A Digital Future for Joined Up Local Services

Originally published as a guest blog on techUK Insights

We now view the world through a digital lens, with social media, smartphones and the internet creating a complex future that we must all embrace to survive. We see disruptive technologies, not just changing, but in many instances totally replacing the previous world order. For councils this is leading not only to an immediate need to adapt the way essential services are delivered, but it also raises additional questions about how councils provide community leadership, local democracy, economic growth and cultural change in a constantly and rapidly changing environment.

Councils have a long and successful history of adapting to meet the regular challenges placed before them. In recent years we have seen councils rise to the challenge of delivering crucial and critical services in times of deep austerity. These financial challenges still continue and the world around us is changing with citizens’ needs, demands and expectations increasing, often driven by new technologies. To meet these new challenges the ‘council of the future’ no longer just needs to change the way it delivers traditional services but it also has to reconsider its very role and purpose.

Councils are beginning to forge new rules of engagement, realising that when we talk of a digital future it is not just about technology change but also about social, cultural and business change. The ‘council of the future’ must provide the local leadership to successfully navigate these rocky waters on behalf of and alongside their individual communities.

At Sopra Steria we observe digital change across all sectors and would make the following observations as to the key factors that will support the ‘council of the future’.

Strong leadership is essential to managing change that will be predominantly measured by community outcomes. We see the priority for councils being their continued development as the primary leaders of ‘place’, coordinating and organising effective partnerships across all agencies to provide whole life, effective services that fully meet citizen expectations. Citizens increasingly demand joined up services and will increasingly expect seamless delivery paths. Key areas to address are seamless health and care journeys, increasing citizen confidence in law and order and effective integration of local transport.

This view of the future is supported by the annual digital government survey that IPSOS undertakes on behalf of Sopra Steria to understand citizen expectations of digital services. Consistently the highest priority in the UK has been the ‘creation of a one-stop digital portal for undertaking interactions which need to be performed with multiple agencies’.

Data is the bedrock for change – effective management of complex data will support not only the effective delivery of services, but it will allow greater interoperability between agencies. Clear information dashboards will both inform management processes but also improve democratic transparency.

Digital platforms need to be implemented that use cloud based technologies to reduce the dependence on fixed infrastructures which will reduce the cost of change and allow the development of agile and dynamic solutions.

Automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence will increasingly be introduced to improve business processes, improve digital communication channels and to release human resources to higher value activities. An example of a successful implementation of this was the introduction of self service and automation to support the delivery of Shepway Council’s Revenue and Benefits service.

Social engagement will increasingly use social media as a channel of choice for the solving of community problems, provision of information and to enhance the democratic process.

For many the digital future has already arrived so the ‘council of the future’ needs to prepare to lead their community and place to a new prosperity based on new technologies, new cultures and new ways of delivering business that fully meet the demanding expectations of their citizens.

Join the discussion on #CounciloftheFuture To see more blogs like this, please visit the website here.

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

Developing a digital culture to meet citizen expectations in Local Government services

Originally published as a guest blog on techUK Insights

A recent conversation with a Local Government IT manager led me to consider again what ‘digital’ means and what digital transformation means to the way that we deliver local services.

My colleague argued that ‘digital’ is just an expression of new technologies, and digital innovation could be best expressed in traditional IT terms, after all the IT world has always embraced change and new ideas.

I accept that it is certainly true that technology is important to deliver the ‘digital revolution’ and new technologies form the bedrock on which transformation is built.

But I would suggest that digital transformation is not primarily about technology changes but by the changes we observe in culture, communication, consumerism and the unprecedented transformation of society’s operating model.

The ubiquitous and unprecedented scale of societal change has happened in just the last five to ten years, and it’s getting more difficult to remember a life before Apple, Google, Facebook and Instagram.

In Local Government, where digital transformation is looking to leave a lasting and sustainable legacy that genuinely improves citizens’ lives and futures, the Sopra Steria approach has certainly been to make the best use of available technologies, but has always been supported by a strong business spine. We have endeavored to match both the ambitions of our clients with the desire of their stakeholders to consume services in the ways that they are increasingly using to access other markets. Game changing platforms such as Facebook, Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon do not allow other providers of goods and services to continue with traditional methods and still retain happy customers. For these and other digital leaders, digital transformation has been powered by an enormous leap in customer expectation.

