Digitalization in Public Services: Process Automation and Workforce Management at BruderhausDiakonie, a Social Services Organization
Situation faced: In Germany’s public sector, one of the main challenges is the demographic change and the resulting lack of skilled human resources. At the same time, digital solutions for e.g. citizens, businesses or other stakeholders move from “nice to have” towards “must have”. The automation of services seems to be a promising approach to combine these two developments. This paper features BruderhausDiakonie, a social services organization which is growing horizontally at many new locations in order to ensure closeness to its clients. This process leads to an increase in complexity for its daily business and necessitates a change in thinking regarding the organization’s IT towards increased digitalization.
Action taken: In 2016, BruderhausDiakonie initiated a change process. The central message, which guided the project team from the beginning, gets to the root of the problem regarding digital transformation: Standardization before digitalization. The first step of a thorough analysis is the identification of routine tasks. Additionally, the vision of no more “Turnschuh-IT-Administration” (eng: “IT department in sneakers”) was developed and communicated. An easy to use technology platform was implemented, mobile devices were integrated—and data security was given number one priority.
Results achieved: The digitalization process of BruderhausDiakonie is not yet finished. However, first results are already visible. In August 2017, five pilot offices were reorganized towards the new model. Until 2020, the process is to be finished for all offices. The first effects are already observable, along with the feedback of the involved employees. After all, the tangible benefits of digital transformation take a certain amount of time to become clear to employees. The IT department can help to start a new process, but everyone can and should be actively involved. The employees working in care or other departments feel the change happening, which is indicative of how their daily work is going to be in the future. Their work becomes more convenient, more comfortable and less time-consuming in regard to purely administrative tasks. Additionally, BruderhausDiakonie is also taking a pioneering position in how they will implement the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) as quickly as possible in their offices. In the future, employees should not only be provided with mobile devices, but also intelligent working materials, which not only make their work with clients easier, but diagnosis and care as well.
Lessons learned: Digital transformation is a challenge, but it is feasible. It is important to choose an IT which allows for a gradual development towards the digital age. Knee-jerk solutions seem to be counterproductive. More promising is a step-by-step change process in regard to digital transformation, because it allows all involved parties a smooth adjustment to the digital requirements of the future. Three lessons learned stand out: (i) digital transformation is more complex than expected; (ii) all employees need to be involved and creating acceptance is a continuous task; (iii) one has to carry on and not to stop after the first successes.
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