Identifying the barriers to public sector management

Government, NGOs face unique challenges, say SAP executives

Public sector leadership must be more willing and adaptable to change if they are to successfully transform their core business of service delivery, according to senior level public sector executives for software maker SAP AG.

Managing service delivery in the public sector presented complex challenges quite unknown to the private sector, said Rod Massey, a vice-president with the Walldorf, Germany-based company.

Speaking at the Sapphire 2007 conference in Atlanta, Ga., Massey said private sector management was focused on maximizing profitability, whereas the overall mission of government was to deal with the tough stuff.

“Public sector service delivery is more complex today than it’s ever been,” he said. “This is owing in large part to the fact that public service isn’t just an industry but an eco-system.”

Massey pointed to the many departments, jurisdictions and agencies involved in the policies and programs that go into delivering timely services to the public; the governance of taxation and voting; and providing for the health, safety and education of society, said Massey.

This ultimately leads to a dichotomy, he added. “There’s an increased level of complexity because of the multiple levels of government, and resource demands create tension.”

The public sector typically has to cope with the challenges of day-to-day operations, the budget cycle, and the political cycle which varies according to changing priorities, Massey said. “We’re always in or out of a budget cycle.”

Government and public sector organizations need to be optimized and responsive, and real transformation is achieved by leveraging information technology to reach this optimization, he added.

“But you need business context with technology,” Massey said. “And one of the key needs in IT is flexibility in the IT environment.”

When it comes to business transformation in the public sector, organizations say one of the biggest challenges is the ability to adapt to change, according to Tom Shirk, SAP’s president of public services industries.

Other challenges include complex technology environments, and poor reporting and visibility, he said.

SAP has identified three key areas to support what it calls a business process platform for public services industries, added Shirk: