The world is still flat: how economic change is straining our ability to remake public services

I want to talk to you about what is arguably the greatest domestic policy challenge facing governments over the next decade.

How to create the conditions for a sustained transformation in our public services in a way consistent with the fundamental values that underpinned their creation.

In this first in a series of blogs, I want to anchor the debate about public service reform in the context of a number of global pressures affecting governments.

Every government is challenged by a similar set of pressures. The most significant of these is when a combination of rapid technological change leads to profound transformation of the economy. This has significantly increased prosperity. But governments are struggling to maintain a consensus of support, particularly as communities experience periods of insecurity and upheaval when technology is introduced.

The change unleashed is provoking tough and searching questions for governments of all political persuasions.

How do we reconcile rising flows of goods, services, capital and labour mobility with the need to create and sustain socially cohesive communities?

At the same time the capacity and capability of health, education, social care, housing and other public services to respond to change is curtailed by continuing austerity. And our ability to build cohesive communities is even more difficult when the very mechanism for reconciling competing tensions within communities – the institution of government and the process of democracy – has never been more questioned.

People’s sense of ‘connectedness’ with government and the political process looks increasingly weak and shattered.

Next week, I’ll post about how business has responded to the challenge of technological change. The most successful businesses are agile – attempting to reinvent their their business model to meet rapidly evolving customer needs.

Meanwhile if you enjoyed this you might also enjoy my summary of our government digital trends survey. We asked civil servants how their work is influenced by new digital ways of working and the benefits for the public

2020: The family digital Christmas?

It’s the year 2020.  Digital technology is all around us. So what might Christmas Day be like? Here are some ideas…

Forget Dad getting into a sweat early Christmas morning because he hasn’t defrosted the turkey yet…in 2020 internet of things (IoT) smart sensors in the family kitchen refrigerator have been monitoring the thaw of the big bird for the last couple of days and adjusting the fridge’s internal temperature accordingly to ensure its ready on time. Other smart sensors have also got the oven warmed up perfectly for Dad’s culinary magnum opus.

It’s barely dawn and the little ones are wide awake eager to open their presents. Mum and Dad are barely conscious but have managed to roll themselves downstairs to be with the kids round the Christmas tree…a magic moment through bleary adult eyes. But in 2020 using miniature action cameras embedded on the Christmas tree every emotional, tearful moment of joy on their faces is captured and saved on the family’s private cloud. Mum and Dad will be able to cherish forever the look on young Sam’s face when she finally got the bicycle she wanted all year.

Mid-morning and the Christmas cards on the mantelpiece are dynamically updating with pictures and videos of family and friends celebrating from across the world.  That’s because in 2020 people send paper-thin OLED Christmas cards that are linked directly to their social media feeds – it looks like Aunt Liz and Uncle Ted haven’t stopping partying for twenty-four hours on their Caribbean cruise!

Christmas dinner is fast approaching and Gran’s thousand piece jigsaw puzzle of Buckingham Palace is missing the vital middle bit with the flag on!  Little Tim is not happy either; he’s only had Gigantic Bot for six hours and he’s already lost its Laser Sword accessory in the black hole known as the back of the living room sofa. So it’s a good job in 2020 there are delivery drones in the local area available immediately to pick up and replace faulty or missing Christmas gifts. There will be no tears of frustration on this festive day.

So Dad’s dinner went down a treat and all the family are dozing on the couch. Mum in particular feels relaxed – she hasn’t done anything today and it’s been great! In 2020, even the music and lighting of the living room is taken care of by the house AI – its smart sensors detect the slowing pace of the family in the afternoon so it moves from playing bouncy festive jingles in brightness to soothing Christmas lullabies with a cosy ambient glow from the fireplace. Mum drifts off to sleep with a smile on her face.

Christmas in 2020 sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Season’s greetings!

If you would like more information about how digital transformation can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

2020: The Digital Employee Experience

As organisations adopt new ways of working and technology to increase their competitiveness, the employee experience – the interaction between an organisation and its people – is radically changing. So what might the employee experience be like in 2020? Here are some ideas…

Agile loyalty: The ability of an organisation to respond effectively to rapidly changing market conditions is a key source of advantage in today’s global economy. For example the sharing platforms created by digital disruptors like Airbnb or Uber have helped lower supplier costs and increased customer choice.

