Public sector organisations at all levels are under a lot of pressure. The National Audit Office has warned that some, like local councils, are at a breaking point – a state of affairs which is set to have a huge impact on their ability to deliver essential services, including education and care for both adults and children.
It’s not hard to see why: The burdens placed upon these bodies change all the time, with more people needing assistance and a rising expectation for these services to be delivered around the clock. And councils need to meet this increasing demand with a decreasing budget.
Essentially, local government organisations need to provide better services at lower operational costs. Which, understandably, is not all that easy to do, especially since there are a lot of concerns to balance. These range from reducing the administrative burden on staff, improving the employee experience, upholding security, and even increasing collaboration between services like health and social care. Public sector organisations have to act quickly, but also intelligently, if they’re going to make the necessary improvements.
Why it’s time to become more intelligent – and how to do it
When it comes to meeting all of these demands, technology promises a solution. But knowing where to start can be overwhelming, especially since the change can’t simply come from trying to gently adapt existing platforms. Too many local bodies are held back by slow, inefficient, and clunky on-premise applications, which they’ve tried to add to in dribs and drabs. This “sticking plaster” approach won’t work – you can’t turn an old brick phone into a smartphone by adding bits of technology and hoping it’ll fix the problem. A more radical change is needed.
A better place to start is by considering what resources the public sector has at its fingertips. One obvious answer is large data sets – which is good news, because data is the key to leveraging emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Used effectively, these technologies can help public bodies become intelligent enterprises, automating processes, anticipating customer needs and even creating new models and applications. And all of this can be managed in an open cloud platform, in which organisations can build or extend applications to unlock the value of their data.
What’s holding local government back from change?
Few local government organisations are embracing the power of these technologies, which is curious given they could help councils offer better services at a reduced cost. Part of this stems from the “IT hangover” of legacy infrastructure. As has been widely reported, budgets are also tight – so the cost of moving away from old-fashioned, inefficient, and unwieldy on-premise solutions is creating a barrier to change. Complicating matters further, some public sector organisations are often change-wary. Many have security concerns about moving to the cloud, for example. Some are even resistant to the partner community, feeling it has failed to deliver in the past and is primarily concerned with generating more licenses and therefore income for itself.
But given most public sector organisations lack the critical DNA for innovation, working with partners is the only way forward. As for the budget objection, while change does require short-term investment, this can soon be outpaced by the savings resulting from more operationally efficient platforms and processes—especially when you consider that moving applications to the cloud will help organisations avoid the problems of legacy infrastructure in the future. Platforms built in the cloud can adapt rapidly to the demands placed upon them instead of rapidly becoming out of date.
Finding the blueprint for success
Some have already implemented this successfully in certain areas and can be looked to as case studies by other councils needing to justify the cost investment. Surrey County Council is a good example of this, having already reaped tangible benefits from its future-thinking approach.
Like many other councils, Surrey faces both unprecedented demand for its services and increasingly crunched budgets. It therefore used technology to deliver a mobile self-service HR solution to its staff, which in turn generated an 83% reduction in the amount of time employees spent on HR processes. As a result of this back-office process improvement, the Council’s 30,400 employees are able to spend more time serving the million people within their jurisdiction.
Surrey Council isn’t alone in this – public sector organisations in locations from the Italian Alps to Cape Town are using data-driven technology to optimise their services, improve their applications, and better serve their citizens.
The need to seek out solutions
These cities have tackled the burdens placed on them head-on, resulting in better outcomes for citizens and employees alike. Ultimately, this is the necessary attitude for every organisation to take, because the pressures placed on local government and the public sector as a whole aren’t likely to ease anytime soon.
As they tackle ongoing cuts and issues like caring for an aging population, local government needs to seek out the opportunity to streamline their processes and modernise their applications. The smartest way of doing this is by developing and building their new data-driven applications in the cloud, in order to achieve a degree of “future-proofing”. The gains to be had from doing so are significant – as are the problems created by failing to act.
Learn more about the Intelligent Enterprise and how it can benefit public sector organisations here.