In Local Government this customer expectation across a diverse range of services is also driving change and we see many different approaches to delivering digital business strategies.

So how should Local Government drive through this digital change?

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

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.

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.

3. Re-imagining delivery

Stage three makes greater and greater use of a redesigned on- line 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.

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 world is changing and digital is changing the ways that we work, rest and play. In another five years we will look back at an unprecedented period of change. Let’s make sure that Local Government is able to embrace the opportunity to deliver lasting and sustainable change today and provide that solid foundation for the next revolution – whatever that may be.

The clock is ticking!

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

2017: An exceptional year of change

In recent years digital technologies have driven an extraordinary pace of change in the way we do business, live our lives and interact with each other. According to a report conducted by digital and marketing intelligence group eMarketer, e-commerce sales will this Christmas exceed 20% of total retail sales during November and December, an estimated £16.9 million of online sales. This continues a year on year upward trend for retail digital transactions that shows no signs of slowing.

The challenge for Local Government is to keep up with this trend and match the expectations of their citizens who increasingly want digital solutions to all of their business interactions.

For many reasons 2017 looks to be a pivotal year for Local Government.

New structural changes such as Devolution will give both opportunities and challenges, particularly in the way that large scale infrastructure projects are commissioned and delivered. Transport improvements will offer not only a major boost to the construction industries throughout the development phase, but upon completion will deliver the connectivity – both nationally and internationally – needed for economic growth.

Key customer-facing services such as the delivery of welfare benefits are at the forefront of the introduction of digital services to both improve the point of contact with the customer but also to streamline the delivery of crucial benefits to those in need. Likewise, the pressures on health services are increasingly being addressed with digital solutions that can help to relieve the unsustainable demands placed on our doctors and nurses.

But as well as the transformational changes that we are seeing in the way that we do business, 2017 also brings us exceptional political change.

A Trump presidency and Brexit are likely to overshadow both world and domestic politics for many years to come.

As we enter this year of change, we offer – by means of a short video – a few thoughts on some of these issues.

What is absolutely certain is that by the time we reach 2018 we will be entering a very different world to the one we leave in 2016. The period of change in between will be 2017 – so be ready for a roller coaster ride!

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

How innovation can drive change in Local Government

I have been recently considering how innovative technology can support the future of health and care services as part of the contribution that Sopra Steria is making to Lord Patel of Bradford’s report ‘Breaking Barriers’ that was released on the 28th of June.

This consideration led me to look again at some of the recent innovations that Sopra Steria has introduced and particularly to reflect back upon the annual Sopra Steria innovations awards ceremony that I attended earlier in the year. I was very impressed by the number and quality of solutions that my winning colleagues across the world had developed through a wide range of innovation projects. In this blog I highlight five of the projects that seem to particularly resonate with the provision of our own local public services.

Our overall innovation winners came from France with a project to assist schools and pupils to plan the school day.

Pack ‘n’ school – the connected schoolbag

This project provides a small device to incorporate into a school bag that links with the pupil’s timetable in the ‘cloud’. At the beginning of the day this device checks the contents of the bag and ensures that the pupil has all the books needed for the day’s lessons.

This simple solution would be a valuable aid to help teachers to deliver lessons more efficiently by ensuring pupils are ready to start learning at the start of lessons.

Another team from France proposed an inspection module that could be mounted on a drone to automatically detect variances from blueprints and plans.

The Foreman Drone

This innovative project equips a drone with software that can 3D scan a project under construction, make a real time comparison with a digital plan and detect discrepancies.

I can see a number of inspection and maintenance uses for this project in Local Government within services such as building control and planning, Street Scene management and Highways management, allowing a much more efficient usage and targeting of resources.

An interesting project from Spain provides a game to support better recycling.

Green World Gaming

Citizens can play the Green World Game alone, with friends, family or neighbours. Points are awarded for the frequency and amount of recycling undertaken and then points can be converted to rewards.

The Green World game provides a novel way for Local Government to promote recycling and to attain targets.

