The power of ecosystem thinking within the government

LoQutus and Vlerick investigate the role of government bodies in tomorrow’s digital ecosystem

Government bodies are in the midst of a digital transformation. But the design of new solutions often gets no further than merely the technical level. “If government bodies still want to be relevant in five years’ time, they will need the courage to set the bar higher and act as choreographers within their own ecosystem”, says Vlerick Professor Stijn Viaene. But what does it mean to take on the role of a choreographer? That is what we will be investigating with LoQutus over the next two years.

Joachim Vanden Brande (AXI Group)With the renewal of the Prime Foundation PartnershipLoQutus is picking up again where it left off: “Whereas we worked on enterprise architecture in general during our previous partnership, we will now be focusing on the government market”, explains Joachim Vanden Brande, Director Architecture at AXI Group. “After all, government bodies make up a considerable proportion of our activities and the government sector in the Netherlands is an important growth market for us. In addition, we see that – specifically for government bodies – we are often involved in strategic projects.”

“Government bodies make up a considerable proportion of our activities.” Joachim Vanden Brande, Director Architecture at AXI Group

Right on target

This partnership is right on target for Vlerick as well. “The topic of digital transformation is one of our core themes”, says Professor Stijn Viaene. “Within that theme, we work on two areas: customer centricity through data and digital applications on the one hand, and the facilitating platforms and ecosystems on the other. There is a tradition at Vlerick of not limiting our studies only to for-profit companies. That is why we are especially pleased that the focus of this partnership is on government bodies that aim to bridge the gap between the government and citizens or private companies.”

“The role of a choreographer”

Digital transformation often leads to changes in the relationships between different parties. The roles within an ecosystem are reshuffled. What is the role of a government body in that ecosystem? Stijn is clear on that point: “Whatever the ecosystem they find themselves in – healthcare, economy or energy – government bodies need to choreograph the proceedings more than they currently do. In fact the exploratory phase is already over. It really is high time to move on from exploration to utilization.”

“Government bodies urgently need to move on from exploration to utilization” - Stijn Viaene, Professor of Digital Transformation

From reactive to proactive

Joachim confirms this with an example: “The process currently used by Belgian government bodies to award grants is reactive: a series of parameters are used to decide whether an organisation or individual who has filed an application has the right to a grant. If the government body were to take on the role of a choreographer, they could use data and algorithms to proactively seek out those who might benefit most from a grant. That might result in engaging new stakeholders who otherwise may not have found the way, bringing parties together in a digital ecosystem and reinventing themselves.”

“Academic maturity and experience with government bodies”

As Joachim sees it, Vlerick was chosen because of the positive results of the previous partnership: “Besides that our consultants were able to distil expertise from it, they built up a network of enterprise architects and digital strategists. Vlerick has the academic maturity and the experience with government bodies engaged in digital transformation to further develop possible scenarios in those ecosystems."

Quality interviews

A first step in the research is to set up quality investigations of government bodies that already have a fairly good idea of what they need to do in the digital age. The three key questions we are looking to answer are:

  1. What mechanisms are required to get the whole scenario going?
  2. How do you stimulate the mobility of your people between silos, both inside and outside your organisation?
  3. How can we connect the data that a government body traditionally has access to with the data that private companies have?

Best practices

This research also has an academic goal. Stijn explains: “We want to use the interviews to develop detailed case studies with best practices that we can ultimately incorporate into publications and our classes. I know that LoQutus is a partner that believes in the value of research for business as much as we do ourselves. It is already completely clear to me that this partnership will deliver very tangible insights and results for all the parties concerned.”

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