Terry Gunning

Terry Gunning

Vice-President, Consulting Services

Right now, the public sector is undergoing accelerated change. Though challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, many of these changes are positive and open up an opportunity for public sector entities to evolve their operating models.

At CGI, we are helping our public sector clients integrate transformative technologies and strategies into their operating model in a way that enables them to be change-resilient while allowing for appropriate governance, decision-making and legislative appearance.

We recently spoke to Terry Gunning, Vice President, Consulting Services at CGI, to hear his insights on the state of the public sector and what these entities can do to prepare for the future.

Hi Terry, many experts argue that the public sector is currently going through its most tumultuous changes in decades – do you agree? Given the current climate, what changes should the public sector be preparing to tackle in the near future?

I would suggest that it is not so much tumultuous change as it is a sustained change in pace that many public sector entities have never directly experienced before. For many, it may feel like an accelerated change of pace compared to how the public sector historically has delivered services to citizens. An unexpected change in pace can be challenging and feel uncomfortable, but it has introduced new opportunities to explore and shift how the public sector operates.

Over the last 15 months, I have observed some public sector members and entities adapt to this change in pace and shift components of their operating models through a mix of organic evolution and leveraging future of work strategies. That said, much of this evolution of operating models has understandably been in pockets, or reactionary as opposed to proactive.

I also find it intriguing that, in conversations about change resilience, resilience is often viewed as preparing to resist the impact of change or defend the status quo, rather than preparing to be adaptable and flexible, and weave the change into an evolving operating model.

To prepare for the near future and beyond, I would suggest public sector leaders should leverage the learnings from their colleagues and broader network – those who have had the opportunity or the requirement to make evolutionary shifts in how they deliver services.

At its core, all public sector entities operate off the same foundation: meet the mandate of legislation through the delivery of services to citizens. All processes, tasks and actions within the public sector can (and should) be traced back to this foundation. So why start from scratch? Leverage the good work by other public sector members and keep pace with the rate of change.

What kinds of future of work strategies have you seen private companies implementing effectively, and how do you see these strategies translating to the public sector?

My perspective of ‘future of work’ strategies includes a broad spectrum of what an individual, a team and an organization requires to deliver services. The people, the work environment and the technology all factor in.

I have observed that a flexible work environment (which can be defined in many ways) is key to staff and leaders being in the right mindset to engage in a way that gives us a chance to keep pace with the rate of change. This flexibility provides the room for change and willingness to engage in new ways of thinking, designing and working, and it also brings an openness to the use of new tools and technology.

Another strategy that I believe has been effective during this accelerated change is to simplify the architecture (business, technical, solution, data, application). Break down the system into consumable components that the majority of the team can understand and engage in, as opposed to only having a few individuals hold the design, vision and plan. The need for communication is ever-present. However, the style, approach and use of tools in how communication occurs also needs to match this pace change.

What are the benefits of these strategies to the public sector, broadly speaking?

Team alignment. When you have a group that is aligned, operating off the same principles, working within a common model and utilizing the same (or interoperable) tools and technology, it removes much of the tension in the system and focuses efforts on the delivery of the services.

Leveraging future of work strategies can help each public sector entity keep pace with the rate of change, or at least choose how, when and where they want to keep pace. Often, the public sector and private sector view their roles differently. However, from my perspective, when the private sector is supporting the public sector to deliver services to citizens, I view this as one team.

I do not think it would be a stretch to say the citizens who are receiving the services do not differentiate between who is doing the work, as long as the services are delivered. If there are strategies emerging that foster this team alignment, why would we not leverage them?

What kinds of emerging technologies do you see paving the way for the future of the public sector? Have you had a chance to work with any yourself?

Emerging technology is an interesting phrase as technology always has, and will continue to be, emerging. What I find emerging is the recognition of how embedded technology is in how we deliver services, and that technology can no longer be separated from the human-centric delivery of services.

So, my answer is twofold. First, I believe it is less about any specific technology and more about the shift in streamlining and enhancing how services are delivered. Technology helps shape the solution but you shouldn’t choose a specific technology before setting up your operating model. Align your technology choice with an evolving, human-centric and service-oriented operating model.

Secondly, technology should be viewed broadly, not just as ‘products’ but as the full spectrum that links to data. Really contemplate the potential of how you use data and analytics to integrate and accelerate decision-making to increase the speed to market of services to the citizens. Embrace that there has been more access to some data in the last 15 months than there has been in the last 15 years.

As we collectively progress through the current ‘state of emergency’, let’s choose specific areas to keep pace with the rate of change rather than slow down and wait for the next wave of ‘state of emergency’ to spur us on.

What are some unique characteristics of the public sector that make it particularly challenging to drive new ways of working?

What can slow adoption of new ways of working is a deeply-rooted approach of having everybody physically present, often in the same room, to make a decision. Consensus by an in-person committee can be a real challenge.

However, there is a new model emerging, loosely referred to as ‘working in the open’. Formulating an ecosystem of partners for shared, joint and/or delegated decision-making based on readily available data along with a predictable decision-making process can introduce and invigorate new ways of working.

What role can CGI play in supporting the public sector's move into the future of work?

The role we fill is that of a systems integrator, not just from a technology perspective, but the full breadth of a system, including the human component, technology, data built on the foundation of governance, architecture, processes – essentially all the different components that go into making an operating model function.

While I believe no one person or company can provide all services to all entities, the DNA of the company is built on being a system integrator. In addition to the core integration services CGI is known for, there has been a significant investment in data analytics, human-centred design and vendor ecosystem partnerships that will be key to supporting the public sector in evolving their operating models.

About this author

Terry Gunning

Terry Gunning

Vice-President, Consulting Services

Terry Gunning supports local, national and international public sector organizations, focusing on systems integration. Terry also spent over 20 years in the British Colombia (Canada) public sector focusing on technology development and business transformation. Additionally, he sits on a variety of volunteer boards with a ...