Agilisys, IT and business software and services provider across local and central government, has developed a three-part series advising how the public sector might use digital to deliver transformation and meet the prioritised outcomes outlined in the recently launched spending review.
This, the second in the series of insights from the Agilisys Transformation team, will look to examine how digital can be a force multiplier and aid productivity across local communities.
Part 2: Productivity: Digital as a force multiplier
Leeanna Pitt, Senior Transformation Consultant at Agilisys
The word ‘productivity’ appeared 39 times in Osborne’s summer budget. It’s a fair focus, with public spending requiring a further 25-40% reduction but service demand increasing – the only answer to this seemingly impossible equation is to do far more with much less.
As the spending review outlines, the public sector must put in place measures “to increase productivity and efficiency to ensure that every extra pound is put to the very best use”.
The current revolution in digital technology means that this productivity drive can be enabled. Digital technology has the potential to combat economic challenges by acting as a ‘force multiplier’ to deliver effectiveness that is materially more beneficial than the required investment.
The scope for digital transformation is both broad and deep. Public services can utilise relatively low cost technologies to give an equal or better service to customers. From a futuristic front end of speech analytics on the phone, hologram receptionists directing customers around the civic centre, artificial intelligence products categorising and processing post and email, or front end web analytics directing customers around a site – public sector channel access can be digitised.
Digitisation goes deeper than just the front door as technology and API integration allows for more and more services to be automated from end to end. Portal products mean that service requests, assessments or processes have self-serve capability – a 24/7 operation can be delivered directly to customers’ living rooms on any of their devices, without any council staff intervening in the process. Services from eBilling and council tax, to housing registrars and visitor permits can be automated, increasing revenue, reducing costs and giving a flexible service to users. This automation delivers a radical change in operating models, which can drive savings as well as being customer centric.
For those customers on the wrong side of the digital divide, assisted digital tools such as web chat, kiosks using video chat, or services designed for ‘digital by proxy’ – users who have friends or family helping them – can enable further digital inclusion. Insight can identify the right assisted digital tools for the right customer, based on real time online behaviour patterns. This prevents ‘pop up fatigue’ and ensures supporting services are targeted only at those who need them.
Digital inequalities reflect and reinforce lines of social inequality. By investing in digital inclusion, the public sector can support better economic, health and social outcomes for these groups and a more equitable society. The GDS have developed a universal digital outcomes framework to promote and embed digital outcomes in public sector projects. Not only does assisted digital support the core digital outcome (increasing access, skills and confidence), the digital channel can be utilised to promote all outcomes across the outcomes framework.
For example, leverage the high traffic to a council job page by connecting people actively seeking work not just with council jobs but adult skills and jobs in other public services or across a locality. Connect to school leavers through the digital channel of their school e-learning environment or via social media to promote apprenticeships or enterprise initiatives; this will support citizens in a key life phase which will determine their future employability, and therefore the economic stability of an area. Promote public health outcomes by signposting users to local outdoor, leisure facilities or stop smoking service in a citizen’s local area through geo-locating their digital access. In this way, digital becomes not just an internal force multiplier for the public sector, but a multiplier of the support given to citizens to enable independence and wellbeing. This increases the productivity of the digital channel in an inordinate way.
Even complex case work can go digital. Adult and children’s social care assessment and care planning functionality can be moved online, combatting the ‘falling off a cliff’ impact of social care finance on authority budgets. Where Agilisys have deployed digital tools such as Quickheart to digitise the adult social care customer journey, public services have seen phenomenal business cases in both baseline savings and future cost avoidance. Digital care services can enhance further new developments in wearable tech. Tele health and tele care products can help intervene earlier, keep people in their homes for longer and deliver a more integrated service between health and social care. Everything from i-watches, smart homes and the internet of things can measure and alert the public sector to changes in blood pressure, whether someone has had a fall or if someone hasn’t eaten in a few days.
It’s not just user-facing services that benefit from digitisation – operations teams powered by data increase effectiveness enormously. Waste team vehicles fitted with GPS, combined with CCTV and geospatial mapping allow for more efficient routing and traffic avoidance, resulting in greater productivity. Smart cities can enable intelligent demand management such as public bins with sensors to alert teams when they’re full or intelligently managing parking demands. All clerical admin from invoice to FOI processing can be replaced with either software robots or artificial intelligence software – creating a larger, more robust and more accurate digital workforce.
However, this is not about just buying lots of new technology – the productivity puzzle goes deeper than public servants attending meetings with iPads. Process review is the first step to digitisation – to understand where the best return on investment would be in current and target processes for automation, self-service, targeted demand and market management.
Understanding which processes, tasks and operations can and should be digitised, is the key to delivering the vision of a ‘digital government’. Business process review and analysis is therefore key to enabling the digital ‘force multiplier’, meaning our public services can radically improve productivity.
Read the first in the series, Devolution: Place as a platform.
Working for both the public and private sector, Agilisys holds deep domain expertise delivering transformational services, in particular within local and central government, through a suite of citizen-centric technology products and centres of delivery excellence around the UK.
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