimise the possibilities for such transformations.

The e-government literature reviewed here does not distinguish between different kinds of public organizations. However, according to some researchers (Piening, 2013), no organisation is entirely public or private but can be characterized by its degree of publicness, e.g. depending on the competitive pressure it is facing, how it is funded, the degree of political control, the creation of public value and the level of accountability. It is also assumed that organisations with a high degree of publicness have less incentives to innovate (Piening, 2013). For contexts with a high degree of publicness, the factors related to lack of “pressure for transformation”, strong “public sector requirements” and “complex governance” can be argued to be a part of the essence of public sector organisations while factors related to the other two categories (“organizational integration” and “technical integration”) are just very difficult to overcome because they require inter-organisational collaboration.

Looking at organisational factors, many of them might be improved (such as “the level of systems flexibility, incompatibility and standardization”) while others cannot be categorized without taking the level of publicness (e.g. “public sector requirements”) under consideration. In some organisations a high level of bureaucracy, silo thinking, hard security requirements, conflicting priorities and rigid processes controlled through legislation are actually vital and necessary even though it makes transformations difficult.

Looking at the transformational factors, abilities can be improved. However, the approach should be aligned with the contextual and organisational essence in terms of paying attention to the social and political environment and public sector core values. But in some organisations, the transformational process is more politically sensitive, and compromises need to be established between many different stakeholders. Here, changes can only be made as first-order transformations at a slower pace and with limited scope as suggested by, Norris and Reddick (2013) while the scope might be larger and the speed higher in other organisations. However, there are no studies within e-government of the relationship between transformational outcomes and the level of publicness.

It is generally accepted within organizational theory (Teece et al., 1997) and public administration literature (Piening, 2013) that both the capabilities for change and the use of these capabilities are path dependent. The possibilities for changing a specific organisational and contextual configuration to make it more supportive for e-government transformations will be limited by its history because the routines for change are shaped by accumulated resources and experiences. Furthermore, path dependency rise from organizational learning barriers (such as competency traps) and micro-politics (Piening, 2013). This means that challenges in a specific configuration might be very difficult to remove.

Finally, Van Veenstra et al. (2011) found that many factors which impact e-government transformations are not only inter-related but also that the management of these factors is typically divided between different authorities such as local and central government and between administrative and political leaders. As a consequence, they are complicated to manage and change to improve a configuration.

3. Research method

The research is based on a case study (Walsham, 1995) of a Danish public sector organisation – a public library that has transformed itself based on the use of IT.

Construction of a model used to analyse the possibilities for transformation.

As previously described, the first part of the research question (how can we analyse the possibilities for e-government transformations) is addressed through a literature review. The t-government literature was reviewed and approximately 100 factors that impact t-government projects were identified and categorised (Appendix). Based on these categories and the dependencies between them, a model was constructed (Figure 1) that can be used to analyse the possibilities for transformation in a specific organisation, and the conditions under which these possibilities might be improved.

3.1 Data collection

Answering the second part of the research question (how can these possibilities be improved) is based upon three kinds of data:

  1. interviews of employees and managers in the library;

  2. key performance indicators gathered by national authorities (DK statistics, 2015); and

  3. quantitative project data collected by the local PMO in the library.

All the employees and managers (Table II) were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. Each person was asked about factors related to the national and organisational context surrounding the transformation process (Table I), what the outcome had been, and how the changes had taken place.

Key performance indicators were used to understand the impact of the transformation in quantitative terms. These data are routinely collected by the national authorities within the sector and used to evaluate the performance of individual libraries. Selected data are presented in Section 4; more data are available from (DK statistics, 2015).

The local PMO in the library collects quantitative data about local e-government and other types of projects, such as resources used in projects, project estimates, budget overruns, delays, etc. but also key project documents such as business cases, project plans, etc. These data were used to validate the qualitative data about the transformation and to gain further understanding of the transformation.

3.2 Data validation

The interviewed librarians were chosen in a way that secured that both librarians that resisted the transformation and were proponents of the transformation were interviewed, and the data was analysed and cross checked to reduce the impact from strongly biased data.

Data were also validated by triangulation between the quantitative data and the qualitative data, especially regarding the extent to which a transformation was accomplished and how it was accomplished. This lead to the identification of a mismatch between the performance of the transformational projects and the outcome. We had expected to see more delays and budget overruns in these projects given the magnitude of the organisational changes. This is further analysed in Section 4.

Preliminary analysis results were presented for employees and managers to validate data, and further data were collected by the researchers based on this. Even though a substantial number of factors that affect the transformation in the case (described in Table III) were identified, the list is probably not complete because of taken for granted assumptions among the interviewed persons and the tacit knowledge ingrained in organisational routines.

3.3 Data analysis

The data were analysed using the following steps:

  • First, the degree to which a transformation had taken place was analysed. “Transformation” is a fuzzy concept (Bannister and Connolly, 2011). By providing an explicit account for the results that have been achieved, misunderstandings can be avoided.

  • Second, the model presented in Section 2 (Figure 1) was used to analyse the contextual and organisational configuration behind the transformation.

  • Third, the analysis focused on identifying the strategies used in the case to improve and exploit the configuration for transformation.

This first analysis was accomplished using the concepts by Nograšek and Vintar (2014), in terms of transformational nature and depth, and based upon both qualitative data obtained through interviews and the quantitative data collected by national authorities (DK statistics, 2015).

