Citizens have come to expect a certain level of digital interaction with all organisations, including public sector ones. From council tax payments to parking permits, refuse collection to street lighting, public sector organisations interact with the majority of the population in many different ways. As digital technologies continue to permeate our daily lives, the challenges and opportunities presented by such technologies are forcing local and national bodies to adapt to this trend towards digital transformation.
Today, housing providers and local councils are not only tasked with doing more with less money, they must also meet increasing digital demands from ‘tech-savvy’ tenants and citizens. Indeed, the era of digital transformation gives them the opportunity to use new technologies to move more services online, which will in turn help to deliver greater operating efficiencies while meeting the demands placed upon them.
Although there are inherent challenges in digital transformation, public sector organisations can begin to make lasting changes, but this doesn’t have to be a ‘big bang’ approach. This can be done in incremental steps within a larger digital transformation programme to gain support and buy-in from other stakeholders around the organisation.
For example, Worcestershire County Council together with OutSystems delivered its first live app within just eight weeks as part of a larger digital transformation initiative to take its services online, which the council estimates saved around £1.6 million in one year. The council hopes that by continuing its goal of getting 100 per cent of its services delivered online, the organisation can achieve genuine channel shift, thereby cutting its costs and making interaction easier for citizens.
What’s stifling digital transformation?
That said, there are many challenges that housing providers and local councils face when embarking on digital transformation, all of which start with internal approval and end with a long-term outlook. These challenges can include:
- Funding: Finding the necessary funding to start a new project is always difficult. That said, when budget allocations are spent on new, more efficient digital technologies, long-term costs are then reduced for manual processes. And while public sector budgets can be challenged by a myriad of political pressures, the opportunity to innovate is game changing if they can get the funding to work on new digital initiatives.
- Shorter timeframes: Public sector budgets are often tied with political cycles, which means that new projects must show results quickly. As mentioned earlier, we were able to deliver an app in eight weeks for Worcestershire County Council so if approached correctly, shorter timeframes needn’t be an insurmountable hurdle.
- System issues: Many public sector organisations have legacy systems that need replacing. This is directly related to the first two challenges. When a public sector organisation is preparing to replace a system, digital capabilities should be included in the system refresh.
The benefits of digital transformation
Although numerous challenges can make it difficult to start a digital transformation initiative, the opportunity for greater efficiencies and growth justifies the journey. Here are 10 benefits of digital transformation within the public sector:
- Better ability to meet customer expectations;
- Increased cross-collaboration between departments;
- Greater agility within IT to meet the business needs;
- Improved competitive positioning within the market;
- More innovation across the business;
- Faster strategic decision-making;
- Increased business growth;
- Faster time to productivity in core areas;
- Reduced costs of doing business;
- Reduced IT costs.
If public sector organisations can obtain the required internal support, as well as gain the much needed funding and showcase a positive RoI, then they will be able to readily make improvements that will yield short-term operating efficiencies and lay the groundwork for long-term success.
Achieving a few quick wins early on will help to gain the momentum that is needed for the long-term process of digitally transforming your organisation. This is exactly what Worcestershire County Council did and the benefits have literally transformed the way the council operates today.
Nick Pike is the regional vice-president for the UK & Northern Europe at OutSystems.