1st Open Government day of the city of Konstanz on July 6, 2017

1OGThe city of Konstanz is hosting its first Open Government day and together with Christian Geiger from the Verschwoerhaus Ulm – a city innovation lab – I will be talking about how cities can tackle the challenge of implementing open government using digital technologies.

Open Government has been revived in the last 10 years and has made it up onto the political agenda as a tool to include citizens more in what their government does, help with decision making, and also increase transparency of government operations. While Open Government is not a new concept, new technologies now make it easier to move data onto open data platforms in machine-readable format and engage citizens in reusing the data to build apps and mashups. Instead of waiting for freedom of information requests, governments are voluntarily releasing data.

The gist of my short talk will be that a city that commits to open government has to fully accept the challenge to go beyond releasing datasets in machine-readable form, that are at the end of the day only usable for professionals with data science skills, but not reusable by regular citizens. While this is a good first step, governments need to think about new forms of online participation and collaboration, such as open innovation platforms. And as a next steps, after they ask citizens to engage online with the city, it is important to then also include feedback loops and be transparent about how the information and ideas citizens have contributed was ultimately used in internal decision making processes.

Digital transformation is an important step to gain citizens’ attentions in times of cord cutters, diminishing interest in policy making, disenchantment of citizens. The use of new technologies to reach citizens is an important driver for open government. However, in thinking about redesigning administrative

acts with an eye toward open government, it is important to think through how offline services can be delivered online. It’s important to conduct this step in a transformative way to allow civil servants to rethink the administrative act and redesign processes based on citizens’ needs, instead of the internal logic of government.

Media coverage:

Anzeiger Konstanz: Im Anzeiger Gespräch: Professor Dr. Ines Mergel von der Universität Konstanz: „Die Verwaltung tut sich schwer mit der Digitalisierung“, S. 13

Südkurier: Digitaler und transparenter: Die Verwaltung will sich mit Open Data zugänglicher praesentieren (online), 29.7.2017

Posted in Uncategorized

New report on Digital Service Teams

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.09.15 AMIBM – The Center for the Business of Government has published my report titled “Digital Service Teams – Challenges and Recommendations for Government“.

The report is part of a larger research project in which I work on understand how different countries are using start-up teams inside of government to move their public administrations toward digital transformation. I am currently working on three other country cases (Estonia, Denmark, and the UK) and will add more cases as funding becomes available.

Here is the executive summary of the report:

Executive Summary

Digital service offices have emerged in governments around the world over the past six years as “tech surge teams” to respond to and repair urgent technology failures, or as an alternative structural approach to rethinking processes and implementation strategies in government digital transformation efforts.This report shares insights about three types of digital service teams:

  1. Centralized teams directly supporting national priorities, such as the U.S.Digital Service, or the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service
  2. Enterprise teams supporting innovation in IT acquisition and internal consultancy services, such as 18F, an office within the Technology Transformation Service at the General Services Administration (GSA) that states it is a “services company and product incubator” with the goal of providing digital development and consulting services for other federal government agencies or programs
  3. Agency-level teams, such as those pioneered in the U.S.: the Digital Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Defense

The insights provided in this report are based on a review of relevant literature and interviews with founding members, current directors, line managers of digital service teams, their counterparts in the offices of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at the agency level, and private-sector representatives aiming to collaborate with these new teams.The interviews focused on the structure of the teams, the use of agile and human-centered design processes, changes to human resource (HR) processes to attract information technology (IT) talent from the private sector, the incentives for IT professionals to join the U.S.federal government, and the changes made to federal IT acquisition processes.

One of the catalysts that led to the creation of these various digital service units was the inability to deliver an operational HealthCare.gov website on time in late 2013, which was symptomatic of a broader federal challenge in delivering large-scale IT projects.A post-mortem assessment found that the government’s existing IT expertise did not reflect private-sector industry practices, and that there was a gap between the needs of program managers and the technical capacity available to implement large projects effectively.A key contributing factor was that over three-quarters of the current IT budget for the federal government is earmarked to maintain existing, outdated legacy IT systems, leaving little room to exploit the potential for adopting innovative, new technology approaches and capacities.

A near-term solution to this lack of technical capacity and innovation skills was the introduction of so-called “IT start-ups” within government, also known as “digital service teams.” These small teams typically operate outside existing agency IT organizational structures and recruit IT talent directly from the private sector.They are given a mandate to rapidly implement change initiatives using commercially-developed tools and processes such as human-centered design and agile innovation management techniques—which are standard practice in the private sector, but have been infrequently adopted in the public sector.