The second analysis was primarily based on the qualitative interview data, but also quantitative data regarding past projects. The qualitative data were coded according to concepts in the model (e.g. contextual challenges or contextual pressure). For example, the quote “We are a service organisation – if we don’t deliver good service people simply don’t come, people don’t have to use our systems.” was coded as “pressure for transformation”.

The third analysis focused on actions taken in the case (e.g. “rotating employees to avoid silo-thinking”) and the type of impact these actions had on the concepts illustrated in Figure 1: Organisational challenges, contextual challenges, contextual pressure, transformational ability, and the actual transformation. This analysis was accomplished in an iterative process to categorise the actions in higher level categories that expressed the more general strategies used. These categories grew out of the analysis and were not decided upon before they occurred. They do not express explicit concepts used by the interviewed persons. For example, management did not have explicit discussions about how to balance investments in supporting transformations, increasing capabilities and specific transformations using these specific concepts. These findings were also presented to, and discussed with, organisational personnel.

4. Analysis

Now we will analyse the case to identify some of the strategies used by the organisation to succeed, thereby answering the second part of the research question. First, we look into the outcome to establish the extent to which a transformation took place. Second, the model illustrated in Figure 1 is used to understand the configuration behind the transformation, and third, general strategies are synthesized from the case.

4.1 The outcome

Using the terminology of Nograšek and Vintar (2014), the nature of the transformation in this case is broad. It affects not only organisational structure, culture, people, processes and technology but also the relationship to citizens and other libraries. Given the number of years and the number of successive transformational projects, the transformation is perceived as a series of first-order transformations.

The Danish public libraries have transformed themselves, particularly during the past 15 years. According to the association of Danish municipalities, the libraries are an excellent example of how public service can become more efficient without reducing quality. In the period from 2007 to 2013, the national yearly costs in this area were reduced by 14 per cent (DKK369m), while the service level has been maintained or improved. Satisfaction surveys conducted among citizens confirm these findings.

Both the main and local libraries have extended their hours; they are now open from eight in the morning to nine in the evening every day. Outside normal office hours, however, there is no support from librarians. In the local libraries, citizens are only able to obtain help from librarians and other staff approximately 13 hours a week. The remainder of the time, there are no staff members in the libraries.

The library has invested heavily in self-service technologies, and citizens themselves register all loans and return of books. Almost all the library tasks that librarians are educated to perform, and used to do, are now fully automated, accomplished by the citizens themselves or done by a few specialists. The manager and the librarians estimate that they now use approximately 10 per cent of the skills and knowledge they have learned as part of their original education. Behind the scene, the logistics of storing and moving books around are almost fully automated with IT systems similar to the track and trace transportation systems from airports. Logistic back-office processes are integrated, not only across the libraries in the municipality but also across the country: If a citizen orders a book not available from this municipality, it is borrowed from another library in the country and delivered at the local library as specified by the citizen. Internet-based front office services are provided by staff in the main library and by resources shared by all libraries in the country. This occurs seamlessly, such that citizens are not necessarily aware of the origin of the service. The number of library staff has been cut by approximately 40 per cent. In the period between 2009 (where we have the first statistics on a national level) to 2015, staff was reduced by 12 per cent. In the same period, the number of physical copies of books was reduced from 537,739 to 401,099. This was because of more efficient back-office processes (in terms of having one collection of books across all libraries, which was intelligently distributed). Citizen satisfaction with the library is consistently very high, also regarding the use of self-service technologies. While the number of traditional librarians has decreased, other kinds of staff (e.g. engineers and communication specialists) have been hired.

The library manager summarizes the transformation this way:

The core activity is no longer related to the logistics of borrowing and returning books but the meeting and dialogue with the citizens about what they might need. We now have more time for the dialogue with the citizen or the guest as we prefer to call them, and more time to provide activities for the guests. Our perception of what once was valuable and what was essential for running a library was completely different.” (Library manager).

Based on both the quantitative and qualitative data, it seems fair to conclude that a transformation has actually taken place, and that this transformation is heavily based on the use of IT. While increased efficiency to some extent could be achieved without changing the essence of librarian work and what librarians traditionally perceive as their core task, citizen centricity could not. It required librarians to be less concerned with the collection of literature and more focused on the citizens and their needs and how to provide good service. A librarian perceives the transformation in this way:

We have changed from being an elite organisation to a service organisation. Our professional identity is ripped apart. What I was trained to do is now accomplished by three to five persons. Before it was all about the books; now it is all about the guests. (Librarian 6).

We will now look into the configuration behind the transformation.

4.2 The configuration

The interviews were coded according to the model pictured in Figure 1, and all the factors are described in Appendix to identify the various actions in the case that helped improve the configuration and realise the transformation. A high number of significant actions that contributed to the success in this particular case were identified (Table III). Partly by design, partly by coincident, a contextual and organisational configuration has been established that is able to respond to societal changes and transform:

  • Contextual pressure: The context establishes strong pressure for transformation, e.g. through competition and political pressure to cut budgets.

  • Contextual challenges: The context not only reduces some of the contextual challenges for transformation but also provides support that helps overcome challenges.

  • Organisational challenges: The organisation continuously reduces challenges for transformation and provides support for transformation.