Arguably this sharing platform capability could be developed further to create other forms of competitive advantage such as enabling collaborative or even competing organisations to share their human resources on-demand. In 2020 an employee may be expected and supported by their parent organisation to work in different areas of the same sector as a form of short-term resource exchange that delivers mutual benefit for all participating organisations.

Traditional and digital integration: In B2C markets today there is a strong focus on integrating the traditional and digital experience of a brand to create seamless, insightful customer offerings anywhere, anytime. The adoption of Bluetooth beacons in stores to personalise the physical shopping experience as a complement to digital channels is an example of this omnichannel approach.

For such integration to be commercially successful the employee experience needs to blend offline and online work tools together effectively. The use of smart devices like tablets by shop floor employees to access stock information instantly to support the sales process demonstrates the positive impact of such change. Yet as digital technologies mature, such integration is likely to accelerate further – for example van manufacturers are now prototyping drone-equipped delivery vehicles. In 2020, an employee may need to have the skills to work successfully with a range of old and new technologies integrated together for customer benefit.  

The trust economy: The digital employee experience is fundamentally changing the intrinsic relationship – the bond or trust – between an organisation and its employees. Driven by disruptive factors such as the globalisation of the labour market and proliferation of social media, the need to have aligned cultural values between these stakeholders is critical to realising the advantages of employee self empowerment and agility.  

Today, many organisations are making the public move from a corporate social responsibility approach to the combined goals of social, environment and economic sustainability – a shared set of values with their employees. In 2020, such trust may be essential to the employee experience with an organisation communicating daily updates to its people about its performance against its sustainability goals to help intrinsically motivate their performance.

If you would like more information about how digital employee experience design can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Convenience, Integration, Context: the retail store experience 2020?

As retailers exploit the opportunities offered by digital technology and ways of working to innovate their in-store customer experience; what might this look and feel like in 2020? Here are some ideas…

Convenience: The way customers physically purchase products will be as seamless as any digital channel experience and critically will encourage them not to use their smartphone (a distraction from the real world in-store environment that also brings competitors’ offerings within easy reach). In 2020, a customer can simply touch a button on the product itself or its point of sale display to purchase it instantly – like a biometric version of Amazon’s Dash Button technology that carries out the transaction authorised by the customer’s fingerprint. This simple, convenient process also means a customer doesn’t have the hassle of queuing up at a till – freeing up their time to explore the physical retail space further.

Integration:  Delivery of purchased in-store products will rival any experience an online retailer can offer. Content such as films, music, books are downloaded immediately to the customer’s device of choice. Large and small physical goods can be dispatched from a warehouse and delivered direct to a customer’s home the same day (a service available today that is rapidly growing in scale led by retailers such as Argos). And because items can be sourced direct from distribution; the Retailer can lever greater supply chain efficiencies (such as reduced in-store inventory costs) to drive competitive, dynamic pricing to continually challenge competitors.

High Street retailers are already using cloud-driven big data analytics to accelerate and rationalise their own supply chain operations (for example, Zara levers such capabilities to achieve product lead times as short as two weeks from catwalk design to store). Further application of this “tech company” approach to achieve deeper supply chain and channel management integration could enable a fully converged physical and digital retail experience in 2020 that constantly exceeds customer expectations.

Context: Relevance with be a key way the in-store experience differentiates itself from digital-only channels in 2020. Whereas online personalisation arguably means funnelling a customer to a specific area of interest, a High Street retailer can also use other dynamic data and insights to enrich and contextualise this experience to create unique moments of delight only possible in the physical store environment.