The report identifies six challenges that digital service teams face in their efforts to implement digital transformation projects in a government context:

  • Embracing an agile development approach
  • Attracting IT talent from the private sector
  • Maintaining and scaling a start-up culture in government
  • Improving the acquisition of innovative IT
  • Funding digital service teams
  • Addressing whether innovation should be “bought or built”

From these challenges, several recommendations emerge for agencies that are in the process of setting up their own digital service teams, or are considering doing so.These include:

  • Understanding that digital transformation in government is not a “software problem,” but requires a holistic and strategic approach
  • Using “outside-the-box” thinking to infuse innovation into acquisition strategies
  • Phasing-in the use of new cost models to support digital services “start-up” teams
  • Including non-technical government employees as part of digital services teams
  • Challenging perceptions that “innovation can’t happen here,” given existing regulatory and cultural constraints
  • Enlisting facilitative leaders to champion digital transformation
  • Promoting greater collaboration among digital service teams and agency IT stakeholders

In addition, the author recommends that policy makers take steps to ensure longer-term sustainability of digital transformation through the use of digital service teams.These steps include:

  • Aligning the priority of digital transformation with other mission-driven national and agency-level priorities
  • Addressing the legacy IT problems of the federal government
  • Scaling up digital service team activities where they demonstrate value
  • Expanding agencies’ authority to use innovative personnel tools to bring IT talent into government
  • Adopting a new approach towards third-party service providers that reduces procedural acquisition burdens in favor of demonstrated capacity to deliver results

Media coverage:


Mergel, I. (2017): Digital Service Teams – Challenges and Recommendations for Government, IBM – The Center for the Business of Government, Using Technologies Series, Washington, DC.

New book chapter on social media communication modes

Routledge Handbook

Yu-Che Chen and Michael Ahn edited the Routledge Handbook of Information Technology in Government. I contributed chapter 11 titled “Social Media Communication Modes”.

An pre-publication version of my chapter can be found on ResearchGate.

Reference: Mergel, I. (2017): Social media communication modes”, in: Chen & Ahn (Eds.): Routledge Handbook on Information Technology in Government, pp. 168-179.



Posted in Uncategorized

New article in PAR: Building holistic evidence for social media impact

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 8.26.25 AMPublic Administration Review has just released a new article I wrote about the use of social media data in public administration. Here is the abstract:

Social media measurement is important for understanding an organization’s reach and engagement with its audiences. In response to Warren Kagarise and Staci M. Zavattaro’s question about what works in social media measurement, this article discusses how public administration researchers and practitioners are using social media data that they can easily collect from social media platforms and contrasts these practices with data measurement efforts that can provide deeper insights for evidence-based decision making. This evidence includes interactivity and connectivity among citizens, attributes of network actors, and network structures and positions to understand how content travels through the network and who are the influential actors.


Mergel, I. (2017): Building Holistic Evidence for Social Media Impact, in: Public Administration Review, 77(4): 489-495, doi: 10.1111/puar.12780


Posted in Uncategorized

New article: Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of Challenge.gov

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.02.16 PMA forthcoming special issue on Digital Government and Public Management in Public Management Review includes one of my articles titled “Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of Challenge.gov“.


Here is the abstract:

Online Open Innovation (OI) platforms like Challenge.gov are used to post public sector problem statements, collect and evaluate ideas submitted by citizens with the goal to increase government innovation. Using quantitative data extracted from contests posted to Challenge.gov and qualitative interviews with thirty-six public managers in fourteen federal departments contribute to the discovery and analysis of intra-, inter, and extra-organizational factors that drive or hinder the implementation of OI in the public sector. The analysis shows that system-inherent barriers hinder public sector organizations to adopt this procedural and technological innovation. However, when the mandate of the innovation policy aligns with the mission of the organization, it opens opportunities for change in innovation acquisition and standard operating procedures.

KEYWORDS: Online Open Innovation platforms, barriers for e-government adoption, government innovation, crowdsourcing innovations

See more information on RG.


Mergel, I. (in press): Open innovation in the public sector: drivers and barriers for the adoption of Challenge.gov. Special Issue: Digital Government and Public Management, in: Public Management Review, XX:X, pp. xxx-xxx.

Posted in Uncategorized

Social Intranets in the Public Sector

Mergel_IBM_SocialIntranet_GraphicSocial intranets are in-house social networking sites that use technologies – such as automated newsfeeds, wikis, chats, or blogs – to create engagement opportunities among employees. They also include the use of internal profile pages that help people identify expertise and interest (similar to Facebook or LinkedIn profiles), and are used in combination with other social Intranet tools such as online communities or newsfeeds. Employees can follow each others updates, automatically receive push information from newsfeeds or curated newsletters on specific topics, or collaboratively create knowledge.