  • Transformational abilities: The organisation has built internal capabilities to respond to the external pressure, has the resources to use them, and continuously seeks to understand citizens and how they perceive the services delivered by the organisation.

In the remaining part of this section, this configuration will be explained in greater detail.

The organisation experiences a hard pressure to deliver good service and remain relevant to citizens:

We are a service organisation – if we don’t deliver good service people simply don’t come, people don’t have to use our systems. (OD Manager).

Every other day I wake up and think that in a few years it is over – then there will only be ten employees left taking care of the logistics. (Librarian 6).

Further, the national level provides incentives for innovation by demanding a small percentage budget cut for each library each year and by benchmarking libraries against each other regarding citizen satisfaction each year. The incentive for transformation does not arise only from budget cuts. The pressure also comes from digital services like Google, Spotify, etc. from physical books becoming cheaper to buy, and from private sector companies selling access to e-books.

The context reduces challenges by placing few minimal public sector requirements upon libraries. It provides support by establishing a simple governance model where responsibility for innovation and the freedom to innovate is allocated to the individual main libraries. Further, formal cross-organisational collaboration between libraries in the country has been established. In terms of IT, the libraries have established a close collaboration, with the aim of all libraries using the same core system. This makes the exchange of data and collaboration easier, and it also supports transformation in terms of cross-functional processes. Support for transformation is also provided in the form of funding for innovative projects for a single or a group of libraries.

At the organisational level, management has a policy of never doing projects just to reduce costs. All projects should benefit citizens, even if they also improve organisational efficiency. Motivating employees to take part in and support projects that actually benefit citizens are a lot easier than motivating them to engage in pure cost-cutting efforts. This understanding increases the incentive for transformation in the organisation. It also reduces challenges in terms of lowering organisational resistance towards changes related to specific projects.

Challenges across all the previously mentioned five organisational factors are reduced by management in an attempt to make transformations easier. For example, regarding the structural factors the organisation benefits from the minimal level of national legislation and the minimal requirements for bureaucracy to organise in a way that supports change. Silo-related constraints are avoided, and a high level of shared understanding is achieved by systematically rotating employees between functions. All employees, even back office personnel such as those predominantly working with IT, have to take shifts in the front office servicing citizens. All employees shift between working in the main and the local libraries. The classic alignment problem between IT and the rest of the organisation is avoided by not having an IT department or an IT manager. IT is the responsibility of general management:

IT is an integrated part of our job and our development – it is not something special that only a few understand. (Library manager).

Process responsibility is also placed within the regular management structure. Managers responsible for a specific process (e.g. logistics in terms of receiving books, sorting them and transporting them to the place where they are needed) are also responsible for the supporting IT system:

Responsibilities are razor sharp. It is about being thorough and do what you are obliged to do. Nothing is unclear or left in a grey zone. (Logistics manager).

The organization provides support for transformation in several ways. For example, it has established a PMO which supports the design, selection and execution of transformational projects, and projects are owned by management and not struggling for management attention and commitment. The library manager participates in all project meetings for all large projects. The challenging issue is not the use of technology or changes to work processes but changes to the essence of what a library is and what a librarian is. What happens in this organisation is that management takes on the role of change agent for this cultural change – projects “just” exploit the cultural changes when delivering and implementing citizen centric e-government solutions. Change management is generally not considered a project manager responsibility, but a line management responsibility. This choice is partly motivated by the fact that not all librarians welcome the changes:

I am getting sick when hearing the term “additional sales”. This commercial attitude has entered the library way too much: “sell something more”. I think people should be able to come here and get exactly what they came for and not everything else. (Librarian 1).

The transformational ability has been increased through different kinds of organizational learning. The organization has clearly learned from a long history of organizational changes; for example, they have learned that they get better results by reducing the number of ongoing projects and investing scarce management resources in a smaller number of projects. The organisation is very keen to learn both from other libraries but also from private sector service companies (e.g. how to place books to maximize loans) and hired new kind of employees with different skills needed in the transformation process. Finally, the organisation learns by adopting new methods, e.g. within project management, and by professionalisation of change efforts, e.g. by the creation of an organisational development department.

Regarding the exploitation of capabilities, some factors stand out: A combination of bottom-up and top-down change processes, strong employee participation, careful consideration of which parts of transformational efforts that should be conducted by projects or by line management, knowledge about citizens and broadly scoped transformations with a strong focus on achieving organizational benefits:

We are good at reengineering work processes. We train employees in new ways of working and insist on not falling back to the old ways. We are driven by the organisational change. IT is just a tool, and we focus on the changes required to achieve the benefits. (OD manager).

As a part of the analysis, previous projects in the organisation were studied in collaboration with the PMO manager; there were no failures or large budget overruns. Even the implementation of large core systems, such as a new logistics system, only exceeded the budget by approximately 15 per cent and reached the defined transformational objectives. Given the magnitude of the organisational changes as described by the interviewed persons, failures in terms of budget and schedule overruns and abandoned projects were expected by the researchers. A further analysis indicated that the main reason for the lack of failures was the configuration. Here projects did not have to struggle for management attention; on the contrary, projects were decided by management and solved a task for management, and a substantial amount of management resources were used both on individual projects and on general reduction of transformational challenges. The reason for success was not outstanding project level practices, compared to other public sector organisations, but rather the possibilities for transformation embedded in the configuration.

