Five significant public sector trends

We are told that government is transforming itself. The public sector is changing into a ‘public purpose’ sector. More of the service outcomes we expect should be co-produced, across complex delivery chains, which are more connected and collaborative. Success often depends on nudging the behaviours of citizens, communities and businesses. Prevention is increasingly the mantra, empowering people with the tools they need, addressing problems quickly and providing services in settings that suit needs.

Rules are slowly being changed to harness technology in a way that works for everyone. The promise is that innovative technologies provide an opportunity to move past a choice between improving outcomes, shifting costs on to individuals or increasing pressure on staff. They are a catalyst for greater connectivity and empowerment. Not only saving time and money but enhancing public value.

But there still seems to be an inverse relationship between the transformation rhetoric and the reality. Many of the traditional government tools, which emphasise predictability, control and distinct accountabilities, struggle to address ‘wicked challenges’ that are fluid, interconnected and unpredictable.

Public services are struggling to adapt to new demands in a world characterised by speed, intensity and connectedness. They are driven by short-term demands for results and a political fix, which undermines the ability of government to make the larger system work more effectively.

Productivity has gone up mainly by doing ‘more of the same’ rather than through reform. The easiest savings have been made and choices are getting harder. As the Institute for Government recently commented, ‘governments cannot continue for long to provide the same services by simply muddling through, with dollops of emergency cash’.

What does this mean in practice? And what are the implications for the reform of public services?

First, progress has been made when using digital tools to improve many of the more transactional dimensions of government. Improvements have been made to the convenience, speed and efficiency. However, too often complexity is resulting in technology silos and a miss-match with business needs. Transformation demands more radical change across operations, processes and technology. Digital thinking and technologies have to be tightly woven into the fabric of government. Simply replacing an existing manual operation with a digital one is NOT a viable approach.

Second, new demands are being placed on the ability of public services to combine the best available skills, expertise and resources – inside government and outside in the business, academic and community sectors – and point that firepower at the right place to achieve a transformative shift. A more discerning conversation is required about the best way of achieving policy, regulatory and service delivery outcomes. Including the role of private and community sector organisations in reform of public services.

Third, we are now used to platform business models that respond to the potential of distributed networking with organisations, institutions and individuals. Yet government is constrained by an age-old culture of centralised or, at best, decentralised structures. It needs to work out which approach – centralised, decentralised or distributed – makes most sense for different tasks and contexts.

Fourth, we all want solutions that are simpler, integrated and responsive to people and their lives. So we need to reconnect policy making and delivery. Which means that delivery people are ‘in the room’ from the start of the policy process. In particular, government has to confront the reality that much of the most important information needed for good policy making is to be found through interactions with frontline staff, customers and citizens.

Fifth, trust in government is in short supply. And many private and community sector organisations appear out of touch. Being more open, responding to citizen and user concerns, becoming more transparent are all part of the solution. But the work of trust rebuilding is unspectacular and slow.  It relies on leadership, daily habits, and clear thinking.

Success will be difficult but not impossible.  It requires government to think about the long term. And then invest in more collaborative and evidence based ‘platforms’. This type of change depends on transparency, of purpose and approach, so that we do not just observe what is happening but at least want to know why.

A customer is for life; not just for the sales

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Pre-Christmas & January sales. The cold, winter months are enlivened in the world of retail with a shopping bonanza for the savvy consumer. These high-profile sales see shoppers in a frenzy as they seek out the best bargains, both online and on the high street.

Then what? Once the furore has calmed down and normal service is resumed, how do you nurture these customers to ensure long-term loyalty to your brand?

The key is to keep them happy at every step of their interaction with you. They must receive an effortless service, when they want it and from where. More often than not, today’s customers also want instant gratification: to immediately know that what they’ve bought will be with them faster than ever before.

