In a 2020 Deloitte survey of 1,200 government officials from more than 70 countries, three-fourths said that digital technologies are having a major impact on the public sector. And almost all respondents characterized the impact of digital technologies as significant disruption.

Technological innovation is vital to this transformation, but beyond digital tools, governments must rethink their mindset, structures, and culture. It’s imperative that the public sector re-imagines how digital innovation can be harnessed to enhance citizens’ user experience of public services. Policies and services need to be designed and developed from a user-first perspective that prioritizes simple, clear, and transparent interaction and fast results.

“Digital transformation has become a must for any public sector organization that wishes to meet the current and future needs of its citizens,” says Seif Shieshakly, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Four Principles.

Lean management offers a powerful set of solutions to help the public sector take digital government to the next level, enabling public sector organizations to:

  • Provide services more efficiently and effectively
  • Understand citizens better and meet their priorities to achieve their desired results
  • Engage with and utilize external partners to develop new and better delivery models

By helping governments become customer-centric, identifying value and removing waste, and setting up processes for continuous improvement, Four Principles offers a Lean Digital Government approach (figure 1) that can aid any public sector organization seeking transformation.

Figure 1 – Four Principles’ Lean Digital Government Framework

Around the world, a selective few government and semi-government organizations have significantly improved services and achieved notably greater efficiency using Lean management methods. Governments should benefit from the experience of others, following their path to make dramatic improvements in efficiency and services.

Pandemic spurs interest in innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the priority of digital government to the forefront – with the critical need to provide citizens access to information and to complete government operations remotely.

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, it became essential for governments to update citizens with public health information, statistics, travel advisories, business restrictions, and prevention guidelines. Most governments did so. A UN report found that by March 25, 2020, 57 percent of the UN’s member states had provided some information on COVID-19, a percentage that rose to 86 percent by April 8, 2020.

Governments and societies have been forced to adopt digital technologies in response to immediate needs, such as virus testing and contact tracing. And they’ve had to rapidly reinvent or update policies and tools to deal with rising need for public services and to comply with new regulations.

In many cases, these challenges have led governments to adopt an open government approach and use e-platforms and digital communication channels to interact with citizens more effectively.

Lean Digital Government overcomes obstacles

Although the corporate world has embraced digital innovation in virtually every sphere of business, governments have been much slower to adapt. In fact, a white paper published by the World Economic Forum called governments “the dinosaurs of the digital age: slow, lumbering and outdated.”

Even where there is acceptance of the need for digital transformation in the public sector, the failure rate of e-government initiatives is still very high. Many innovations don’t gain traction with users, and even some initiatives that prove popular don’t lead to significant gains in operational efficiency.

In the same Deloitte survey, close to 70 percent of public sector organizations said their digital capabilities lagged behind the private sector, while only 30 percent believed they were ahead of public sector equivalents. Fully 82 percent saw digital technologies as an opportunity to be taken greater advantage of.

To avoid such failures and reach the next level of e-government services, organizations must overcome a wide range of obstacles, including ineffective leadership, limited data collection capabilities, and reliance on outdated systems that don’t allow user participation in the creation or sharing of applications and content. This can be achieved by application of the Four Principles’ Design Thinking methodology (figure 2).

Figure 2 – Four Principles’ Design Thinking Methodology

Most governments also lack the capabilities to develop and improve web-based services solely through reliance on internal staff and resources, yet they fail to engage outside partners or follow best practices widely in use in the private sector.

The Four Principles Lean Digital Government framework (figure 1) and Four Principles’ Design Thinking methodology (figure 2) help clients address these challenges by identifying customer needs, ideating as many solutions as possible, and prototyping and testing them to determine which will achieve greatest success with maximum efficiency. The Four Principles expertise helps public sector organizations analyze processes and workflows and examine organizational structures and roles to determine the skills and personnel and the right supporting technologies needed for an effective Lean Digital Transformation.

Following this model, e-government initiatives can be supported by dedicated cross-functional teams, which incorporate expertise and capabilities in usability, web analytics, customer insights, marketing, and cross-platform data sharing and integration. Effective self-organizing teams can pool knowledge and experience to maximize opportunities and minimize errors and risk. Important elements of an effective performance management system include daily direction setting, training, incentives, and sustainability audits to ensure a cycle of continuous improvement.

Lean Digital Government leads in achievements

As mentioned previously a selected few governments around the world successfully started their Lean Digital Government transformation journey and with it started already reaping significant and tangible benefits from it. Described below are some best practices from the government hemisphere:

  1. Dubai achieved major improvements with its Smart Dubai Government program, which led to operational cost savings of 4.3 billion Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). Implementation of automated and digitized processes achieved a 10% to 20% reduction in process cycle time, an 81% customer satisfaction rate, and a result of 98% of citizens’ requests met within the Service Level Agreement target time.

Such impressive goals were achieved by bringing a laser focus to supply chain management, labor force costs, and financial processes such as payment systems. The implementation of a successful Lean process leads to improved tracking and visibility of spending, better management of resources, and more effective analysis of outcomes to guide future spending.