In addition to external social media tools, other communication mechanisms are used inside organizations to communicate news, task-oriented information, or informal information among employees. Standard internal communication tools include:

  • E-mails to disseminate information among a limited number of recipients
  • Newsletters with aggregated information that a department deems important to share with all employees
  • Relatively static intranet pages
  • Listservs—electronic mailing lists used to distribute specific content to its subscribers
  • Physical face-to-face interactions in meetings, hallways, office spaces, or conference rooms

Social intranets support the creation of topical discussion threads that can be read across the whole organization. Discussions evolve among employees who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to know about each other’s expertise on a topic, and other employees who can passively listen to these discussions to absorb useful information for their own task environment. The connections employees create on the social intranet can be interpreted as articulated knowledge networks: Employees with similar interests connect to each other and thereby create networks through which they share knowledge.

Other than shared hard drives, email lists, or shared documents, social Intranets allow the whole organization to participate in knowledge creation and exchange activities. Sharing is not limited to a pre-defined group, team, or limited to a siloed departmental structure. Instead, employees can opt into topical newsfeeds and passively absorb the shared information.

In the U.S., the Department of Defense has created milSuite, allowing access for active military personnel and civilian contractors. Other social Intranet platforms include the Department of State’s Corridor connecting employees worldwide in embassies with the Washington, DC, operations. The Intelligence Community has created iSpace to break down intelligence sharing silos. NASA has launched a site called SpaceBook, that was never scaled up to the whole organization and only parts of social Intranet survived. Internationally, GCconnex is connecting the whole government of Canada to allow employees to collaborate on government-wide topics across geographically dispersed locations and in the The Netherlands, the online social networking site Pleio is used to share best practices across otherwise disconnected government entities. For a more comprehensive overview of the cases see IBM Center for the Business of Government’s Social Intranet report (Mergel 2016).

Benefits of social Intranets

Social intranets make communication patterns, networks, and the location of an organizational knowledge sources visible across organizational boundaries. Employees follow each other on internal social networking sites, knowledge network structures become visible to the rest of the organization. In contrast to working groups or e-mail lists, the relative publicness of employees with the same interests contributing to discussions helps the rest of the organization understand who works on what and who holds knowledge that might be useful for future projects. Especially in organizations with frequent and routine changes in roles (e.g., Foreign Service employees at State or military personnel at DOD), plenty of expertise exists that is not explicit in the current role of an employee. This visibility might lead to increased awareness and attention among employees, and it can be exploited for future projects or information needs.

Persistence. Social intranets help to trace communication streams and knowledge-creation activities (recorded and archived for future access). These communication streams are usually not recorded during meetings; instead they are hidden in e-mails or disappear from instant messenger platforms and videoconferences as soon as both parties log off. The information is available in an asymmetric format: not all parties interested in the information have to be online while the knowledge is created through online exchanges. Instead, the discussion threads are available on the front page of a user’s newsfeed in real-time, but they can be accessed at times convenient for each employee.

Discoverability of knowledge. Even though employees might not be part of their colleagues’ ongoing discussions about issues in other parts of the organization, knowledge is now discoverable across artificial organizational boundaries; it can be tagged with the names of employees considered the original knowledge experts, whom others can then contact. For example, employees who use blogs and microblogging tools on the intranet can create new connections, use comments from other employees as feedback for their projects, or ask for assistance in problem-solving activities.

Speed of search and read activities. Knowledge created in communications streams, newsfeeds, documents, or other types of content files such as videos or pictures is available in real-time to the whole organization and not limited to pre-defined audiences. Especially in government, most intranet collaboration platforms do not require an approval chain to publish, which lowers barriers to quick sharing.

Lowering geographic distance and communication barriers. Computer-mediated communication often leads to the loss of social cues. Communication and awareness drops off with geographic distance in organizations. While some organizational design elements, such as functional organizational units, are used to pool together all employees who work on similar tasks or topics, communication drops off as soon as employees are geographically separated. They won’t be aware of other employees with similar knowledge interests. Social intranets help to create a steady stream of knowledge and increase the awareness of publicly discussed topics. Instead of search and discovery, relevant information is pushed to employees.

Strengthening social ties, creating social capital, and social capitalization. The use of internal social networking and collaboration sites in the private sector has shown that employees are creating new connections with employees located in other parts of the organization, especially when they are not co-located or part of the same work teams. This leads to connections that can be reactivated in the future when additional knowledge needs occur. In addition, the problem of “connecting the dots” and pooling similar knowledge to create a more complete picture can evolve. Publishing information on social intranet platforms can potentially strengthen (or tarnish) employees’ “personal brand.” The curator of a popular and informative blog can increase his/her reputation and that can positively affect future career opportunities. Alternatively, a person who frequents these sites too often can become “that guy.”

Open communication. Employees who use external social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, are more likely to update and share on internal social sites as well. Their experience with “openness” outside their professional lives has the potential to break up knowledge silos that exist in government.