Our colleagues in India have provided a project to build a real time water pollution monitoring system.

Real time water pollution monitoring system

This solution combines innovative software with a network of quality monitoring probes installed directly on waste outlets of factories to measure the quality of the water entering the main sewerage system. The data is then tracked and compared to defined norms, immediately highlighting all violations of pollution standards.

This innovation provides a clear opportunity for improving the efficiency and inspection routines of environmental services combining both immediate alerts with an accurate record to support potential prosecutions.

The final example I’d like to share is an excellent project from the UK, where biometrics, the internet of things and cloud technologies are combined to provide a solution to track and monitor farm animals.

The Connected Cow

This project uses biometric tags and tracking technologies to monitor farm animals, this tells the farmer immediately if an animal is sick, poisoned or simply lost. The immediate access to this data allows the farmer to react quickly to give the best chance of remedial treatment.

But how does this help Local Government you ask?  Well, the next development of this product would be to move it into the health care sector. By the use of wearable monitors such as smart watches the same technology can be used to monitor vulnerable citizens. If set parameters are broken such as heart rate or body temperature carers can be alerted to take immediate action to support the vulnerable individual. This could become an invaluable aid to health and care services and a life saver to vulnerable people.

These few examples will I hope stimulate some debate about how digital solutions can support Local Government. The range and number of innovative ideas produced this year have been exceptional and solve so many problems across so many areas of life.

Why don’t you challenge us to find a solution to support your own business, somewhere across the world, we will definitely have someone who has an answer just for you. Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Breaking Barriers: building a sustainable future for health and social care

Collaboration, Integration and Innovation are the key themes of ‘Breaking Barriers – Building a Sustainable Future for Health and Social Care’, a report written by Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, The Rt. Hon. Hazel Blears and Dr John Bashford.

At the ‘Breaking Barriers’ summit in central London this week, Lord Patel of Bradford launched the report by saying that:

To have hope of surmounting the challenge being brought to bear on health and social care funding for the NHS and local government we need new ways of delivering public services that are collaborative, integrated and innovative and which offer realistic, practical and replicable solutions.

Breaking Barriers offers a vision ‘for an integrated health and care system that uses it’s estates and infrastructure wisely and collectively within a single, unified financial and budgetary framework at local and national level’.  As the business transformation partner supporting the report, Sopra Steria has provided insight into how technology can best support the Breaking Barriers vision. This insight has been summarised in our thought leadership paper, published to coincide with the release of the Breaking Barriers report.

So what does this new model mean in practice?

Breaking Barriers proposes bringing together what is often a dispersed physical health and care estate into a local, shared physical hub that will help to generate collaboration, integration and innovation between agencies.

 To demonstrate how this may work we have developed a model, shown in this diagram that considers how innovative and collaborative methods can help to reduce, divert and manage demand.

At the top of the funnel we seek to develop long term solutions that prevent demand entering the Health and Care system in the first place. If we can influence good health practices at an early stage we can reduce the incidence of ill health and therefore reduce the need for care interventions.

An example of this approach is a project that Sopra Steria is supporting in Halton, in the North West, where over 30% of primary school children are overweight or obese.  The ‘Gamechanger’ project encourages children to take an extra 15 minutes of activity each day with the objective of making Halton school children the most active and healthy in England. By laying strong healthy foundations at an early age we aim to support and encourage a healthy long term lifestyle. It’s being initiated by Halton CCG, and the local Rugby League Club Widnes Vikings, collaborating with a number of stakeholders including Sopra Steria, Cheshire and Merseyside Women and Childrens’ Services Vanguard, Halton Borough Council and Liverpool John Moores University. We’ll be supporting this initiative developing a website that will have content to encourage healthy behaviours, and by using technology to incentivise children to eat well, and participate in exercise and to monitor their individual health goals.

The second layer of the funnel diverts demand by moving appropriate care from the physical environment into the virtual environment. For example, introducing patient self-service where appropriate and using invisible technologies, such as sensors, to support greater independent living within the home – these ambient technologies are particularly useful as they can monitor the home environment and the health of individuals remotely and without any direct patient input, so there is no need for them to learn or understand the technologies involved.