4.3 The conditions and strategies for transformational government

Having analysed the configuration, we will now look into the basic conditions for changing it and the strategies for doing so:

  • The interest of powerful stakeholders: There is consensus between political parties and political and administrative leaders at national and local level about increasing the use of IT and reducing budgets in libraries. Labour unions have raised concerns, but the citizens appreciate the development.

  • The level of publicness: The actions in Table III are closely related to a specific level of publicness, in this case a low level. For example, in terms of few public sector requirements and the competition from other actors.

  • Path dependency: Many of the actions are clearly path dependent. For example, the library benefits from decades of engaging employees in change processes, there is a long tradition for collaboration with other libraries and a long-term relationship with a trusted IT vendor. However, path dependency was not entirely positive. Management in the library felt that to change the essence of the library to become more citizen centric, they had to increase the level of top-down change processes. This created resistance because librarians were used to a more democratic and bottom-up change process.

  • Inter-related: For example, in this case, politicians cutting library budgets each year probably works as an incentive for transformation because there are funds to apply for to execute projects that increase the efficiency, libraries are benchmarked regarding citizen satisfaction which makes the level of quality transparent, libraries have the freedom to innovate and the library studied here has the capabilities to transform. In other public sector organisations, cutting budgets might only lead to poorer quality.

  • Distributed responsibility: In the example above, municipalities are responsible for library budgets, but the overall budget is negotiated with central government, both central and local government provide the funding for new projects, a national agency is responsible for benchmarking the libraries, central government is responsible for the legislation giving libraries the freedom to innovate, and the local library management is responsible for development of the capabilities to transform and for making sure that there are resources allocated in the library budget for the needed changes.

These five basic conditions illustrate the complexity of increasing public sector transformational capacity, how difficult it is to manage and how fragile it is. In this case, there is not one single authority being responsible for the transformational support of the configuration, and actions taken by one authority might unintentionally reduce the transformational support. For example, the yearly budget cuts must stop at some point, otherwise the library will probably have to reduce the resources needed for transformation. They also illustrate how difficult it is to transfer lessons learned, in terms of specific actions from one organisation to another, because the conditions might be quite different.

While the specific actions are difficult to transfer to another context, some more general strategies might be derived from them. To do so, actions from the case were analysed regarding the general role they played in relation to elements illustrated in Figure 1. Organisational challenges, contextual challenges, contextual pressure, transformational ability and the actual transformation. Maybe not surprisingly, the actions from the case could be categorised into the following strategies:

  1. increasing the pressure for transformations, such as making service quality explicit through benchmarks;

  2. reducing the challenges for transformation, such as increasing the level of shared understanding between employees;

  3. providing support for transformations, such as establishing a PMO;

  4. developing the ability for transformation, such as learning from experience; and

  5. executing transformations, such as moving resources to value adding activities from a citizen perspective.

The first strategy focusses on increasing the motivation for engaging in transformations, second and third strategies focus on making the transformations easier, fourth focuses on becoming better at executing transformations while fifth focuses on the execution on actual transformations.

Studying the actions and strategies in Table III, two issues are especial remarkable: How much the transformation in the library depends on the context and the balance between improving the possibilities for transformations and executing transformations. In this case, making transformations easier to accomplish by reducing challenges and providing support in the organisation and in the context seems to be a critical success factor.

5. Discussion

The limited transformational outcomes reported by many scholars through many years (Balutis, 2001; Brown, 2015) are quite understandable given the number of factors that challenge transformations, their inter-related nature and the distribution of responsibilities of managing them as a consequence of complex public sector governance structures. This finding is not new but confirms the findings, for example, by Van Veenstra et al. (2011). What is new here is the attempt to construct a model based on all the individual factors as in Figure 1.

The research here supplements existing research. For example, we have several e-government maturity models (Layne and Lee, 2001) that describe various stages or maturity levels, but little research as the research by Klievink and Janssen (2009) that attempts to identify the abilities needed for becoming more mature and for delivering e-government solutions that matches changing societal needs. The research here contributes by increasing our understanding of how public sector organisations might evaluate and increase their transformational possibilities and become more mature from an e-government perspective.

Previous research (Nograšek and Vintar, 2014) has described two transformational dimensions: nature and scope. The research here suggests another dimension in terms of perceiving transformations as a continuous interplay between increasing the general capacity for transformations and executing specific transformational initiatives. This is generally not discussed in the e-government literature. New methods such as BPR (Janssen and Shu, 2008), open innovation (Gascó, 2017) and open data (Kornberger et al., 2017) are suggested while the issue of creating an organisational and contextual configuration that supports transformation, where these methods might be meaningfully applied, gets less attention. This might be one of the causes for the often disappointing outcomes reported by scholars (Janssen et al., 2012; Kornberger et al., 2017; Mergel, 2015). If the transformational capacity of the basic configuration does not match the radical nature of, for example, BPR, the risk of failure or insignificant results seems high. While open data and open innovation are clearly interesting and might have a great transformational potential, it is hard to find examples of transformation of core public services based on these methods. In this particular case, the success is not attributed to the application of advanced methods like BPR but more from making transformations easier through optimisation of the basic configuration.

The t-government literature generally does not distinguish between different levels of publicness. The research here suggests using the concept of publicness to understand why some organisations find it harder to transform than other organisations, and to consider which challenges can be removed and which challenges are a part of the public sector essence in a given organisation and must be respected.