How to achieve this is the topic of a paper that I have recently published, ‘Rethinking your retail business around the customer journey and experience’. In it I make the case for what’s increasingly referred to as ‘unified commerce’. This is true omnichannel retailing (as opposed to just operating multi channels) that sees retailers delivering a seamless customer experience, regardless of which touchpoints they use. Unified commerce demands the fully integration and alignment of processes, systems and applications across both the back office and customer-facing channels.

Theory v reality

While the theory behind this makes absolute sense, the practical reality is that few retailers are truly achieving omnichannel status. The target is to enable a single enterprise-wide customer view, supported by the alignment of product data, pricing, promotion, procurement and inventory management. So why isn’t this happening?

An obvious reason is the siloed approach many retailers take to their operations. With each customer touchpoint (online, in-store, mobile, B2B sales, customer services, etc.) operated as a standalone entity, it is impossible to achieve a consistent customer experience across them. Even the way retail employees are managed in these siloes is a barrier to omnichannel success. As I point out in my paper, to be truly omnichannel, it’s important that all areas of the business are governed by consistent processes, incentives, measurements and ways of working. This means that decisions on remuneration and incentive schemes should be made at the very highest level of the business.

Technology too

The above is very much about a cultural shift, but technology too is an enabler of unified commerce. To deliver repeatedly and reliably at pace, retailers need to invest in cloud-ready infrastructure and they must automate at every opportunity – infrastructure and environment provisioning, application code build, deployment and promotion of application code and, of course, testing.

While cloud-native retailers are set up for this, the same isn’t true of traditional retailers. They are faced with the challenge of marrying legacy with new disruptive platforms and approaches in a genuinely omnichannel model. There are a number of ways to achieve this and, at Sopra Steria, we’re working with many organisations to help them modernise their IT so that they both unlock the value of current systems and keep pace with disruptive new entrants.

In the end, keeping your customers happy, not just during the sales season, but for the long term, begins with how you create and sustain a seamless customer journey. That’s everything customer facing and everything behind the scenes, such as logistics and fulfilment, as well as in the back office.

Download ‘Rethinking your retail business around the customer journey and experience’

For more information on Sopra Steria’s approach to applications modernisation and unified commerce, contact me on Gary.Ellwood@soprasteria.com

Sopra Steria Launch Smart i3

This week Sopra Steria launched a new open source intelligence gathering platform, Smart i3, at the Internet Intelligence and Investigations Conference held by the National Police Chiefs Council. As platinum sponsors of the event, which brings together around 350 law enforcement and Government officials, the team hosted a workshop, delivered a key note speech and conducted live demonstrations on the exhibition stand.

Introducing Smart i3

Conducting online investigations in a fast-paced and ever-evolving digital landscape can be complex and time intensive. Smart i3 is a powerful and disruptive tool with the ability to fuse disparate data sets and present connections in a meaningful way to investigators. The platform’s advanced algorithms sift through vast amounts of open-source data in minutes, reducing the time-to-intelligence from hours to minutes. Securely hosted in the UK, this open-source tool minimises manual search activity and speeds up evidence-case creation, supporting intelligence-led searches across the range of authorised investigation levels.

Sopra Steria has a proud history as a service provider to police forces and law enforcement agencies, as well as wider criminal justice organisations. Smart i3 is a demonstration of its commitment to investing in technology and services that will transform our public sector.

Vern Davis, Managing Director of the Sopra Steria’s Aerospace, Defence and Security sector commented:

“Sopra Steria is a specialist in technology and digital transformation and is proud to be recognised as a strategic partner to Government and across the Public Sector. Transforming the way public services are delivered for the benefit of society is a vision in which we believe in. Bringing to market new and innovative technologies, such as Smart i3, is a demonstration of that commitment.”

Shona Wright, Head of ADS Marketing said:

“The Internet Intelligence and Investigations Conference was the ideal place for us to formally launch Smart i3 and we thank the National Police Chiefs’ Council for inviting industry to take part in this flagship event.”