The final element of our approach is to use IT to help manage the remaining demand more cost effectively and giving patients an improved experience – for example automating processes, introducing electronic care records and simplifying administration.

Making change happen

It was clear that a desire for change exists amongst the health and care community represented at the summit. One of the speakers talked of the chemistry between people that is so often the catalyst for change and many of the people that I spoke to agreed that the way forward would be to build that collaboration across agencies by making a commitment to working much closer with colleagues to build stronger links across related services.

There seems to be a head of steam building that small steps of collaboration will lead to much greater integration and innovation to steadily improve the way that care is provided.

But this approach also recognises that achieving sustainable change requires a long term commitment that will only succeed if sufficient capacity is created to ensure that health and care service delivery remains unaffected.

‘Breaking Barriers’ addresses the issue of releasing additional capacity through the proposals for property and asset rationalisation to make more efficient use of buildings and assets. But also through the development of community partnerships to provide assets, services, skills and funding in similar ways that we have seen in Halton with Widnes Vikings offering their stadium facilities to support community health projects. The use of sports facilities in this way created a real buzz and fizz at the Summit as everyone shared similar ideas and contacts within their own areas.

I was greatly encouraged by the passion and commitment to achieve integrated health and social care by the speakers and delegates at the Breaking Barriers summit; there was a clear desire to achieve positive change in the health and care systems to deliver improved outcomes for patients and citizens.

Breaking Barriers challenges us all to return to our individual organisations and deliver collaboration, integration and innovation for real change for the better.

Read more in our thought leadership paper

What are your thoughts on the Breaking Barriers Report? Leave a comment below or contact me by email.

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.

Improving outcomes with multi agency partners

I was recently speaking to a senior local government officer about her experiences of the difficulties in creating shared services and multi-agency arrangements with local organisations. We agreed that the logic of collaboration to improve performance and generate efficiencies is compelling, but in practice achieving such arrangements has proved to be more complicated. We concluded that although the business logic is often sound one of the biggest hurdles to climb is the practical issues that often have to be overcome to create collaboration.

These difficulties may surface because of differing priorities, differing funding methods, complexity or just simply due to timing.

Recently Sopra Steria has been considering how our experience in developing IT and digital solutions can support the development of the multi-agency arrangements that are becoming more and more important in improving outcomes in some of our most crucial public services. Increasingly, agencies are coming together to ensure that by working more closely together they can improve outcomes to particularly vulnerable sections of the community. We see many excellent examples of partner organisations coming together to break down traditional barriers to put the service to the customer to the fore- front.

However, as in my recent conversation, we often hear how difficult it is to achieve and also how difficult it is to achieve the desired outcomes even when arrangements are developed. It has become clear that whilst multi agency approaches are now being seen primarily to support safeguarding and protection agendas. There is also further opportunity to embed the approach across the public sector to improve wider outcomes and to perhaps support more efficient ways to deliver diverse services.

We have considered how we can best support multi agency arrangements through initiatives such as improved use of shared data to support strong business intelligence and analytics that can help to predict and understand service demand. But, in a recent thought leadership paper, we have also considered seven key steps to consider when planning and implementing a multi-agency initiative. We believe that these steps will help put multi-agency programmes on the right footing from the outset, and create an environment where the specific challenges can be openly and constructively addressed.

  1. Challenge the way things are done culturally – treat it as a cultural and business process change programme for all, rather than imposing any one approach
  2. Contain multi-agency initiatives within relatively small localities – use data analysis to agree an operational boundary based on common need, not organisational simplicity
  3. Build services around the individual – involve service users in the design process
  4. Understand stakeholder needs – build a vision that can be shared by all
  5. Think collaboratively as part of your stakeholder awareness – agree which services are best delivered together – from a strategic and operational perspective
  6. Develop data sharing protocols – agree how data about an individual will be shared securely to deliver the best results
  7. Include cross-sector partners from the public, private and third sectors – consider innovative contractual arrangements that share risk or reward outcomes

Read more in my thought leadership paper “Embedding the Multi-Agency approach” and I welcome feedback on the seven step approach and your view on whether this is useful or if we can improve it from your own experiences. Leave  a reply below or contact me by email.