6. Conclusion

The research here has addressed the research question:

RQ2.

How can we analyse the possibilities for e-government transformations in public sector organisations, and how can these possibilities be improved?

Figure 2 summarises the findings in this research and can be helpful when analysing the possibilities for transformation in public sector organisations. In the middle, we have the basic organisational and contextual configuration that is more or less supportive of transformations.

The configuration can be characterized by the pressure to transform the challenges that must be overcome and the abilities to do so. There are some basic conditions that impact the possibilities for making the configuration more supportive of transformations: It depends on the interest of powerful stakeholders, if the degree of publicness is high, some of the challenges are essential and cannot be removed, the possibility for changing the configuration is path dependent, the factors that matter for the possibilities for transformation are interrelated and might be governed by different authorities, which makes them difficult to manage and change. At the top of Figure 2, we have the strategies for improving the transformational support in a configuration: The pressure can be increased, transformations can be made easier to accomplish by reducing challenges and by providing more support, and abilities might be developed to better overcome the challenges.

In this case, transformation is accomplished through an interplay between actions that improve and exploit the configuration. The key to success was not outstanding project level practices compared to other public sector organisations, but rather the possibilities for transformation embedded in the configuration.

The research here is based on a single case, which is a clear limitation. However, the research has both practical and theoretical implications.

6.1 Practical implications

The first practical implication is that the public sector should find the balance between making transformations easier and increasing capabilities.

When looking at the Danish efforts to increase the success rate of e-government-based transformations during the past decade, typical as a reaction to large scale failures, they exclusively focus on how to increase project level capabilities such as better project management, better requirements specifications, increased risk management, more agile processes etc. (See, for example, the report by Laugesen (2017)). The impacts have been questionable, and large-scale failures continue. The lessons from this research suggest that a more balanced strategy focusing more on eliminating the contextual and organisational challenges that make these projects so complex and providing more support might be a better investment. Public sector managers could study the configuration within a specific sector using the model illustrated in Figure 2 and the factors in Appendix and try to identify the areas that might inhibit transformations. By studying the conditions, practitioners can evaluate whether the transformational ambitions expressed in e-government programs seems realistic given the nature of the specific part of the public sector. By studying the challenges, practitioners can get an overview of the potential problems that specific initiatives are facing, and by assessing the abilities, they can get a better understanding of whether these problems realistically can be solved using the existing abilities. Furthermore, the configuration might be strengthened by exploiting the identified strategies.

Generally, the conflict between, on one side, the expectations about e-government driven reforms of the public sector and, on the other side, the failures and limited transformational outcomes, might be reduced not by requiring more from the individual projects but by making transformational projects easier. There is a need for a public sector that is more easily transformed using e-government to meet changing societal needs.

6.2 Research implications

For decades, new approaches for increasing the transformational power of e-government have been suggested. Recently, approaches such as open data and open innovation have been the subject of much research. However, both the approaches have been reported to be meeting substantial difficulties (Kornberger et al., 2017; Mergel, 2015) and not resulting in much transformation. Just as practice might benefit from changing the balance between increasing project level capabilities and making transformation easier, e-government research might improve its relevance by changing the balance between suggesting new approaches and researching the basic conditions for the exploitation of IT in public sector organisations. While the essence of public sector organisations in some cases makes transformations very challenging, there are still factors that might be improved upon through research. Furthermore, the model in Figure 2 might be used to evaluate and refine new approaches to e-government. For example, open data could be evaluated by trying to evaluate what kind of contextual pressure it responds to and why it is needed, which challenges that might be reduced or introduced by using it, which capabilities it actually requires, and what kind of transformational outcome that realistically can be expected.

The research here draws heavily on previous research about transformational e-government. Previous research has identified a range of factors that make transformational e-government difficult (Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008; Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Jones, 2012; İskender and Özkan, 2015).This research is valuable but we lack a broader understanding of the interdependency of these factors, and how they are related to basic conditions for public sector organisations such as their level of publicness. Thinking of public sector organizations and their context as configurations of interdependent factors that support or challenge transformation and developing strategies for improving these configurations, as in this paper, provides a starting point.

Figures

The contextual and organisational configuration

Figure 1.

The contextual and organisational configuration

Model for understanding and improving the possibilities for transformation

Figure 2.

