Currently, digitalization is undergoing active process around the world — digital transformation, that is, in other words, building a “paperless economy” in a given country and transfer to automated data processing.
For example, today, in order to replace a passport in the CIS countries, it is necessary to write a written application and personally take it to a special department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, pay a state fee at the bank and wait for about two weeks or more. Digitization allows, at the first stage, to apply for a new passport via the Internet, pay for the service immediately on the same resource and find out the steps. At a later stage of digitization, a citizen even will not require a passport or any other paper document, however, this is a distant future.
Different countries are at different stages of this path, and digitization is proceeding at different speeds, anyway, this process is currently happening at the state level. Because, as we wrote earlier, the process of complete digitalization of all spheres of life is inevitable. In general, digitalization will simplify the interaction of citizens with the state, simplify the process of government management, will defeat corruption. One of the aspects of digitalization is the GaaS approach — Government as a Service — that is, recognition of the role of the state as a service for citizens.
This article is dedicated to product management, and we will present that our task is to think over the development, implementation and support of a comprehensive solution for the country digitalization. We will analyze this idea and, moreover, we will try to turn the idea into a product, like our task is to invite states to purchase a ready-made digitalization solution from us, as an alternative to developing their own state information system. We determine the very viability of the project by conducting simple desk research, highlight its strengths and weaknesses. We will evaluate the constructiveness and prospects of the project idea.
Digital transformation is a global trend. Different countries — at different stages of the journey. Somewhere there is nothing done, somewhere the process is actively going on. But it is completed nowhere. According to the latest research at the end of 2019, even highly-developed states have realized no more than 18% of their digital potential.
IT outsourcing — the transfer of functions to professionally support the smooth operation of individual systems and/or infrastructure — one more trend.
The growing demand for digitization of countries among citizens. There is a growing understanding that digitization will eradicate corruption and build a society of common transparency.
So the question is:
Is it possible to provide the development of integrated solutions for digitalization of the country as a service?
To answer the question, the easiest way is to start with the design of a so-called Lean Canvas template. Even despite the complex nature of the described product, Lean Canvas will allow us to quickly understand many of its aspects.
Here is a brief overview of the Lean Canvas with some comments:
- There will be 2 CUSTOMER SEGMENTS: state authorities and citizens of states. Right now this is difficult to determine who will be EARLY ADOPTERS of the system, so will place TBD here.
- Among the main PROBLEMS we define: 1. States has no relevant data about people, 2. Data is collected unsistematically, 3. Corruption. As EXISTING ALTERNATIVES states create their own information systems to address the mentioned problems.
- For 3 main problems we see the following SOLUTIONS: 1. National census, 2. Сreation of dedicated databases and 3. Law enforcement system development. According to the rules of Lean Canvas we define the solutions that are already applied or are planned to apply, and not the solutions that are connected with our given project.
- UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION: Simplification of complex processes of state-citizen interaction by means of automation. We admit this is not the best explanation due to such a complex character of the given project, however, this is a task for marketing department to define a good UVP.
- At a HIGH LEVEL CONCEPT we will do a State-scale CRM and ERP.
- In the box CHANNELS we need to define our path to Customers. Honestly to say the authors of the article do not know now what it will be yet, due to the fact that there is no possibility just to call to states’ leaders and propose the system. So we place TBD here.
- KEY METRICS: We will track 1. Number of countries-clients, 2. Number of citizens-users, 3. Number of executed operations via the system.
- The COST STRUCTURE is simple, we will need resources just for software development and hosting.
Please use the link to browse the full version of the described Lean Canvas and download it.
In addition to the business model, we pretend we will offer 3 packages to choose from:
The basic package means creation of a database, or, more simply, a list of all citizens of the country, i.e., in fact, a digital population census.
A state gets the opportunity to see relevant information about the population (demographic indicators, socioeconomic, statistical) in real time, and not only right after the population census that takes place every 5-10 years.
Basic package is a good option to start nationwide digitalization, because it will allow the state to evaluate all the advantages of a systematic work with data.
It is known that even in countries with, let’s say, underdeveloped digitalization, such accounting databases are actively created, however, these databases are local, i.e. each department has its own database. Or, as in many state departments or ministries of the CIS countries, they are not created at all. Creating a single database with population data available for use by all the departments will simplify part of their work. Part, because in fact complete digitization is expected as a result of package 2.
For package 2, we offer both the creation of a common population database and the automation of individual departments’ workflow. It implies the introduction of software modules for each department, which are integrated and exchange data with each other.
In the third package, it is possible to connect an AI module that will analyze the current “state of affairs” in the client state, including comparing it with other client countries and offer recommendations for improving various aspects. The simulation module will allow you to quickly experiment with certain solutions and evaluate their results directly inside the system, without a necessity to experiment in real life (for example, what will happen if we make make free public transport in the capital; increase pensions by 10%, etc.).
Why this is a good idea? — Strengths
From the product management’s point of view, the fact that there is a limited number of customers and users in the world for this product. That is, it is very simple to determine the size of the product market, because the number of customers will be equal to the number of countries in the world.
The project will allow to accumulate and aggregate experience of digitalization, at least from the state-clients. This will allow us, as a service provider, to offer the best solutions and practices for client states. We provide a base, system, a way of virtual modeling of decision-making and their virtual result, which can be obtained, and the government then selects the best “virtual course of events” and applies it.
Why this is a bad idea? — Weaknesses
There is a strong possibility that this market is “closed” due to the fact that states will not allow a third-party outsourcing organization to collect, store and process personal data of citizens of a client state. Moreover, it will gain access to information that not all governments are willing to provide.
Great responsibility. Of course, no matter what a product scale is, its developers are responsible to customers. At the same time, since in the given project we are talking about processing of personal data of citizens of entire states, the responsibility itself increases at times. Any system malfunctions, data leaks are unacceptable.
Big scale. As part of the preparatory work, a great amount of analysts’ work will be required who will determine what functionality will be the core of the system, that is, what software we will be ready to implement “as is” to client states, or with insignificant modifications. Most likely, the software for package 1 will be approximately the same for all client states, but the software for package 2 will most likely require a lot of custom functionality development.
Note also that the software for package 1 can act as MVP.
Lean startup approach?
In accordance with the Lean startup approach, after the design of the business model canvas, we need to proceed to Customer Development and go directly to customers and conduct interviews with them. Although it seems to be no problem to conduct an interview with the “citizens” segment, an interview with state authorities will not be so easy. Moreover, most likely it will not be possible to apply the widely used now scheme “first find a client — then make a product for him”, due to the fact that it is necessary to come to government agencies and show a ready-made solution, at least MVP, with a good description of benefits, the presentation of which will be addressed to the officials. That is, you may have to apply the approach “make a product first — and there is no problem to find a customer” that is considered to be outdated nowadays. Or we need a cool high-level negotiator who can conduct interviews with governments and convince them, for example, to implement a pilot project within a package 1.
We have just analyzed briefly an ambitious idea of providing services of GaaS solutions outsourcing. We have defined the reasons why the project idea seems not so impossible to realize as well as some weaknesses of the project. Obviously, the project itself is highly complicated in comparison with, for example, a development of an e-commerce or document flow automation application. It is an extreme responsibility to carry on such a project due to its planned scale.
It should be noted also that the product owner that leads this project has not only just analyze and understand the internal processes of states-clients, but also has to understand that the project really makes people’s’ life better. We have indicated that there are 2 user segments: government authorities and citizens that in fact, use the results of the project. So the product owner has to understand the product is extremely useful for a society.
The development perspective of the project is similar to the humanity lifetime, about several generations till the moment when the system will be critically updated.