Digitization in Public Services – Identifying and Tackling Hurdles

hurdles of digitisation- Person breaking through an imaginary wall which represents an obstacle

This post is also available in: German

Germany may be a global pioneer in many technical industries. But in the area of digitization, experts are sounding the alarm: We are losing touch with other industrialized nations. Who is impacted the most by this? The public sector. While commercial enterprises may suffer from poor IT infrastructure, they can find independent workarounds.

Since the early 2000s, the national government has tried to initiate innovation and bring the German administrative apparatus into the 21st century. Why is there so little progress in digitization of the public sector?

One reason: A unique educational system – once you have completed the complex civil service training according to German regulations and found a good job, you tend to stay there for a long time. Sometimes an entire professional life span. This results in significantly less “personnel turnover” compared to industry sectors. Hierarchies grow organically, you adapt to ways of working simply because everybody has been doing it this way. Innovation potential is very limited.

Another reason slowing down digitization of the public sector is management style: municipal authorities prioritize digital progress themselves. Everybody is trying to save money and make the most of their federal budgets. Their usage and added value are at the core of the decision.  

Is Digitization of Governmental Administration really necessary?

Governmental services must be equally accessible to all citizens, digital natives as well as retirees with no digital background. Each user group has their individual needs and wants concerning user-friendliness. If the digital format doesn’t suffice, it won’t be used and is obsolete. How can digital transformation advance and this cycle be broken?

The starting point might be tense, but it isn’t hopeless. Let’s take a look at the two factors influencing German government administrations: fixed and flexible circumstances. 

digitisation of public services

The 7 Hurdles of Digital Transformation



  • Federalism: Germany consists of a federal government and 16 partially sovereign states. Both political levels are in charge of (constitutionally) defined areas of responsibility.
  • User-friendliness: Keeping the perspective on the people who will be using the service makes the process more dynamic
  • Legislation: Applying changes is a long process
  • Competencies: it doesn’t work without skilled workers.
  • Costs: the available budget is previously determined on a state level
  • Innovation: Processes can change if, for example, technical innovations occur.
  • Data protection: the European and German standards result in strict specifications.


Once these factors are identified and analysed, measures to handle them can be taken. There already are some great examples of successfully implemented e-government services as The Digital Tax Platform Elster.

How to successfully digitize public administration?

  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Data shows that a lack of skilled IT specialists is a serious problem, especially for public authorities. Why not expand the training for administrative employees to include the IT needs of the German government? This way, the peculiarities of the public sector can be discussed and worked on directly in the learning environment.
  • Create a common understanding: Digitization must be made a priority by management. It needs to be a declared goal to go through the transformation process. Management of the respective authority is responsible for controlling the influencing factors (see above).
  • One step after another: Start small and simple with an overview of the whole – this is how your colleagues are convinced without being overwhelmed. If the internal learning process is then simplified and accelerated, capacities within the workforce are released for innovations.
  • Always stay calm: Sometimes the process is fast, sometimes it’s slower. That’s only natural. The most important thing: an experienced partner by your side who knows these circumstances and supports digital change with a hands on mentality. 

Lack of data protection is a hurdle for digital transformation

But what if the problem is data protection regulations (GDPR)? A possible lack of data protection compliance is the most frequently cited obstacle to digital transformation. There is no question that the topic of data protection can be overwhelming and intimidating. It’s not simple, but it’s also not impossible. Managing personal data is a complex task and the legal situations around it are changing constantly. That’s why many German government services avoid digitization.

Conceptboard offers 100% protection of your data

As the most secure German solution for digital and remote team collaboration, Conceptboard started setting standards on the software market right from the beginning: data protection is our top priority. Conceptboard facilitates virtual collaboration and enables hybrid teams to work together in real time – with a large selection of functions and ready-made templates for countless use cases. We meet the highest security requirements and offer tailor-made hosting solutions: hybrid, on-premises or cloud-based.

Extensive experience with the public sector and its specific requirements enables us to support you in every situation: we guarantee that everything will be done in line with data protection regulations. And when we say everything, we mean everything! We support you at square one: whether it’s a situation analysis, requirement analysis, roll-out or training. We are there for you.

Talk to our specialists – We’d be happy to explain it to you in detail

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