Model for understanding and improving the possibilities for transformation

The 14 categories of challenges

Context
Pressure for transformation The degree of pressure for transformation provided by the context, for example in terms of competition (Dwivedi et al., 2012)
Public sector requirements The degree to which public sector requirements complicate transformations, for example in terms of detailed legislation that specifies how organizational processes should be performed leaving little room for local innovation (Jurisch et al., 2012)
Governance complexity The level of complexity of the inter-organisational governance systems under which transformations take place. For example, decision-making power can be divided across state, region and local areas. All these levels have their own political systems, with potentially different interests and concerns (Dwivedi et al., 2012)
Organisational integration The degree to which there are established well-functioning inter-organisational structures, policies and collaborations that support cross-organisational transformation. For example, ambiguity regarding distribution of tasks and legally defined competences among organisations might harm organizational integration (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007)
Technical integration The degree to which technical facilities and policies for cross-organisational system integrations are established. Technical integration might for example be challenged by incompatibility and lack of standards (Van Veenstra et al., 2011)
Organisation
Structure The degree to which structural characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric. Structural characteristic such as that clarity of decision-making responsibility might impact the possibilities for transformation (Van Veenstra et al., 2011)
Culture The degree to which cultural characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric. Silo thinking (Parisopoulos et al., 2009) and risk-aversion (İskender and Özkan, 2015) are examples of cultural challenges
Processes The degree to which process characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric. For example, whether processes are described and understood (Montazemi et al., 2010)
People The degree to which people characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric. Difficulties might, for example, arise from scepticism caused by past failures (Van Veenstra et al., 2011) or fears of, e.g., IT or changes in power balances (Conklin, 2007)
IT The degree to which IT characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric. For example, the level of support for change offered by the IT infrastructure (Weerakkody et al., 2008)
Transformation
Understanding of citizens The level of understanding of citizens and their needs (Mawela et al., 2016)
Capabilities The availability of the necessary capabilities for transformation (Klievink and Janssen, 2009), for example leadership capabilities (Montazemi et al., 2010) and benefits realization capabilities (Pedersen, 2017)
Resources The availability of the necessary resources for transformation, such as funds (İskender and Özkan, 2015) and time (Tennant and Wu, 2005)
Approach The suitability of the approach used to transform, for example, in terms of avoiding a techno-centric approach (Weerakkody et al., 2008)

Persons interviewed

Person Role
Library manager Manages the entire library organisation including both the central and local libraries in the municipality
Development manager Manages all kinds of organisational development initiatives including IT projects, but also initiatives related to the physical layout of the buildings, changing the culture towards more citizen centricity and lean projects to increase efficiency
PMO manager Responsible for the project management office that supports and monitors organisational development projects
Logistics manager Manages logistics in terms of receiving, storing and delivering books and other physical resources where they are needed
Librarian 1 Works in logistics
Librarian 2 Works in logistics
Librarian 3 Works in logistics
Librarian 4 Works in citizen service. Coordinates all digital services to citizens
Librarian 5 Works in citizen service. Coordinates all initiatives regarding improvement of citizens’ IT skills
Librarian 6 Works in citizen service. Coordinates all special events for citizens and coordinates all the services provided in the physical library

Strategies and actions

Strategy Example actions from case
Increasing the pressure for transformations Context: Competition from other actors, cutting budgets, requiring same or better service, making service quality explicit through benchmarks, requiring a high degree of citizen centricity
Organisation: Creating widespread acknowledgement of the need for change even though the changes are unpleasant for many librarians, emphasizing citizen centricity
Reducing the challenges for transformation Context: Simplifying the governance structure and making responsibilities more clear in the sector, no legislation specifying how process should be performed, no requirements about transparency or accountability, creating trust and good relations between libraries
Organisation: Reducing silo culture and increase shared understanding through rotation of employees, making business responsible for IT and creating a high degree of alignment, establishing clear organisational process and systems ownership and describing processes
Providing support for transformations Context: Giving libraries the freedom to innovate, provide national and local funding for transformational projects, shared IT development reducing costs, a technical platform shared with other libraries in Denmark making the exchange of data easier, creating a formal structure for collaboration and exchange of experiences between libraries
Organisation: Establishing contacts and knowledge exchange with people engaged in similar transformational projects in other libraries, establishing an organizational development department containing a PMO that provides support and standards for project management, management very involved before, during and after projects, establishing general agreement among major internal and external stakeholders about the overall strategy for the transformations, establishing procedures for how to prioritize and chose projects, define quality standards and norms for key services and processes, collecting information about citizens perception of the services and of service quality through the use of mystery shoppers
Developing the ability for transformation Context: Establishing and funding IT management courses for library managers.
Organisation: Collecting specific information about citizens’ use and preferences regarding specific services
Improving capabilities through learning from experience, learning from other organisations (other libraries but also private sector organisations), learning by hiring new employees with different backgrounds, learning from adopting new methods (e.g. within project management) and professionalisation of change efforts
Securing the necessary resources for transformation by actually being ahead of the requirements to cut costs, and by negotiating loans to finance transformations that are payed back as the effects of transformational projects materialise
Developing a standard approach for transformations based on the principles mentioned under “Executing transformations”
Executing transformations Context: Developing shared services for citizens together with other libraries if possible, developing shared technological solutions with other libraries if possible
Organisation: Staff moved to value-adding activities from a citizen perspective, placing the responsibility for change management among line managers thereby making individual projects simpler, insisting that all projects should benefit citizens, all project meetings are open for all employees and a general emphasis on employee involvement, library manager participates in all project meetings, knowledge about citizens and their needs is utilized, strong focus on the organisational benefits that should be achieved, a broad approach that not focus especially on IT, process orientation but not specifically business process reengineering, a mixture of organisational top-down projects and bottom-up improvements as part of ordinary work, focus management attention on a small number of projects at a time

