The pervasiveness of technology in our everyday lives is increasing our appetite for public services delivered on our terms – available 24/7 via a single point of contact, primed with re-used data and meeting our needs at first touch point. But services are designed around the silo processes of government. Too often, the public are forced to ‘join the dots’ to get what they need from central and local government organisations.
The last four years saw a valiant effort from the Government Digital Service to reimage the front-end of high volume transactional systems. Many digital services are now faster, simpler and more convenient. We have first-hand experience of delivering these benefits. As Student Loans Company’s digital delivery partner, we helped treble user satisfaction through the agile development of a new customer loan portal.
Scaling digital: moving beyond the benefits of the front end
We are told that the next stage of efficiency and reform is moving from putting services online to ‘Government as a Platform’ and ‘Common Technology Services’ models, exemplified by the GOV.UK Verify programme, which provides identity assurance for online services. Whilst this will help further the creation and uptake of digital services, it still seems primarily focused on a harmonised interface to the public.
The next objective of public service reform is to scale digital, extending it beyond customer-facing services. As one civil servant explained in our 2016 Government Digital Trends Survey, “true digital transformation is complete business transformation to enable government to do business in a digital world – not just services to citizens.”
Digital technologies will remain the tools of this transformation, increasingly enhancing operations through automation and customer experience from data-generated insights. I am particularly excited about the opportunities that ‘big data’ present for customer segmentation, to customise services, enable experimentation and discover needs.
Why do we need to scale digital?
Rolling out more coherently structured and actively managed services is why we need to scale digital across government. New exemplars are needed that link processes in and across organisations. With the appropriate consent, information must be shared early and updated in real time for operational and strategic purposes.
Government, like the private sector, must pay close attention to customer interactions and exploit the huge potential for savings and quality improvements that modern digital processes enable. Well-informed customers are often the first to identify new needs or approaches to improve their satisfaction.
Bridging the digital skills gap
The paradox of this transformation is that it requires exceptional support and commitment from civil servants, while their numbers are being reduced. Half of the civil servants that responded to our recent Government Digital Trends Survey identified a lack of resources as a barrier to digital transformation (6% more than last year). 53% identified a lack of training as a blockage – up 10% from last year.
Keeping up to date with rapidly evolving skills and training needs and matching these to future demand is a challenge faced by all organisations, including Sopra Steria. Our digital consultants recently took a user-centric design approach to develop a new skills assessment and anticipation tool – MySkills. Within a month of the Beta, we had captured a better view of over 1,900 skills from 600 people. We quickly rolled it out, and are now reaping the benefits of being able to meet our demand for appropriately skilled people in a more efficient way.
The success of MySkills and the concerns raised in the survey around a growing skills barrier have convinced me that to take digital to the next level, government needs to be sure it has a stronger understanding of the digital skills across its own workforce – enabling it to work collaboratively with industry and create a sustainable way to address the growing gaps.
Anything less puts further risk on the digital transformation agenda.
Read the summary findings from the Sopra Steria 2016 Government Digital Trends Survey – bit.ly/29iwy6N