Successful digital transformation depends on being able to work across silos, which are a common feature of central and regional government agencies. Composability is a system design principle that describes how to create collaboration and interoperable processes to navigate silos. Though originally a tech term used to describe the ability of technology components to connect together, composability increasingly refers to how the pieces of a government process that live in different departments can be designed and aligned to improve operational excellence through digital transformation.
Many of the hardest-to-solve societal challenges, such as climate mitigation and social service delivery, require cross-agency, composable solutions to have their intended impact. New public sector obstacles develop and old ones can evolve over time without regard to agency missions. Repeatedly changing government structures and tools to address these unplanned changes is less efficient than establishing the ability to work as an adaptable organization.
Composability is a useful tool for governments working to advance their digital transformation. Digital transformation is about reimagining how governments deliver public services with digital technology at the core of business strategy. Government digital transformation is centered on people, the way they work, the culture they work in, and the processes they use. Composable thinking provides government innovators with a mental model for understanding the different pieces of the puzzle and how to assemble them in new ways to improve government operations and services.
For example, in cities around the world, the government services that support people trying to end homelessness are spread across different agencies. This is because a number of different factors contribute to homelessness, including unemployment and fiscal crisis, mental and physical health, or recovery from a natural disaster. The ability to have different agencies work in concert to provide a complete program for the individual or family significantly improves outcomes for citizens experiencing homelessness. That’s composable thinking.
Baltimore’s My Digital Data Locker, is one example of a composable solution that make it simpler for people experiencing homelessness to navigate different government services (and for those services to help). My Digital Data Locker is a digital platform for storing vital, personal records. For people experiencing homelessness, securing and keeping track of the documents needed for identification and to secure benefits can be a challenge. Having a digital locker allows different government programs to work with their constituents to safely store the documents they need as they work to end their homelessness. This makes it simpler for both the citizen the government agency. Caseworkers can spend less time getting the documentation they need and can help people faster, which means they can help more people. And every agency can leverage the same digital locker platform – there is no need for different solutions.
Building with a set of shared components that go together and can be changed in and out allows governments to perform better than when each department has its own, unique infrastructure, standards, and ways of working.
An example of this is Singapore’s Government Tech Stack (SGTS) created by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech Singapore), invented to eliminate the need for agencies to build unique and independent systems. A government tech stack is a set of composable microservices, middleware, and platform modules that reduce the time and effort of collaboration and create seamless government processes.
Another composable solution launched in Singapore is GovWallet. GovWallet is a digital payment application that allows Singaporeans to receive government payments from different agencies and also to make purchases from more than 200,000 Singaporean businesses. GovWallet establishes one payment solution and reduces the time, expense, and errors of sending physical payments or maintaining multiple payment applications. Because GovWallet is a component that can be used by any Singapore government agency, it helps break down silos and supports collaboration.
Digital transformation is essential for governments to adapt, thrive, and survive against challenges like sustainability, aging populations, and social service delivery. Composability is an accessible approach for public sector entities of all sizes, digital maturity, capabilities, and locations. The following steps can help governments incorporate composable solutions into their digital transformation journey.
Starting small with composable solutions can help organizations think big about digital transformation. Using a manageable and low-risk test case to experiment and figure out the process can help organizations learn what works, build skills, and generate support to take on bigger and more impactful initiatives.
To get started, consider using open government solutions curated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), and visit the AWS Institute to find more stories about successful public sector service modernization in your region or sector.