How can Local Government move more towards a digital operating model?

In a recent blog the Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, seeks ideas from the public and industry to support and inform the UK’s digital strategy, ‘The next frontier in our digital revolution’.

Mr Vaizey recognizes that in the past five years the UK’s digital economy has changed beyond recognition and is now boosted by around £145 billion a year from digital technology. He now campaigns for the future of the UK to be synonymous with digital – a place where digital technologies transform day-to-day life, the economy and government.

In certain sectors this digital revolution has been extremely visible. The retail sector, for example, has embraced the digital revolution, with shopping over the internet continuing to increase year on year. In 2014 at the peak Christmas shopping period, online retail accounted for almost one-quarter (23.4%) of Christmas buying.

The certainty that records will again be broken over the recent Christmas period is supported by substantial online retail market growth already in 2015. The Centre for Retail Research tells us that the online retail market has increased by 16.2% throughout the whole of 2015. Estimates of expenditure show an increase of 11% on Christmas Day and 22% on Boxing Day compared with the 2014 totals for the same periods.

In recent years, Sopra Steria has embraced the digital revolution and supported our clients to help increase the pace of implementation of digital solutions to support their own businesses. An important sector for this digital growth has been Local Government where many Local Authorities are providing citizens with digital access to services that both improve the end service but also crucially reduce the cost of delivery to release funding to local projects which support the quality of life for local citizens and increase opportunities for local businesses.

Amongst many recent digital projects, we have supported our own Local Government clients to:

  • Develop digital strategies
  • Introduce new and flexible ways of working
  • Provide access to services over the internet and through mobile devices
  • Increase self-service and automation of process
  • Make better use of management data through the use of business analytics

Mr Vaizey recognises four key ingredients for the success of the digital revolution:

  1. Unlocking digital growth
  2. Transforming government
  3. Transforming day to day life
  4. Building the foundations

I welcome his approach and agree particularly with his comments regarding the building of strong foundations and the recognition of the transformation required to drive the digital revolution.

Sopra Steria recognises four key ingredients for success which concentrate on how the digital revolution can transform the way Councils and their citizens can both provide – and receive – services. They recognise that the revolution needs careful planning if it is to provide real, useful and usable alternatives to the current service methodologies.

Revolution creates the change that is needed but to succeed, it must leave a lasting and sustainable legacy that genuinely improves Citizens’ lives and futures.

Our four stage approach to digital transformation steadily builds upon current delivery models to create a digital alternative. This approach provides a planned and affordable methodology to control and direct the revolution towards an appropriate digital operating model.

1.  Make the most of existing technology

The first stage focuses on long term planning, and encourages the immediate use of facilities already available within existing technology applications and platforms to ensure that current investment is used to its full potential. This approach encourages quick wins at low cost.

Activity to achieve this may include:

  • A baseline review of existing technologies
  • The development of a roadmap to introduce digital initiatives that maximises the potential of the existing application estate
  • Implementation of immediate digital initiatives

2.  Small step transformation

At stage two, we start to enhance the physical service delivery with digital content, taking small manageable steps towards digital transformation. The intention is to enhance the customer experience by increasing the ability to interact with the council online and to start to introduce new ways of working.

Activity in this stage may include:

  • Online data collection through electronic forms
  • Simple automation
  • Increased self-service and the creation of a more personalised, consistent customer experience

3.  Re-imagining delivery

Stage three makes greater and greater use of the redesigned web presence to replace or extend existing physical processes with digital operations and digital enablers. This would be visible through continuous customer improvement processes that increase customer contacts through digital access channels and offers the digital fulfilment of service requests. Where appropriate, the web will become the default channel of choice, allowing greater service time and funding to be diverted to supporting more vulnerable citizens.

This activity will

  • Enable increased self-service
  • Provide “One and done” transactions
  • Support delivery of consistent, accurate digital data and information
  • Reduce the reliance on telephone and face to face channels

4.  A digital business

The final stage of the digital transformation is to develop new digital business and operating models that reach the full potential of the digital environment without just reflecting and duplicating existing physical process.

The activity would be to redesign existing business structures to take full advantage of a digital approach to service delivery. This may take the form of working with partners to improve business outcomes by sharing data and processes. It may consider new commissioning models that are not restricted by traditional barriers but that continue to improve service delivery whilst also reducing operating costs.

The challenge

Local Government needs to fully embrace the digital agenda to deliver an improved future that grows and improves services for citizens within an affordable cost envelope.

As Mr Vaizey points out that the world is changing and the digital revolution will change the way that we all do business and receive services. This revolution needs to be embraced and the new world recognised. In another five years we will look back, in the same way that Mr Vaizey does today, at an unprecedented period of change. But we will also again be looking forward to the next revolution  – whatever that may be.

We must ensure that we are ready to embrace the next revolution having fully achieved and embedded the digital revolution that we recognise now.

The clock is ticking.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Published by

Steve Knights

Local Government: Service delivery, Consultancy, Efficiency and Improvement, New initiatives, Innovation projects.

2 thoughts on “How can Local Government move more towards a digital operating model?”

  1. Hi Steve,

    thank you for this opinion. Digital transformation of Government services has to follow the ‘market’ trends to provide better customer experience at lower costs, however we all have witnessed many failed projects that wasted a tremendous amount of taxpayer’s money.

    One of the official reviews in case of the disastrous £12bln NHS scheme was that the ‘One fits all’ model failed and would be replaced by much cheaper regional initiatives. In my opinion, this is quite opposite to the idea of operating one global and interconnected system providing very much same government services at many locations (e.g. Driving Licence, Police, .. – with some local exceptions) would be more efficient, easier to implement (one main design) and eventually at lower cost (sort of Economy of Scale).

    Can you please state when and why regional solutions would be more suitable vs. global system?

    Thank you,

    Miro Gregorovic


    1. Thank you for your comment Miro,

      I think you make a very good point and raise an interesting issue. It is true that there have been many high profile failures to implement ‘global solutions’ and we must learn from these as we develop new operating models.

      The issue you raise regarding the use of common platforms is absolutely valid and should indeed introduce scale efficiencies. I would suggest that where this has failed in the past is that the development of universal systems has attempted to introduce far too much complexity and has tried to produce that ‘one size fits all’ model by trying to ensure that individual variations in process can all be incorporated within the core model. We are now seeing a number of solutions that seek to support common processes and technologies that prioritise core common requirements and do not seek to address every single circumstance that could possibly arise. Consumers of these services then have the option to either accept the common approach or provide variation through the introduction of a layer of separate local provision.

      When considering the final stage of the digital progression to a digital operating model, that I proposed within the blog, the approach can then be one that is flexible enough to combine both regional solutions with wider global initiatives or technologies to give those wider economies of scale. We are of course seeing this approach already with the wider use of cloud technologies to provide a more flexible supply through a Pay as you go arrangement for core systems within a number of disciplines. This allows consumers of services to purchase core technologies to support common processes on a global scale whilst combining more specialised and tailored solutions on a regional or local level and I would anticipate that we will continue to see this mixed economy of supply for the foreseeable future.

      Steve KNIGHTS
      Local and Regional Government

      [Sopra Steria]

      Sopra Steria
      Three Cherry Trees Lane
      Hemel Hempstead
      Hertfordshire HP2 7AH – United Kingdom
      Phone: +44(0)1442 885907 – Mobile: +44(0)7725 497377

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