Working with public sector: what we know and are mistaken about
In the last few years we have gained the image of people who can work with the state. Today we are successfully working with a number of ministries. If we glimpse at the questions we’ve been constantly asked about this topic, we will see that we do not pull any strings and have no lobby, relatives, patrons or even good acquaintances in government institutions. Neither do we have a big thick notebook, and we especially do not work with any persons who could damage our business reputation, because the fear of losing everything we have been building for more than 16 years is bigger than the desire for easy money. In my opinion, the secret of our constant participation in the country’s major digital projects is based on the fact that we have learned to gain hi-end results in the tough environment of processes and procedures typical for ministries and state companies. People working for the state use our and your common money and despite the entrenched belief, this puts big restrictions on the processes. Along with the work on a project’s essence, which firstly interests commercial customers, secondly work, that is reports on implemented works are very important for the government officials. Preparing your reports from the very first day of execution of any contract, you have to be precise, document your every move and accurately translate all the necessary terms into legal language. In this kind of work the experience of project managers, their daily work culture and, excuse the term, “bureaucratic hygiene” are very important. If a manager works in creative chaos, this may put a project in danger. The external image of the state, formed by the evening TV programs, and what we see in real life are two parallel universes. But we often hear from new employees or commercial customers this: “Working with government officials – “enough said”.
“Do we understand how this project will improve the lives of people?” – this is the main question, and the answer to it virtually determines if we will make a leap as a result of the project. It is the dimensional and clear key issue and its exact time frame that we keep in our minds while working on our every project. “We will help the people without any technical competence to get information about state services” (ASAN); “We will bring into service the payment site and the programme that all layers of the public will be able to work with and will help the people to pay for various services” (ASANPAY, GPP); “We will help businesses to get permissions for advertisement placement quickly and effectively” (SAA); “Our system helps producers to get all the necessary permissions for legal activities” (AAC). From the moment people and their situation are put in the spotlight of any project, they are immediately structurized.
Our experience shows that over the last few years a new generation of young, very educated and ideologically reach people has appeared in ministries, and following further digitalization of the state people not only from businesses, but also from immensely competent companies sign up to work there. Yes, indeed, archaic procedures and rules still abound, but today the state is getting younger in terms of not only personnel policy, but also of approach and processes. “We are seriously working on the Terms of Reference”-business-approach is not suitable for work with the state customers. If you work in a project team, it means that you temporarily hit the anvil together with other participants and sometimes become a part of a mechanism called “public burden”. Public burden means micro-issues arising during the work over a project, but separately they are quite insignificant for the budget.
The point is that not everyone pays serious attention to the terms of reference of the state project. These are a rigid framework of a project determining the whole logic of a project and embracing a range of issues, beginning with working conditions and ending with report forms. It is very regrettable that consultations with specialized professionals at the stage of preparation of terms of reference are still very rare.
What has to be done, then? It is first of all important to hold close consultations with professionals. It would be better off, if these consultations were held immediately after a project’s specification or idea appeared. Spare no effort – experience shows that the time spent on high-quality terms of reference pays off by quiet and precise project works.
And the most important thing is that this approach makes it possible to create projects for people, not the bureaucratic mechanisms. Isn’t this what we are working for?