  1. In the U.S., the Operational Excellence in Government Project launched Results Washington, a Lean process improvement project that tackled five high-priority goals of the Washington state government. The project yielded a total of $33 million in savings and avoided costs, demonstrating that for every dollar invested in the Lean process improvement program, $4.50 was returned to taxpayers in value.

Individual project results showed millions of hours saved through streamlined processes and dramatic improvements in citizen satisfaction. Specific achievements included $6.2 million in recovered overpayments from the Department of Labor and Industries, a 28-percent increase in one year, as well as one million hours saved in wait times at state driver’s license offices through process improvements and outside partnerships.

In many cases, state, provincial, and local governments have initiated ambitious overhauls to transform cumbersome legacy systems into efficient programs that connect organizations and support collaboration.

  1. The state of New South Wales, Australia, implemented impressive reforms to its Department of Family and Community Services by replacing a cumbersome network of 14 separate systems with one cloud-based platform that enables data sharing and collaboration between caseworkers, families, caregivers, and service providers.
  2. Also in Australia, the city of Melbourne saved 800,000 AUD (Australian dollars) by overhauling the system handling parking meters and meter violations, while cutting phone calls to its customer service center by 30 percent.

The restrictions on public access to government offices during the COVID-19 pandemic have driven notable digital achievements by national, state and provincial, and local government agencies. Spikes in unemployment applications and new government guidelines spurred some states to overhaul portals, providing online services, such as digital signatures and IDs, and coordinating documentation and data sharing between agencies.

  1. Saudi Arabia is a shining example of how Lean methods can help the public sector overcome operational obstacles. Seeing the huge potential in offering faster and better services to its citizens at lower cost, the government of Saudi Arabia committed to a full digital transformation as part of an ambitious reform agenda, Vision 2030. Launched in 2016 under the oversight of the Committee for Digital Transformation, Vision 2030 is a long-term economic blueprint that envisions technology as a key enabler of change. Transforming a traditional, bureaucratically encumbered model into an efficient, automated, and digital system, the National Digital Transformation Unit aims improve competitiveness while enriching community interaction and participation.

The efforts resulted in Saudi Arabia being ranked number one by the World Bank for Ease of Doing Business and improving its global competitiveness ranking by three places, according to the World Economic Forum.

As of 2019, more than 71 percent of the Ministry of Justice’s services have been digitized, Unified Electronic Medical Records had been established for more than a third of all Saudi Arabian citizens, and the government’s online business platform has more than 50,000 suppliers registered with more than a million payment orders for more than 450 government entities.

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of the foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs together achieved four years of increased annual savings, starting with 12 billion Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) in 2017 and projected to reach 21.4 billion SAR in 2020.

Sustainability: Key success factor for governments on their Lean Digital Government transformation journey

Sustaining the achievements is a key success factor for the decision makers and for the public sector in general, taking a Lean bottom-up approach to problem solving is paramount to empower employees to create sustainable change based on real day-to-day experience and develop the needed skills to sustainably implement the solutions required. For this purpose Four Principles developed a detailed Performance Measurement System (figure 3).

“Using a detailed Performance Measurement System (figure 3), Four Principles’ Lean Digital Government framework (figure 1) and Design Thinking methodology (figure 2) streamlines end-to-end processes by identifying value streams, designing measurement tools, defining relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and breaking down bureaucratic silos in order to ensure results are achieved and sustained” says Ernest Nedic, Director of the Kaizen Lab at Four Principles.

Figure 3 – Four Principles’ detailed Performance Measurement System


Four Principles’ approach to achieve results quickly & efficiently

Following the Lean Digital transformation framework to achieve these efficiencies will enable public sector organizations to offer well-designed digital services that are easy and convenient to access. More flexibility and openness to bottom-up innovation will allow governments to explore and test new models and platforms.

Following the Lean principles of waste elimination, governments can reduce the expenses associated with launching and maintaining e-services and maintaining and updating them over time.

As experts in Lean, Four Principles draws on knowledge of best practices and deep experience with many successful roll-outs to offer the guidance to target Lean principles and practices to the specific needs of public sector organizations.

“By following Lean practices which we structured into the 3-phased approach Prove-Iterate-Consolidate (figure 4), governments can reduce the costs of developing and maintaining e-services while offering more functionality and content, thereby providing a higher return on public money spent.” says Mehdi Chelhi, Principal at Four Principles.

Figure 4 – Four Principles’ 3-phased Lean implementation approach

Through a system of continuous improvement, new initiatives are piloted and proven before being rolled out across the organization. The iterative and adaptive approach of Lean/Agile achieves results more quickly, while ensuring they are sustainable and can continue to grow and adapt as the organization matures.

For semi- & government organizations poised to embark on a Lean Digital Government transformation journey or for such that are in need to ensure its ongoing success through sustainability, Four Principles is here to deliver quick and tangible Lean Digital Government implementation expertise, not idle talk. We develop sustainable Lean Digital Government solutions across various government organizations (ministries, authorities, etc.), in Saudi Arabia, throughout the GCC and around the world. We implement. We are passionate about what we do. We are Lean Digital Government experts. Learn more at