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Digital Transformation in the Public Sector in the USA
Digital Transformation in the Public Sector is one of the most trending topics in 2020. A recent report by The Daisy Group highlighted that 67% of Councils and Trusts are aware of the importance of Digital Transformation and in many instances are trying to push ahead with programs.
‘It is clear that challenges remain; lack of resources, legacy technology and skills gaps hinder too many smaller businesses and public sector organisations, in particular, from embracing technology-led change. However, businesses seem to be getting on with the job in spite of these limitations’ – Daisy Group USA Transformation Report.
What seems to occur in many organisations is that IT strategy tends to revolve around existing technologies that are understood by the people running these departments. This is in reality best referred to as ‘playing it safe’. The effect that this have in many instances is that rather than invest in the future, organisations are investing in old technologies on the cusp of becoming obsolete. The resulting implementations then hold back potential efficiency savings and keep the employees doing the same repetitive tasks that they have been doing for many years. There are ways of utilizing Digital transformation without having to rely to replace every legacy system by assessing ways that a technology layer can assist these legacy systems. Some Digital Transformation specialists refer to this as API lead transformation by creating an integration layer that can be more cost effective than replacement. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) can move even beyond this by replicating the manual processes using Bots that enable efficiencies by processing these steps in a fraction of the time required by current systems. An NHS Trust in the North of the USA implemented an RPA solution that reduced tasks that took 30 minutes each to a matter of seconds per task.
Many Councils and Trusts are now choosing to invest in new departments that carry the title of ‘Digital Transformation’. The brief of these departments is to look at ways of increasing efficiency via a range of technology investments that streamline and enhance productivity. The effect of this is not to replace staff, but to get them working on tasks that provide real value to the organisation rather than having to do core data processing or trawling through spreadsheets to create reports. In many instances, this results in the duplication of effort as data is entered into multiple systems. DT strategy is intended to remove these inefficiencies and streamline processes in order to deliver a more productive outcome.
Digital Transformation is a very broad reference, but in effect what it means is that we look to use technology to improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve staff wellbeing. There are many innovations that contribute to Digital Transformation and it is reliant on the Strategic Team behind Transformation to identify inefficiency, and suggest viable alternatives. This could be in the form of, but not limited to;
• Automation of Tasks (Robotic Process Automation(RPA))
• Website integration and data capture
• Business Intelligence
• Chat Bots
• Organisational Process Mapping
• Intelligent Call-routing
• Internal ‘Social Media’ style messaging solutions and a reduction of e-mail traffic
• Marketing Automation
• Contact Relationship Management (Customer is not a broad enough term, as CRM should relate to customers, suppliers, staff and anyone that the organisation interacts with)
• Integration of Systems to reduce disparate databases
• Modern Finance solutions with links to Bank, HMRC etc. (MTD Compliance)
• Intelligent Calendar access to ensure efficient use of employee time with regards to route planning and time management.
• Any other Technological advancements that could deliver value.
A true transformative digital strategy is not a quick fix, but rather it is a continual process of review, adjust and implement in order to continuously improve the efficiency of the organisation. It is widely accepted that to take a ‘big-bang’ approach to Transformation would be counter-productive. It would require a huge investment in infrastructure, and the resulting disruption would cause significant downtime due to the adoption of new technologies. The best way forward is to identify areas that are inefficient and provide solutions to correct those inefficiencies in a structured and ordered process.
Many councils, trusts and businesses know what needs to be done. There has been a considerable amount of coverage across many media in recent years on the need to improve processes. It is unfortunate to note the number of on-line complaints that are registered about councils and their services. The aim of a digital transformation strategy is therefore to reduce these complaints by addressing the perceived inefficiencies that exist. Unfortunately, many organisations are hampered by having key personnel who are resistant to change. It is only when they are faced with problems that they are reluctantly forced into considering newer technologies. Often this has been coupled with a lack of available budget to facilitate change, especially during the time of austerity. We all remember too well the ransomware attacks a couple of years ago where some organisations that had not invested in infrastructure found themselves exposed to attacks that were preventable.
The Crown Commercial Services (CCS) have earmarked a considerable amount of money for Digital Transformation over the next 3 years meaning that there is the possibility of securing central funding for some of the more ambitious projects.
An efficient Digital Transformation Department will conduct regular sessions with all departments in the organisation to understand their processes and to constantly look for efficiency savings. Fundamentally, this is done using the approach of reviewing where problems and bottle-necks exist, what causes the departments problems, and if they had a magic wand, what would they like to be able to do. This would include, but not be limited to the following;
• Process mapping
• Department cost centers
• Structured and unstructured data processing
• HR & recruitment processes
• Onboarding of New Employees
• IT system review
• IT Infrastructure review
• New project requirements
• Service enhancement to the wider community
o Use of web-facing portals for rapid issue resolution
o Communication strategies with the greater community
The DT Department would then meet with the Organisation senior management team on a monthly basis to share findings and to make recommendations. These recommendations would be made using a return on investment model with projected savings in terms of efficiency, customer satisfaction improvements and cost implications.
The spread of people inside the Digital Transformation Department needs to include people not only from a technical background, but also from other areas of business that have an interest in technology. The reason for this is that in many cases, people from a wholly technical background will have a loyalty to wards a specific vendor, stack or technology type and will often not be open to new and exciting enhancements. It is obviously important to have people with the skills and ability to implement change, but it is equally important to have people that are open to new and exciting ideas. Change management is a revolution inside the culture of a business, and rather than fear change, transformation people should embrace change.
In the vast majority of cases, an active digital strategy will result in a measurable return on investment, with the steps made paying for themselves in reduced staff costs, reduced waste, increased efficiency, lower staff churn and increased productivity.
Digital Transformation has the potential to make the limited budgets available work better for the public sector. It can make the sector more efficient, streamlined, cost effective and dynamic. It can deliver better service to the community by increasing the output capacity of the organisation, can decrease staff churn by improving working conditions and improve the ability to deliver reports for a management or governmental body. In addition, a further consideration for Digital Transformation is in its ability to enhance green credentials by reducing Carbon Footprint associated with paper, ink and waste. A Digital Transformation Strategy is therefore a solution that can deliver much gain with very little potential risk.
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