I don’t think I can consider 2017 without first looking briefly at 2016. It is safe to say that 2016 was an interesting year across the public sector with some major tectonic sized decisions and changes. What these will mean are still to be understood, and my colleague Steve Knights has a look at some of these in his blog ‘2017: An exceptional year of change‘.
Like the political arena, technology throughout the year has also been interesting and challenging and Local Government entities throughout the UK have taken some major steps towards embracing ‘Digital’ in the delivery of services across all aspects of their operations.
With the challenges being placed on budgets, Local Government is having to become more creative in how it utilises technology to support employees, operate the business and deliver services to a widening variety of citizen needs. Our London DigiLab innovation centre, is hosting increasing numbers of authorities eager to discuss their issues and look at opportunities to save and improve. It is providing an important forum to help them look differently at what they do and is enabling us to identify different ways of working and new technologies that will deliver lasting benefits to their organisations and services they deliver.
2016 saw some major players in the technology sphere bring in new offerings which have the potential to change how core digital services are offered. Microsoft opened their UK data centres offering Azure and Office365 capabilities, with a roadmap of a lot more services to be deployed throughout 2017. IBM are bringing their Watson Cognitive technologies to UK shores, and Amazon Web Services will be opening UK data centres. With the implications of Brexit still unknown, this collective of UK centric technology offerings will give local authorities more options to protect their data and systems.
Some of the technology trends which we saw during 2016 will continue well into 2017 and beyond. They have the potential to change how citizens engage with public services, but the biggest changes will be in how employees and businesses operate.
2017 will be the year of user productivity transformation, Systems of Intelligence and Business as a Service.
Microsoft’s Azure, Office365 and Dynamics365 offerings have matured to significant levels, giving organisations a new opportunity to embrace the possibilities of Cloud on-demand operations.
Cognitive systems, or Systems of Intelligence, started to appear as mature service proposals during 2016, but the take up has been slow as organisations struggle to understand how these can be used within existing operations. Throughout 2017 we will see more Machine Learning and Cognitive-based offerings becoming mainstream in the business operations across local government. IBM Watson will be leading the charge as this is the most mature of the current public domain Cognitive offerings, but Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite is also maturing at a rate and will start to offer more Machine Learning services. Google’s Deep Mind is the wild card and we will have to wait and see how this will become available. Apple will continue to explore the Artificial Intelligence space with Siri becoming more useful as a Digital Personal Assistant helping us do more with our time.
Data will continue to grow in importance and will focus on generating Actionable Intelligence using Machine Learning systems to derive insight. It will give Local Government an opportunity to look at how it can embrace a more open data culture to bring their rich datasets together in a way that can help them understand and tackle challenging areas.
How services are offered and consumed by citizens will also go through transformation as Micro Services Architecture is embraced. This will enable focused tackling of discrete aspects of service before they are then aggregated into a collective solution. Personalisation will become more of a need than a nice to have and data will be key to helping drive this understanding and service delivery model.
In summary, 2016 was a good year as organisational thinking around the use of technology matured and evolved bringing more options, solutions, innovation and ultimately beneficial outcomes. 2017 is when Systems of Intelligence will provide opportunities for the public sector to deliver more user-centric, personalised and contextual services. Some of the key technology areas that will help Local Government with this are:
- Machine Learning – to help provide a more personalised experience which is agnostic of service delivery channels
- On-Demand Services – to enable employees, managers and citizens to access the things they need
- Choose Your Own model – to provide a more flexible and responsive IT function that supports employees in doing their jobs more efficiently and productively
- Micro Services Architecture – to change the way services are designed to remove the complexity of large system redevelopment
- API First – to provide a more dynamic approach to systems integration
- Device agnostic services – to remove the barriers to individuals accessing the facilities they need, when they need them, through whatever means works for them
Thinking and acting differently
There is no doubt that technology has a significant role to play in helping local government achieve the savings they need, and that though a strategic approach to delivering digital services at scale, authorities can realise significant benefits.
At Sopra Steria we are seeing local authorities thinking differently about how they can approach their current challenges and looking to external partners to help them embrace a more agile service delivery model.
What are your thoughts for Local Government as we head into 2017? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.