With digitisation of services becoming a priority for many local authorities, I often see them push ahead with a ‘transformation’ project in one shape or another. It could be digital (in fact, it almost always is), or perhaps focused more on people or services. Some observers prefer to call it ‘change’, or an ‘improvement programme’. Whichever way you word it, some version of this exists in almost every single department.
An entire industry of consultants has developed (or has always been around in some way) to help the public sector realise its transformative vision.
In many ways, this makes sense. Many business processes still resemble bureaucracy reminiscent of the 60s, which, at its heart, sees the process of a paper form travelling between officers for approval throughout many services. This happens instead of seeing the customer getting that service direct, with most of the data required for decisions already known to the authority, and additional questions only being asked if needed. This approach only requires small updates, and the service can improve over time.
Most council systems are built around the ‘case’ view, in which the resident is just one of the attributes in that case – frequently, not even the main one. This is typically an address or geo-location. Sometimes this is appropriate (when talking about trees, benches or roads), but most of the time a person or a business (which is a collection of persons) should be the focus of the service.
The public sector is under massive pressure, both financially and from citizens and businesses that expect faster, more efficient services, so it is not a surprise that many see transformation, as a way of achieving it. The online definition of ‘transformation’ sums this up well: “A transformation is a dramatic change in form or appearance. A transformation is an extreme, radical change.”
So, when we at Arcus Global hear the word ‘transformation’, we naturally assume that this is what is meant. Given that everyone is talking about transformation, we are naturally very excited, and attracted to each authority that publicly states that it is looking to shake things up to their core.
In many cases, this initial excitement soon evaporates; a considerable amount of time and effort is spent only to discover that the reality is somewhat different. Even if, during meetings and initial procurement, councils say all the right things about transformation, have grand plans, sufficient budgets and even senior commitment, only in a few cases has it transpired to mean the same thing for the entire organisation.
In a series of blogs, I want to ‘call out’ the fake transformation and the best ways of addressing this.
Originally posted here.