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In the private sector, not being innovative can lead to the demise of an organization. Giants like Blockbuster Video and Kodak are recent examples of industry titans that became extinct by not being innovative and adapting to the current environment.
The public sector on the other hand, tends to be risk adverse and unfortunately avoids innovation. I’ve talked to several public sector managers and their mantra is to avoid doing something that will put them on the front page of the local newspaper. Hence the focus becomes maintaining the status quo. However, there are risks and consequences of not being innovative:
Not Meeting Customer Needs
Although the government is slow to adopt the technology, the public, on the other hand may quickly adapt new technology. Consequently, this may result in a disconnect where a public sector agency fails to adapt to the public. For example, we are working with a public sector client on a project and a big issue is that they are still using a web site made in the 90’s. Consequently, they’re not meeting the needs of their population whose primary Internet access is through mobile. (More about this can be found here).
Not Being Able To Scale
One of the main reasons that the private sector strives to innovate is to meet the demands of a growing population at a lower cost. A great example is how the banking industry uses ATM and mobile banking to accommodate a larger user base at a lower cost. Compared that with a visit to the DMV; you have a choice of waiting in line for 45 minutes or scheduling an appointment weeks in advance. When a public sector agency fails to innovate they also fail to scale to a growing population.
If a public sector agency fails to keep up with technology, they become easy prey to the bad guys that are both creative and innovative. Case in point is ransomware where hackers will lock out the data of an organization until a ransom is paid. Ironically many police departments have become victims of ransomware and were forced to pay a ransom to hackers in order to get access to their data.
Increasing Cost of Legacy Systems
Many public sector agencies still use legacy systems that are decades old. In doing so, they find that there is increasing cost to maintain them because their vendors increase the support charges as their knowledgeable employees become more scarce as they age.
Governments can and do go bankrupt. Detroit, Stockton, and Orange County are spectacular examples. Potentially, had they been innovative, they might have been able to become more efficient in running their operations, reduce cost and avoid going bankrupt.
By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.