To find out more and request a demo, please visit www.soprasteria.co.uk/smart-i3

Financial Inclusion, Digital Inclusion and Tech Displacement

In 1999 I worked at a major High Street Bank with the teams who developed Mobile Banking Via SMS  Who would have thought that as a consequence to us thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to get you balance on your mobile phone’ that it would contribute to the decline of the High Street? From getting your balance by text on a Nokia 3310, fast forward 20 years to the Banks opening up more and more services to their customers via the Smart Phone Apps that we all use on a daily basis. This combined with Telephone Banking has led to reduced branch usage and therefore Branch closure. At the end of 2017 in the UK there are about 9500 bank branches a reduction of about 600 on 2016 with about 500 to close in 2019.

Branch closure then has a knock on affect to Small Businesses. A small Business can not afford to close their doors for an hour round trip to their nearest branch. Which means that Businesses may choose another location. In a report for Scottish Government , by mapping bank branch closures against postcode lending data, it found that bank lending to small firms fell by 63 per cent on average in postcodes that lose a bank branch. This figure grows to 104 per cent for postcodes that lose the last bank in town. “On average, postcodes that lose their last bank in town receive almost £1.6 million less lending over the course of a year,” the report concluded.

Where Banks have left the High Street, Communities feel Financially Isolated, It causes major concern for Small Business and people who are Digitally Excluded i.e. those with Little to No Access to Technology and therefore have to travel to a Bank. Within affected communities there is strong feeling that banking should be viewed as a basic part of the local infrastructure and therefore should be available as standard provision.

Add to the Banks shutting down

  • 75% of rural and 10 % of urban areas do not have satisfactory broadband
  • 9 million adults in the UK have never used the internet
  • 1 million adults living in social housing that are offline
  • 27% of disabled adults (3.3 million) had never used the internet

Offline households are missing out on estimated savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.

Cash: is still the second most popular payment method,(just behind debit cards) accounting for 34% of all payments last year. Around 2.2 million customers mainly used cash for their day-to-day shopping in 2017, although nine out of 10 of them had a debit card they could use, but cash is still an important part of their daily spend preferred by many.

Combine Branch Closure with Cash machines disappearing at a rate of 300 a month, with rural areas hardest hit. As Link ATM Network has lowered the fees it charges to Banks and Building Societies. experts are warning that it could mean closures of free-to-use ATM machines across Britain if they become unprofitable to run, leaving access to cash for millions of people in doubt.  There are 957 areas in the UK with at least 500k customer dependant upon benefits whose cash machine is more than 1km away. The Customers who use “pay for” Cash Machines, regularly incur charges of between £3.70 and £9.25 a week.

Potential closures of Bank Branches and Free Cash Machines risk leaving whole communities without access to cash, harming over two million people who are dependent on cash for their day-to-day shopping.

The Financial Services gap is widening between the Technical Haves and Have Nots – Digital Exclusion. In addition to High Street Closures, the latest Regulations of PSD2 (Payment Services Directive 2) leading to Open Banking in the UK,  allows regulated 3rd parties to access your Bank Account data to deliver a regulated service if you have provided consent to do so. The services currently being provided using Open Banking protocols are for example Comparison Engines, Personal Financial Management apps which can determine trends in your spending habits, or Apps to identify personalised offers. These latest Apps and Services are obviously not available to those who don’t have access to Tech.

As a society we need a way to ensure that advances in Technology and changes to the High Street, do not exclude people from the latest innovation in Financial services.  How do we as an industry ensure the poorest in our society, those that don’t have tech or can’t afford tech, can access the range of comparison engines to get cheaper deals, can take advantage of Digital Payment options to gain discount, and find the best deals, that are readily available to the rest of us? Do the Tech and Financial world have an obligation to provide the tools to ensure accessibility for all and if so how do we work together to ensure Financial Inclusion?

