Transforming local public services through use of innovative technology

Delivering differently, delivering digitally

Local authorities face growing challenges to continue to deliver more for less. In recent years they have had to cope with decreasing budgets, growing demand and higher citizen expectations bringing us to a position today where Council Leaders need to consider a radical approach to service delivery.

Technology has the potential to provide tools which support new ways of working, enhance existing capabilities and provide a platform for innovation and transformation that meets the needs and expectations of citizens.

We can consider the ways that technology can support local government under three broad categories:

  • Supporting a flexible and modern workforce
  • Improving the delivery and efficiency of processes
  • Providing simple access to services

The ever-growing capabilities of technologies enables a new approach to support these categories and leads us to consider some key technologies that local government could introduce to support positive transformation.

Supporting a flexible and modern workforce

The local authority workforce wants systems which are easy to use and which help them to deliver their roles effectively. To create a flexible environment which supports workforce development Cloud, or on-demand, solutions offer transformational changes in the way that employees, and citizens, can engage and consume services.

Key technologies that local authorities could consider to create a new digitally forward organisation include

  • On-Demand Services – to enable employees, managers and citizens to access the technology and services they need
  • Choose Your Own model – provides a more flexible and responsive IT function to support employees to do their jobs more efficiently and productively
  • Device agnostic services – removes the barriers to individuals accessing the facilities they need, when they need them, through whatever means works best for them

By providing easy-to-use tools, systems and services which are fast and reliable, on whichever device an employee chooses to use, the modern workforce can be equipped to be more productive, customer centric and adaptable. Using technology smarter provides employees with the most valuable commodity of all – time. This released time can then support improved service delivery where it is most needed. Sopra Steria has helped councils like Eastbourne Borough Council to review their working practices and to develop new more agile operating models that both reduce cost and improve the delivery of services through a better use of available technologies.

Delivering through efficient and informed processes

Any service improvement plan must consider the process layer and how this can be improved through the appropriate implementation of technology. Emerging technologies can improve processes and how services are delivered; these include these key technologies:

  • Machine Learning – to help provide a more personalised experience which is agnostic of service delivery channels
  • Micro Services Architecture – changes the way services are designed to remove the complexity of large system redevelopment
  • API First – provides a more dynamic approach to systems integration

The emergence of Artificial Intelligent based technologies including robotics, cognitive computing, machine learning, natural language processing and data processing techniques give local government new options for radically improving existing and new processes.

The opportunity such technologies provides can allow local government to re-envisage processes – so rather than just replicate from old technology to new, they can ask ‘if we were to do the process today how would we do it.’ Sopra Steria is currently introducing this thinking and technology to help Shepway Council to improve its Revenues and Benefits processes. The benefits that the Council will see are a reduction in delivery cost and the ability to free resources to concentrate on more complex cases.

Providing simple access to services

In today’s fast digital environment local government needs to be adaptable and offer services which are simple, easy to use and meet the needs of a changing society that is increasingly comfortable with new technologies. The growth of smartphone usage, for example, has opened up new opportunities for citizens to engage with the local authority, increasing the ability to create small consumable services that are smarter and more targeted towards citizen needs. Using large scale legacy technologies to deliver services is something which is no longer cost, or service efficient with the technology typically constraining which services can be made available.

Citizens are becoming more tech savvy and expect quick and easy access to services, just as they do from other sectors. Local services need to become smarter and personalised as much as possible to allow users to quickly access the information and/or service needed. Sopra Steria has supported the residents of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council to interact more efficiently with the council by introducing ‘my Hinckley’ web access. This recognises the resident by the use of their post code, and then personalises the content of the website to provide only relevant information.

Introducing digital services at scale

It can be seen from the few examples above that there is no doubt that technology has a significant role to play in helping local government achieve both savings and service improvements, but it’s introduction is best considered within a strategic approach to best realise the potential benefits of delivering digital services at scale.

Councils must begin to think differently from the traditional approach and should see external suppliers as partners tackling shared challenges. They shouldn’t be afraid to embrace a more agile and outcome-defined service delivery model that incorporates both internal and external skills and capabilities working towards common goals.

Combining new digital technologies with innovative thinking will help forward-thinking councils to fundamentally break the mould of traditional ways of working for the benefit of their customers who are ready for change and are themselves embracing new technologies in their everyday lives.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

This blog was also published as a techUK Insight article on 9 September, 2016

Published by

Neil Catton

I am a Technology Evangelist defining and driving Innovative ways of working through the use of technology, using my extensive network of vendor relationships I provide clients with multiple technology options and solutions depending upon their needs and requirements. Through my relationships I actively introduce new capabilities, products and services and promote through various means including Social Media, User Forums, Innovation Days, Client Workshops and Vendor briefings.

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