The challenges governments must respond to today and tomorrow are highly complex and demand effective horizontal collaboration and solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital identity, blockchain, and cybersecurity are all highly technical matters with policy, service delivery and citizen impacts at many levels. Inaction and missteps can have significant costs including delayed social programs, failure to protect privacy and risk exposure to cyber vulnerabilities.

The shift for public service organizations to embrace a new, agile way of operating will need to be foundational to keep pace with technology advancements and the public’s growing appetite for digitized government services. All divisions of an organization that impact service delivery – including governance, funding, procurement, policy development and digital service teams – must work together in lockstep. In other words, agile is no longer the exclusive concern of IT teams; it must become a priority for all areas of an organization. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted public sector organizations to adopt a more collaborative and horizontally structured approach in addressing the health and welfare needs of citizens during this prolonged crisis. An essential lesson learned from this global experience is the need for governments to reorganize and prioritize the support of their citizens' evolving needs and expectations.

Agile delivery models will enable governments to collaborate and interact more responsively and cost-effectively with the public, other public institutions, and private industry to solve the large, complex problems already at their doorstep. The capabilities unlocked by ChatGPT, and other Generative AI models surprised the world by demonstrating two things:

  1. The future is already here, and it has arrived much more quickly than many of us anticipated
  2. Efficient collaboration will be needed between government, industry and other experts to keep pace with innovation, understand and develop policy to help Canada reap the benefits offered by AI while protecting citizens against its considerable risks in turn.

A critical cultural shift

An agile operating model that provides a sustainable framework for service delivery transformation, continued growth and improved outcomes in evolving conditions – with value for citizens firmly at the center – should be a critical priority for governments. To help envision what agility might look like and what it can achieve, we describe the characteristics of an agile operating model in four critical domains: procurement, funding, governance and policy development.

In the full report we explain how an applied agile model would differ from traditional delivery and provide examples of agile in practice for each domain. For example, we showcase the implementation of an agile funding and planning cycle in a major US state insurer, as well as the utilization of automation to monitor and minimize regulatory burdens in Canada. It is evident that fostering a culture of agility across an organization is indispensable in enabling governments to effectively address changing citizen demands and proactively prepare for unexpected situations.

In Canada, helping governments mobilize more quickly is becoming critical as we survey current market conditions. With low economic growth, inflationary pressure, and ongoing geopolitical uncertainty alongside rapid technological change, citizens and organizations across Canada are bracing for the ride ahead. To deliver stability and serve constituencies effectively, the public sector needs creative solutions that harness emerging opportunities amid rapid change. A tight talent market exacerbates the challenges, as public service organizations now find themselves competing with every other sector to hire digital specialists from an in-demand and shrinking talent pool.

While an agile mindset helps enable governments to respond more quickly to constituent needs, it does not forego due process and due diligence as it gains speed. Instead, agile seeks a more productive balance between legislative requirements and swift service delivery, one that alleviates reliance on legacy processes and manual efforts.

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