Supporting three main knowledge management activities

Creating organizational knowledge. Government tends to codify organizational knowledge in handbooks, and knowledge reuse has to follow hierarchical standard operating procedures. Free-floating and informal knowledge-sharing activities outside of formal forms of knowledge-sharing, such as cables and memos, are rarely supported through technological means, especially in agencies that have to facilitate the transfer of highly confidential information. This leads to restrictive norms and procedures for information transport. As a result, the transfer of knowledge is highly restricted. The social intranet provides functionalities to internalize, but also externalize, knowledge by combining information sources from inside the organization, across organizational boundaries, and between organizational units.

Socializing organizational knowledge. Organizational knowledge needs to be available for two major purposes: (1) Ad-hoc decision making during crisis situations, and (2) supporting long-term policy-making activities. The multitudes of knowledge hubs through which informal and formal information exchanges happen across many layers of the social intranet create fluid discussions. Government organizations therefore need mechanisms to make knowledge “sticky,” that is, to identify important knowledge pieces that decision makers and knowledge experts pay attention to.

Using technology to share knowledge. Social intranets support the connections among employees, as well as their knowledge, skills and expertise, and internal reputation. Identifying these attributes online is seen as a core functionality to locate and connect expertise and experience. Traditional HR departments cannot deal with the complexity of this task; instead, in-house social networking sites now support these activities.


Mergel, I. (2016): The Social Intranet: Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally, IBM Center for the Business of Government, Report “Using Technology” Series, Washington, DC.

Posted in Uncategorized

PhD or Postdoc Job Announcement (deadline April 15, 2017)

In collaboration with the German Research Institute for Public Administration I am searching for a PhD student or Postdoc to work on digital transformation topics (see the project list).

This is a fulltime position (100% -13 TV-L) funded by the University of Speyer and the candidate will be located at the University of Konstanz. Please send your full application including until April 15, 2017 using the job number “Kennziffer 0517″ to: Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung, Freiherr-vom-Stein-Str. 2, 67346 Speyer (bewerbung@foev-speyer.de). Include a cover letter outlining your motivation and interest in digital transformation, grades, copies of other supporting certificates and diplomas, and a writing sample.


Am Deutschen Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung ist baldmöglichst eine Stelle als

Forschungsreferentin/ Forschungsreferent

befristet auf drei Jahre zu besetzen. Die Vergütung erfolgt nach Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L. Es besteht die Möglichkeit zur Promotion.

Aufgabenschwerpunkt ist die Mitarbeit im Programmbereich „Die Transformation des Staates in Zeiten der Digitalisierung“ unter Projektleitung von Frau Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel. Die Beschäftigung wird am Arbeitsort Konstanz ausgeübt.

Der Aufgabenbereich umfasst die Forschungsfelder Digitale Transformation, wie zum Beispiel Co-design von online Dienstleistungen, Open Innovation, Big Data, Open Government, Social Media und anderen nicht-konventionellen Technologien und Praktiken der öffentlichen Verwaltung.

Gesucht werden Absolventen/-innen (Master) eines Universitätsstudiums der Verwaltungswissenschaften mit speziellem Fokus auf Public Management oder eines Universitätsstudiums der Verwaltungsinformatik. Sie sollten außerdem Interesse an anwendungsorientierter wissenschaftlicher Tätigkeit mitbringen. Fließende Englischkenntnisse in Wort und Schrift, eigenständiges und selbstmotiviertes Arbeiten sowie Erfahrung im (englisch-sprachigen) wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten und Schreiben sind weitere Voraussetzungen.

Schwerbehinderte werden bei entsprechender Eignung bevorzugt berücksichtigt. Es wird nur ein Mindestmaß an körperlicher Eignung verlangt.

Das Deutsche Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung ist bestrebt, den Anteil an Frauen im wissenschaftlichen Bereich zu erhöhen. Entsprechend qualifizierte Frauen werden daher besonders gebeten, sich zu bewerben.

Ihre Bewerbungsunterlagen mit Motivationsschreiben (Bezug auf die Forschungsfelder), Lebenslauf, vollständigen Zeugnissen und anderen Urkunden und Schreibexemplaren sind in elektronischer Form (ausschließlich im PDF-Format) bitte bis spätestens 15. April 2017 unter Angabe der Kennziffer 0517 zu richten an: Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für öffentliche Verwaltung, Freiherr-vom-Stein-Str. 2, 67346 Speyer (bewerbung@foev-speyer.de).

Fragen zu Inhalt und Perspektiven der Stelle richten Sie bitte an Frau Prof. Dr. Ines Mergel (office.mergel@uni-konstanz.de).

Wir freuen uns auf Ihre aussagekräftige Bewerbung.

Posted in Uncategorized