Paul Tomlinson, Managing Director at IEG4, explains how the public sector will build on its ability to be agile and responsive with digital solutions, breaking down silos, using data and building only on those platforms that enable flexibility
In the future, the citizen might see something like a digital ‘menu of post-its’. Each personalised to the citizen’s circumstances and, if applicable, related to an activity the council had just carried out regarding that citizen, e.g. billing/recovery. The citizen can then click on the ‘post-it’ and easily discover all they need to know.
The citizen would interact with this ‘menu of post-its’ on the device of their choice, using a UI that would change depending on whatever the best practice was for that device.
Councils would no longer pay lip-service to self-service. They would no longer surface legacy solutions directly in the hope that a citizen will work out her own answer – that will be a thing of the past.
In the future, more and more councils will control the content that is made visible to their citizens. Each council will have its own questions and answers. The council will control when things change – in order to reflect the different events that happen at different times of the year, or exceptional situations. The council will add powerful, conditional logic to drive highly personalised answers to difficult questions. The information would be surfaced in a way that means citizens get their answers fast and without the need to swipe through too many ‘post-its’.
The data is there now. Councils know, from call centre statistics for example, the type of questions citizens ask of contact centre staff who deal with service calls. Councils also know how these questions dynamically change based on being asked at certain times of the financial year or certain times within a month.
In the future, suppliers, even the most ‘traditional’, will freely share APIs, the elements of software code that provide other groups or organisations with access to elements of a dataset. Most will see it’s the right thing to do to enable councils to be at their most effective, some may have to be ‘persuaded’ by governmental pressure. The APIs will facilitate data flows for a stronger integration of services and support the evolution of new solutions.
Local authorities will choose digital foundations that are future-proofed, able to integrate with new techs as strongly as with legacy systems. Councils and other service organisations will have the technology basis to reinvent their roles and focus on different outcomes for the public, with an emphasis on the roots of societal problems. This will require a culture of ongoing iteration that is ready to grasp the opportunities offered by changes in technology.
Organisation silos will finally be broken down, ensuring that executive teams work collaboratively and are willing to free up the data they hold for wider use. In some places, this will demand a radical cultural shift as might the development of a strong, in-house digital capability, providing an authority with the means to draw on the knowledge of its various service teams, innovate and develop solutions that really meet the needs of local communities.
Contrast this with now. Councils are still offering up digital versions of their back-office systems as lip service to the concept of channel shift. Citizens are still making those expensive calls to the council. Why? Because some questions have difficult answers that, in traditional self-serve solutions, require citizens, on the vague promise of a solution, to disappear down into any number of hard-to-follow rabbit-holes in order to work out an answer. And because citizens know a council employee can get to that answer faster than they ever would, they call, or, pay a visit.
Recent events have shown us the public sector’s potential to be agile and responsive with digital solutions that many, inside and outside of local government, didn’t realise it possessed. Now is the time to build on that realisation to enable the public services of the future described here.