Contextual, organizational and transformational factors

Context
Pressure for transformation The degree of pressure for transformation provided by the context
Citizens’ level of choice regarding the usage of specific services (Dwivedi et al., 2012; Jurisch et al., 2012); the level of competition from other public and private organisations (Dwivedi et al., 2012); the level of environmental turbulence in general (Piening, 2013), changes to legislation that influence implementation and execution of service (Dwivedi et al., 2012); and political support for transformations (Jones, 2012)
Public sector requirements The degree to which public sector requirements complicate transformations
Public sector organisations must overcome the digital divide (Dwivedi et al., 2012; Jones, 2012; Sipiors et al., 2011; Weerakkody et al., 2008); comply with public sector values such as transparency and accountability (Dwivedi et al., 2012; Jurisch et al., 2012); and balance the need for both data protection and privacy on one side, and information-sharing across public sector organisations on the other (Combe, 2009; Joseph and Johnson, 2013). Depending on the nature of the public service, there might be detailed legislation and mandatory requirements that specify how organisational processes should be performed locally. This often leaves little room for local innovation (Jurisch et al., 2012)
Governance complexity The level of complexity of the inter-organisational governance systems under which transformations take place
Decision-making power can be divided across state, region and local areas. All these levels have their own political systems, with potentially different interests and concerns. This complicates decision-making processes and might create uncertainty about responsibilities; ultimately it can lead to inconsistent decisions (Dwivedi et al., 2012). Further, time frames for transformations might be largely determined by the next election date (Dwivedi et al., 2012)
Organisational integration The degree to which there are established well-functioning inter-organisational structures, policies and collaborations that support cross-organisational transformation
Under this category one might consider whether realistic macro transformation plans (İskender and Özkan, 2015; Teo and Letch, 2012), and some kind of lead agency with responsibility for facilitating collaboration (Teo and Letch, 2012), have been established. The integration of systems and processes across organisations and the sharing of information is not just a technical challenge (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007). There are a range of factors that impact organisational integration such as: trust (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007; Ebrahim and Irani, 2005; Fagan, 2006; Jones, 2012; Weerakkody et al., 2008); ambiguity regarding distribution of tasks and legally defined competences among organisations (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007); collaborative decision-making (Van Veenstra et al., 2011); whether shared visions have been established (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007; Teo and Letch, 2012); whether there is a shared sense of urgency about the necessity to collaborate (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007); the level of inter-organisational tensions and conflicts (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007); and the practical but complicated matter of changing governance structures and organisational boundaries and integrating processes across organisations (Beynon-Davies and Martin, 2004; Dhillon et al., 2008; Hu et al., 2006; Janssen and Shu, 2008; Layne and Lee, 2001; Sarikas and Weerakkody, 2007)
Technical integration The degree to which technical facilities and policies for cross-organisational systems integrations are established
Here one may consider factors such as the availability of cross-organisational infrastructural facilities and enterprise architectures (Van Veenstra et al., 2011) and problems related to integrating systems across organisations (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007; Sarikas and Weerakkody, 2007), for example, caused by complexity, incompatibility and lack of standards (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007; Dhillon et al., 2008; Van Veenstra et al., 2011). Integration is needed for collecting data for multiple uses (Fagan, 2006; Weerakkody et al., 2007) and for providing shared one-stop portals and cross-agency offerings (West, 2004; Layne and Lee, 2001)
Organisation
Structure The degree to which structural characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric
The level of bureaucracy (Kraemer and King, 2006; Montagna, 2005); fragmentation; autonomy; clarity of decision-making responsibility; IT governance maturity (Van Veenstra et al., 2011) and level of collaboration between IT and functional managers (Montazemi et al., 2010); and degree of conflicting priorities (Weerakkody et al., 2008; Jones, 2012). Further, the extent of citizen centricity in the way service production is organised (Weerakkody et al., 2011), and whether staff has been moved to value-adding roles from a citizen perspective (Murphy, 2005), both impact the difficulty of transformations
Culture The degree to which cultural characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or makes the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric
Attitudes towards citizens, such as putting organisational interest before citizen needs (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007), and issues of whether the culture supports or constrains change (Dhillon et al., 2008; Ebrahim and Irani, 2005; Irani et al., 2007b; İskender and Özkan, 2015; Jones, 2012; Weerakkody et al., 2008) are important. The culture might complicate changes by being characterised by rigidity (Weerakkody et al., 2008); silo thinking (Parisopoulos et al., 2009; Weerakkody et al., 2011); and being risk-aversive (İskender and Özkan, 2015; Jurisch et al., 2012)
Processes The degree to which process characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric
Whether processes are described and understood (Jurisch et al., 2012; Montazemi et al., 2010; Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Weerakkody et al., 2008; Weerakkody et al., 2011); harmonised between different internal functions (Dhillon et al., 2008); are redundant (Fagan, 2006; Weerakkody et al., 2007); contain bottlenecks and intermediaries (Layne and Lee, 2001; Palanisamy, 2004; Siau and Long, 2005); are citizen centric (Weerakkody et al., 2011); comply with regulation (Janssen and Shu, 2008); and are managed by appointed process owners (Weerakkody et al., 2008)
People The degree to which people characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric
