Does the UK public sector fear digital?
That seems to be at least one way to read recently published research carried out for vendor Mercato Solutions which found that 96% of 150 local government leaders admitted to fearing over a quarter of their processes were inefficient - yet a large majority felt there were still significant challenges around using digital approaches to drive down process costs and deliver more effective public services.
The study found barriers include high perceived cost and risk of digital innovation, a lack of internal digital capability and security concerns around outsourced solutions.
Respondents cited lack of resource (77%), high cost (74%), long timeframes (85%) and unacceptable risk (89%) as the main blockages holding back innovation as many digital approaches commonly require bespoke software development.
Former Director of eDelivery Unit at the Cabinet Office and senior ICT manager at DWP, Chris Haynes of Houghfold Associates, who has done some consulting work for the firm, noted that, “The downsides of failure in the public sector often seem to outweigh the rewards of potential success. Civil servants with ideas are seen as mavericks and rarely have the freedom to try them out due to perceived cost and risk. However, new software approaches enable users to rapidly prototype applications and experiment without writing code, so reducing fear of costly failure and potentially unlocking innovation.”
The research also found many respondents believe digital isn’t the first step in resolving inefficiency and innovation: the majority did not agree automation alone would realise collaboration (77%), save time (55%) or money (66%).
“Driving efficient and productive working isn’t simply about automation, this is a waste of investment if the processes themselves are poor. Equally, the IT industry’s skills shortage is challenging government needs to build in-house digital capability," said Peter Robbins, Managing Director of Mercato Solutions.
“Transformation needs to focus on the ability to re-engineer and optimise existing and new processes with greater speed and effectiveness as well as sharing applications for common problems.
"CIOs and innovation leaders are now looking to disruptive platform-based technologies that challenge the norm of rapid application development and deployment," he claimed.