What do future cuts mean for the government’s use of technology? (Guest Post)

Andrew Hawkins, public sector director at Eduserv, gives us his thoughts on how future public sector cuts outlined in the Chancellor’s economic plans will impact on digital transformation and services.

Cuts agenda will require IT-enabled change

For anyone interested in what the future shape of public services will look like, 25 November is a date to circle in the calendar. This is the day when the Chancellor will announce what he will do to achieve the £20bn savings he wants from central government by 2019-20.

There is no doubt that the proposed depth of cuts – between 25-40% for unprotected departments – will result in a fundamental change in the way government does business. So what can we expect over the next few years?

A faster pace of change

The first impact from the spending review will be to increase substantially the pace of change from what we have seen in the past five years. Although 2019 seems a long way out, by the time the 2015 Spending Review is delivered in November we will already be one year closer to the deadline for cost savings.

This is less the creation of a burning platform around government transformation and more putting fire to the toes of civil servants, government departments and ministers to the necessary change over the next two years.

Redefining government

The planned cuts mean a substantially reduced role for the state in delivering some services. This means government departments, arms-length bodies and other agencies will face a fundamental change to their business models.

Whether this results in a move to commissioning services, privatising them or delivering them in partnership with third parties; technology will play a key role in making those business models work.

Planning and implementing the right IT-led change will be critical to successful collaboration, making organisations more agile and achieving efficiency.

Changing the way services are delivered

Savings for government won’t just come through cuts to services but by charging the public for more services as well. This is something which not only needs the investment in the technology and digital platforms for people to purchase and access services.

It also needs different processes to manage how transactions are managed – ensuring the security of data and public money is paramount.

Better at IT-enabled change

In the past five years the Cabinet Office has rightly identified a number of measures which it believes will help reshape the business of government: the use of cloud technology, customer-centric planning of services, agile working and, for the future, the idea of government as a platform.

These can and should play a role in supporting the changes ahead but, as our research over the last year has shown, a lack of adequate IT skills and knowledge in senior teams responsible for delivering change will continue to create a gap between the government’s ambitions for change and what can be successfully delivered unless it is addressed as a priority going forward.

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