Following the election, digital transformation is high on the political agenda for public sector organisations, particularly in support of the Government Digital Service initiative. In tandem with this, citizen demand for quicker access to information, particularly digital services, is increasing. Nearly 40 percent of people want the UK to speed up the digital progress and 54 percent would like to see the Government do more in this area.
The digital dream is already turning into reality in some areas of the public sector. If we look at the voting process, last year the Government had a million people register to vote and 80 percent of those did it digitally. In wider initiatives, six of the 25 high-volume transactions being re-developed as digital services are now available online, with more on the way soon. However, amidst these successes, our recent research found that 37 percent of councils offered less than a quarter of their services online. So, what are the challenges that lie ahead in creating and implementing successful digital initiatives?
Even with a newly elected party, the Government is still challenged to do more with less. The Local Government Association predicts that the amount of money available to deliver some of the most popular local services will shrink by 66 percent by the end of the decade. As a result, there will be less money available to plough into projects such as filling potholes, providing youth services and funding leisure facilities. Efficiency is the name of the game, with an expectation that services will continue but at a reduced cost.
Implementing new digital processes and services are often viewed as expensive, but the potential for long-term savings over resource, staff productivity and all important efficiency are huge. What’s needed is a clear strategy to ensure that the proposed digital services will be used by their customers and more support their needs and will also drive long term efficiencies and savings.
While small steps are being made, there is a bigger risk that looms on the horizon – the digital-only approach. It might seem obvious to point out, but not everyone uses the internet, smartphones or tablets. Despite the Digital Inclusion Task Force being launched to reduce the number of people who lack skills, resources, or motivation to engage with digital technology, there will always be people that simply want to pay their council tax over the phone or raise a social housing issue with someone in person. So, adopting a digital-only approach may exclude some people. Far better is a Digital First framework.
This framework should include a mix of digital self-service and assisted service which meets the expectations of customers that increasingly want a choice over how they make contact. Security also needs to be front of mind, as citizens’ personal information, including logins and bank account details for online services, will be retained. Organisations must ensure security is watertight, minimising the risk of fraud and data loss.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, is generating awareness around the usability and benefits of digital services to the public. Many organisations fail to do this. They’ll set up new services, sit back for a few months and then wonder why uptake is slow. Instead of falling at the first hurdle, widespread communication pre- and post- digital service launch should be carried out rather than going through the painful process of working out why a project has failed.
Offering services online is not only often convenient for citizens that are increasingly on the move and demand this kind of service, it helps reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. For example, offering bill or parking fine payments via a mobile app significantly reduces volumes of calls to the call centre, allowing agents to deal with more complicated issues that require their attention.
Implementing technology that gives citizens a choice over how to contact you and complete various processes (whether it’s a mobile app, email, text message or over the phone) and provides better workforce management internally (including improved work-load scheduling, adequate training and clear employee objectives) has an important role to play in achieving a smarter government.
It also gives new ways for public sector organisations to better understand citizens and their needs. With the right technology, they can analyse digital interactions and exchanges and data collected from customer feedback surveys, for example. This means they can tailor future services from insights gleaned to improve the customer experience.
Successful digital transformation requires technology and new processes that meet the needs of each government/authority, their employees and of course, their citizens. Action should be taken quickly to drive change now in order to meet not just today’s demands but those of the future.
By David Moody, VP & Global Practice Leader, Government and Public Sector, Verint