As a footnote, I’m currently Working with a Consultation group in Manchester to define Tech Displacement and how you assess the disruption of your Innovation on People and Places and we are looking to develop  a toolset to evaluate. We are at the start of the this consultation period, so please follow me on Twitter to find out how we progress or maybe to trial our toolset for us. @NJMarham


 

References:

https://www.cdrc.ac.uk/case-study/measuring-the-impact-of-online-shopping-on-high-streets-across-england

http://www.parliament.scot/S5_EconomyJobsFairWork/Inquiries/BC025-SFE.pdf

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/108241.aspx

Sopra Steria gets involved in National Get Online Week

Sopra Steria employee volunteers have been at libraries in the London Borough of Harrow this week to help library users learn how to use the internet and technology in their everyday lives, all in support of National Get Online Week, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of and take practical action on digital exclusion.

These gadget surgeries run by Sopra Steria volunteers will help users learn new tricks and get the most from their laptops, mobiles phones or tablets. Get help with internet searches, social media, apps, email, organising photos, online shopping, video calling, booking GP appointments and applying for jobs.

Today 4.3 million Britons still do not have basic digital skills, and 11.3 million only have basic abilities, according to the Good Things Foundation, the organisation behind Get Online Week.

Sopra Steria is committed to digital inclusion so that people of all backgrounds, no matter where they are in the UK, regardless of socio-economic status or age, have the skills, confidence and access to technology they need to make the most of all the digital world has to offer.

Scotsoft 2018. Smart people, community and trees

Last week I was proud to continue the tradition of Sopra Steria’s support of the Young Software Engineer of the year award, since its inception 20 years ago.  Once again the entrants were outstanding (though I confess the technicalities of some project went right over my head!).   Can Gafuroglu’s winning  project was entitled  ‘Joint prediction and Classification of Brain Image Evolution Trajectories from Baseline with Application to Early Dementia Diagnosis’.  Our industry is about solving problems and this project underlines the significance of what can be achieved by the smart use of technology by #smartpeople.

 

The buzz at the dinner was incredible and underlined the spirit of ScotlandIS – that of #community.   Our Sopra Steria table was no exception, with a mix of SMEs, customers and advisors. Plus Alison McLaughlin – now on secondment to Scottish Government Digital as part of the Digital Fellowship Programme.

And, #trees.  Lizzy Yarnold was an inspirational speaker on the evening and reminded us all of the importance of belief, ambition and team work.  She spoke about a book “The Inner Life of Trees”: What they feel, how they communicate.  A brilliant parallel to business life – the need for constant communication, mutual support and networking.

Well done to ScotlandIS.  The Scotsoft conference has once again reinforced our Smart Young People, Our Community and that we are a well-connected forest.


by Mags Moore, Head of Government for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Harrow’s Heroes – A look into a brilliant evening

A splendid evening with around 250 people in attendance enjoyed a night of celebration of the volunteering community in the borough of Harrow.  Ray Baker and myself were fortunate enough to share a table with the Leader of the council, Cllr Graham Henson and his wife, and fellow councillor Maxine Henson, amongst others.   Canapés and bubbly were shared beforehand with a  photo booth and a rousing introduction from the exuberant, The Worshipful The Mayor, Councillor Kareema Marikar.

Dinner was delicious range of Indian food and the compere moved things along briskly as the awards started being presented.  Each group of nominees were called forward and the winner was invited onto the stage to receive their award from the guest presenter for the category.  Runners up received a certificate extolling the virtues and winners a rather lovely glass trophy.

The Sopra Steria sponsored award was presented to the overall winners of all of the categories, i.e. the Volunteers of the Year.  I was honoured to be invited on to stage to present this to the Infant Feeding Volunteers Peer Supporters.

Overall it was a fantastic evening that really celebrated the true nature of volunteerism and I’m proud that Sopra Steria can support this great work being done and I look forward to our continued involvement going forward.

By Lee Westwood