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Digital Transformation: What problems are public sector organisations looking to solve?

By Tim Stephenson - 02nd May 2019

Public sector organisations are wrestling to address a whole host of issues when they embark on their digital transformation journey.

At the end of last year, Zaizi conducted a study in conjunction with GovNews of 95 public sector organisations to explore the problems they are looking to address. The research validated what we’ve seen in government organisations, having worked in the sector public sector for the past 12 years.

Here are some of the problems public sector organisations are looking to solve and how Digital Process Automation (DPA) can help.
 

Low user satisfaction

The GDS identified some of the difficulties leading to low user satisfaction. And as the 2017 government transformation strategy says, the scope of service transformation must expand to: 
 

“…recognise that government delivers services through a variety of channels (including online, telephone and face to face) [and] ensure government can provide content and services, and run projects across organisational boundaries.” 
The public, who are the users of local government services, need services to be delivered to them with a minimum of friction. 

One of the disciplines of DPA is customer journey mapping. By mapping the touchpoints of users with services, it can quickly become apparent when something is unnecessary. This helps streamline the process and ultimately makes it user friendly.
 
On the technology front, DPA enables a multi-channel approach whilst retaining a single source of truth. Whichever channel a user/citizen contacts you from - online, phone, in person - you need to have the latest and complete picture of their service request.
 

Error-prone manual processes

When tasks are done manually, inevitably, that can be prone to human errors. How can we reduce those errors? By automating as much as possible.

For example, the woes associated with spreadsheets are well documented; it becomes bloated, has security/privacy issues, problems with data validation, limits to multi-user editing/feedback etc. Extracting accurate and concise information from phone calls, text messages and post-it notes just makes things worse. 

“Best efforts” and “It’ll do for now” is not a strategy. With DPA, you can look at your manual processes holistically and create a framework and solutions that allow front line staff to deliver and focus on the task at hand without dropping the ball.
 

Squeezed budgets and flat-lined productivity

I don’t have to tell you about the huge squeeze on budgets in the public sector. The productivity crisis may come in and out of the news cycle but we know it’s constantly there.

This is the bread and butter of DPA; ensuring we know what has to happen next and who is going to do it is fundamental to getting the most out of our available resources.

Having formalised the sequence of work we are also able to capture metrics about what is taking the most time, question why that is, and build business cases for the most effective use of automation. Some automation can be complex and take time to deliver so it is important to know where we will get the most bang for our buck.

At the other end of the scale, not all automation has this high cost. Visual modelling tools allow individuals to solve some problems without the need to refer things to IT teams. For example, business users can be empowered to automate for themselves making it faster and cheaper. In addition, such automation enables better compliance and transparency to that decision making. 


Digital Process Automation Workshop: Disentangle from legacy systems, siloed processes and equip your organisation with the skills, methodology and tools to drive digital transformation quickly.

Working in silos and not collaborating

It’s a natural human tendency to look at the world from the perspective that we see it. So as service providers it’s tempting to look at the problem from the perspective of the organisational and technological landscape. If we don’t challenge this by explicitly seeking out external points of view, we’re likely to confirm that things must be exactly how they are today.

DPA provides a framework to look at these problems strategically. I’ve already mentioned customer journey mapping as a way to shed light on how users see our services. We also have other tools like process modelling and decision modelling that allow us to describe how things happen and how to improve them.

Once we get into the details of how people interact with our systems, we can also see how best to break out of those silos and work collaboratively.
 

Lack of digital knowledge and cultural inertia

The digital skills crisis in the public sector is something we at Zaizi have talked a lot about. At the same time, technology continues to develop and there is good evidence to suggest that the pace of change is also increasing. How are we to deal with this? 

We need to invest in people and develop home-grown skills but also be strategic about how we approach technologies. We cannot adopt everything; we need to start at a higher level. We need tools that solve a wide range of problems and skills that will remain useful for more than one technology cycle. 

Digital Process Automation is a great approach to do this, enabling employees to build digital maturity in their organisation. It maximises the investment we put in our people and the effectiveness of the service they provide.
 

Unresponsive to change

A university professor of mine was fond of quoting that the whole point of software was that it was easy to change. After all, it’s not baked into a piece of silicon and wrapped in protective aluminium heat sinks like hardware. I’m not sure about your experience but for me, it hasn’t always felt that way. Changing software systems can be hard work and we have all heard the phrase ‘change is the only constant’.

But software systems are not all created equal. There are always multiple approaches to solving a problem. 

In traditional app development, the code for business applications is written manually (hand-coding). Designing apps with a DPA platform allows requirements to be met with drag-and-drop capabilities, meaning you can create software without having to write a lot of code. These visual models mean that when changes occur, service owners and technologists can discuss them together using the same language. And the changes are likely to be smaller and quicker. 

About the author: Tim Stephenson
Tim Stephenson is our DPA Practice Lead. With over 15 years' experience, Tim's area of expertise is business process management and digital transformation. He has architected many million pound plus software development projects and his expertise is called upon regularly at industry events.