By a customer choosing to share data (such as transmitting their location via their mobile’s Bluetooth capability to in-store beacons), the retailer can identify what product ranges he or she is browsing to trigger nearby interactive display screens that present more in-depth information about those items, share social media content such as user reviews or allocate a sales person to provide advice. Because the customer is in the physical retail space they are in complete control of their personalised shopping experience – moving to areas of interest based on their emotional reaction to the world around them without the limitations or constraints of a smartphone user interface. Nike’s emerging Fuel Station interactive store concept, where customers can choose to engage in different contextual situations (such as having their running style analysed when using an in-store treadmill to identify the right running shoes to enhance their performance) is one example of the potential power of in-store contextualisation that can’t be replicated digitally.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

The Government workforce of the future

Government needs talented and high performing civil servants. Yet we know that the civil service has longstanding weaknesses in key areas such as finance, commercial and digital – a key finding of our recent Government Digital Trends Survey. And recruitment and retention is challenging when cuts are made to operational costs, wage rises are frozen and posts are cut.

The recently published Civil Service Workforce Plan makes the case for developing professional skills and expertise in government. There is a commitment to open up the civil service, allowing more external recruitment and opportunities for secondments in other sectors. And the benefits of diversity, reducing the dominance of people from a narrow range of socio-economic backgrounds, is also recognised.

The civil service will need to rapidly put these plans into action, especially as it expands its professional skills and expertise to deliver digital projects at scale across Whitehall and the wider public sector.

The civil service needs the right number of people with the right skills in the right place at the right time to deliver short and long-term departmental objectives. What might be the building blocks for this?

First, workforce planning requires alignment of departmental goals and objectives and the human resources available. The workforce implications of any programme need to be considered and planned for from the outset, both in terms of any anticipated staff needs or redeployment and in terms of managing the change so as to minimise disruption and protect capacity and continuity of service.

Second, skills and competencies gaps need to be identified. This means determining the current resources and how they will evolve over time through, for example, turnover. Then comparing this with the kind, number and location of staff needed to meet the strategic objectives of the department. This assessment will determine the existing gaps in terms of numbers and competencies between the current and projected workforce needs.

Third, defining an action plan to address the most critical gaps facing departments so that human resources can support departmental strategies. The more effort expanded in stakeholder engagement during the action planning stage, including consultation with industry, the greater the likelihood of a more coordinated approach to implementation. Depending on the gaps, the action plan may address recruitment, selection, compensation, training/retraining, restructuring, outsourcing, performance management, succession planning, diversity, quality of life, retention, technological enhancements, etc.

Finally, it is also critical – particularly in fast moving sectors like technology and digital – to secure an effective workforce now and in the future. This means identifying emerging skills that can support a high performing civil service, including leveraging technology better.

Are you a civil servant involved in securing an effective workforce now and in the future? Do you think the Civil Service Workforce Plan will lead to a more sophisticated process for workforce planning? Or are you an organisation in the private sector or civil society with an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining staff? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below, or contact me by email.

Four forces disrupting retail today and ways to respond

Incumbents and new players alike are exploiting digital ways of working and technology to create new forms of competitive advantage. Here are some examples impacting retailers today…