A large number of stakeholders with complex and interdependent relationships (Van Veenstra et al., 2011). Generally scepticism can be caused by past failures (Van Veenstra et al., 2011), fears (e.g. of IT or changes in power balances) and resistance or support from stakeholders such as employees (Conklin, 2007; Murphy, 2005; Robinson and Griffiths, 2005; Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008; Weerakkody et al., 2007; Weerakkody et al., 2008; West, 2004); politicians (Fagan, 2006; Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Weerakkody et al., 2008); and management concerns (Beynon-Davies and Martin, 2004; Jones, 2012; Weerakkody et al., 2008)
IT The degree to which IT characteristics make organisational changes more or less easy or make the existing organisation more or less efficient and citizen centric
IT can both facilitate or inhibit change (Janssen and Shu, 2008), e.g. the level of systems flexibility, incompatibility and standardisation (İskender, and Özkan, 2015; Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008; Weerakkody et al., 2007); the level of security requirements (Jones, 2012); support for change offered by the basic infrastructure (Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Weerakkody et al., 2008) and enterprise architectures (Janssen and Shu, 2008; Van Veenstra et al., 2011); and the dependency on IT vendors for system innovation (Van Veenstra et al., 2011). Further, it matters if systems are more or less aligned with processes (Kim et al., 2007; Mansar, 2006; Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008) and more or less citizen centric (Janssen and Shu, 2008)
Transformation
Understanding of citizens The level of understanding of citizens and their needs
The level of understanding of citizens and their needs (Janssen and Shu, 2008; Mawela et al., 2016; Weerakkody et al., 2011)
Capabilities The availability of the necessary capabilities for transformation (Klievink and Janssen, 2009), for example leadership capabilities (Montazemi et al., 2010) and benefits realization capabilities (Pedersen, 2017)
Leadership capabilities. The quality of political (Jones, 2012) and managerial leadership (İskender, and Özkan, 2015; Montazemi et al., 2010; Torres et al., 2005). The leadership should provide clear visions and strategies (İskender and Özkan, 2015; Jurisch et al., 2012; Montazemi et al., 2010; Van Veenstra et al., 2011; Weerakkody et al., 2008). The vision is realised through a combination of innovativeness (Moon and Norris, 2005; Tassabehji et al., 2016) and strong project management (Sarantis et al., 2011).
Change management capabilities (Klievink and Janssen, 2009). Given the depth and nature of these transformations, it is apparent that strong change management is one of the most important leadership issues. Practitioners must recognise the significance of people in change efforts (Weerakkody et al., 2008). Planning must address resistance to changes in organisational and cross-organisational processes (Weerakkody et al., 2011). Depending on the cross-organisational nature of the efforts, stakeholders might be located in different local and central units governed by various political systems.
Stakeholder management capabilities (Klievink and Janssen, 2009). To manage changes, practitioners must understand the concerns and interest of stakeholders by using systematic stakeholder management (Reinwald and Kraemmergaard, 2012); align expectations among stakeholders accordingly (Weerakkody et al., 2008); establishing an understanding and acceptance of the need for transformation (İskender and Özkan, 2015; Kraemer and King, 2006; Weerakkody et al., 2011), and the specific business case (Mousa, 2013) and creating a feeling of ownership towards the changes (Jones, 2012). Ownership and understanding might be established through communication, involvement, and active participation from the various stakeholder groups, and also by offering training and support (Jurisch et al., 2012; Weerakkody et al., 2011).
Technology-related capabilities (Van Veenstra et al., 2011). Capabilities such as the ability to deploy technology swiftly and effectively (Klievink and Janssen, 2009) and integrate IT systems (Weerakkody et al., 2008).
Business process engineering capabilities (Van Veenstra et al., 2011). For example the capability to redesign organizational processes based on the use of IT (Bekkers and Homburg, 2007), analyse, rethink and design IT-enabled public service production and delivery in a way that meets citizen requirements (Hunnius and Schuppan, 2013), and create sustainable business models behind the services (Hunnius and Schuppan, 2013), and redesign organizational structures (Hunnius and Schuppan, 2013).
Service delivery capabilities. Service delivery capabilities necessary for demand-driven service delivery (Klievink and Janssen, 2009).
E-Policy capabilities: The capability to embed an e-government initiative within its wider organizational and political context. This requires knowledge of existing e-government strategies and policies and the capability to assess IT trends and strategic potentials. The capability is vital for avoiding e-government solutions that are cut off from complementary services and out of touch with political priorities (Hunnius and Schuppan, 2013).
Benefits realization capabilities: Capabilities to realise the benefits from e-government investments (Pedersen, 2017)
Resources The availability of the necessary resources for transformation
The transformations require resources in terms of funding (Fagan, 2006; İskender and Özkan, 2015; Jones, 2012; Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008; West, 2004); time (Tennant and Wu, 2005; Weerakkody and Dhillon, 2008); and manpower (Fagan, 2006). It is also important that these resources can be allocated in a flexible way (Jurisch et al., 2012) that matches the uncertainty related to transformations
Approach The suitability of the approach used to transform
Besides the large emphasis on change management, the literature emphasises a process-oriented approach such as business process reengineering (Janssen and Shu, 2008; Jurisch et al., 2012; Van Veenstra et al., 2011) but also more continuous and incremental process improvements (Weerakkody et al., 2011). Practitioners should exploit external knowledge sources through open innovation approaches (Feller et al., 2011). They should avoid being techno-centric (Weerakkody et al., 2008) but instead apply a broader approach that reflects the nature of transformations and pays attention to the social and political environment and public sector core values (Sahraoui et al., 2008; Weerakkody et al., 2011). The approach should be flexible and adaptive (Jurisch et al., 2012) and based on a combination of radical top-down change and bottom-up incremental improvements (Weerakkody et al., 2011) that focus on the realisation of benefits (Pedersen, 2017)

Appendix

Table AI

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Corresponding author

Keld Pedersen can be contacted at: keldp@dps.aau.dk