  1. CX shifters positively change customer behaviour to drive wider engagement and sales – often through encouraging new forms of brand advocacy and self service that increase wider demand while lowering lower costs. Domino’s Australia applied this form of social commerce innovation to successfully create its Pizza Mogul campaign; where customers designed their own pizzas, self promoted their creations on social media and then shared in a percentage of any revenues generated from Domino’s selling them. An estimated 15% plus revenue growth for Domino’s Australia was attributed to this initiative by the end of last year.One approach for retailers with limited experience of such disruptive customer experience design is to engage tech start-ups to jointly create new forms of market engagement unique to its brand (with John Lewis’ JLAB initiative being one such example). Such an approach can accelerate the “ideation process” although scaling these opportunities to the level or volume required for market use can be challenging given start-ups may lack the experience or capabilities for such rapid industrialisation.
  2. Agile SCM operators combine big data and analytics with traditional just-in-time production and distribution methods to optimise their supply chains. Zara’s “rapid fashion, minimal inventory” approach levers such capabilities to control and drive synergies across its own supply chain that often results in lead times as little as two weeks from catwalk design to production to distribution of a garment to its physical and online retail stores. This disruptive approach has helped Zara become one of the world’s leading fashion retailers with a presence in over 80 countries.One competitive response to challenge Zara is to adopt “fully linked collaboration” supply chain management; where retailers and suppliers use cloud platform technology to openly share data and other capabilities to deliver goods and services together. However to be successful this may require radical new ways of working such as co-opetition between competitors for their shared mutual benefit.
  3. Instant branders use their high recognition, flexible brands to drive successful market penetration of their diversified products or services as sources of rapid growth. One such example is Amazon Web Services that not only powers Amazon’s retail business; it has also fast become the dominant provider for B2C cloud infrastructure services with a 25% worldwide market share reportedly gained over the last five years.Responding to these challengers can mean an organisation completely redefining itself as a “tech company” where its operating model is primarily focused on using technology driven innovation to differentiate and cost optimise its products or services.  Such an approach is core to the success of “Digital Disruptors” such as Uber and Airbnb where they established their own global enterprise platform brands to penetrate B2C markets in different geographies simultaneously. However, these new entrants did not need to transform their existing technology, processes or culture first to be successful unlike existing market players.
  4. Price racers lever their bulk buying power and other supply chain economies of scale to lower prices for targeted quality products to challenge established competitors. The discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl have applied this model to grow faster than the “big four” UK supermarkets including opening more new stores than these established players combined during the last year.One way to challenge these discounters is to offer competitive prices with greater convenience – same day grocer delivery at home (a model currently being piloted in the UK market by AmazonFresh).  However, effectively delivering this complex supply chain and distribution of potentially hundreds of product lines from multiple suppliers is challenging; it took Ocado over a decade to turn a profit using a similar model. In addition, successfully replicating an individual customer’s preferences for picking fresh goods in-store arguably requires more sophisticated personalised experiences using emerging digital technologies such as big data analytics or even virtual reality.

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

If you would like more information about how Digital Transformation can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Agile transformation, its unanticipated impact on management and how to understand it

Many organisations are still developing software using lists of requirements with teams working in silos, and only producing occasional releases. However there is a better way simply called ‘Agile’, this is not a prescriptive approach and is certainly not just for developers.

Agile can significantly improve delivery of business value however it’s defined in your situation. And Agile is certainly a prerequisite of any digital transformation.

Adoption of Agile is now mainstream superseding traditional methods, however poor implementations of Agile due to a lack of understanding are very common. One particular aspect that is often misunderstood is the impact that Agile has on the organisation as a whole. Unfortunately Agile is often viewed as just another development method, however the transformation only really succeeds if management is transformed too: ‘Agile management’. Indeed this may be where the greatest value is added.

  • Higher management is aware that it needs to be Agile in order to be more responsive to customers and other stakeholders. They also want improved productivity and reliability
  • Developers understand that it’s more effective to develop quality software than spend time maintaining that resulting from poor quality. And working together rather than waiting for hand-overs from colleagues in other silos

It’s those in the middle who are responsible for managing development who need to be engaged. Not merely with Powerpoint presentations, and possibly Agile games, to explain how the developers will be working in future, but as a valuable part of the transformation otherwise the major benefits of the Agile transformation will be lost. They need to work differently in order to move from the ‘Iron triangle’ of cost, time & scope and upfront long term planning and budgeting to smaller batches, variable scope and frequent re-planning. Agile Portfolio management can add significant value to the business by becoming far more dynamic.

A new way of thinking is required that is appropriate to the complex world of software rather than the (merely) complicated world of construction and manufacturing. Unfortunately it has taken many years for this understanding to be accepted in the IT world. The traditional controls may seem obvious however in a complex situation they can often have the opposite effect to that intended. This  transformation may well entail roles being changed to match the future needs, not just for the development team but management too.

The introduction of Agile puts a floodlight on current practices revealing concerns that would otherwise only manifest themselves much later and at much greater cost. This will prove to be frustrating but these concerns plus the opportunities and the discontinuities between traditional management and newly Agile developers need to be accepted and dealt with as early as possible in order to reduce risks and unnecessary expenditure.

Therefore a culture change is required with teams looking at options to find the best ways forward. And, as each organisation is unique, metrics specific to the organisation are required. This will enable progress to be measured and the way forward to be validated regularly.

To summarise Agile is the most appropriate way to handle most software situations, culture change needs to be a significant part of the Agile transformation and it requires a methodical but flexible customised approach. The change to Agile is not a one-off change but a journey to where the customer will be.

Were you aware of the impact that an Agile transformation has on management? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.