A recent conversation with a Local Government IT manager led me to consider again what ‘digital’ means and what digital transformation means to the way that we deliver local services.
My colleague argued that ‘digital’ is just an expression of new technologies, and digital innovation could be best expressed in traditional IT terms, after all the IT world has always embraced change and new ideas.
I accept that it is certainly true that technology is important to deliver the ‘digital revolution’ and new technologies form the bedrock on which transformation is built.
But I would suggest that digital transformation is not primarily about technology changes but by the changes we observe in culture, communication, consumerism and the unprecedented transformation of society’s operating model. The ubiquitous and unprecedented scale of societal change has happened in just the last five to ten years, and it’s getting more difficult to remember a life before Apple, Google, Facebook and Instagram.
In Local Government, where digital transformation is looking to leave a lasting and sustainable legacy that genuinely improves citizens’ lives and futures, the Sopra Steria approach has certainly been to make the best use of available technologies, but has always been supported by a strong business spine. We have endeavored to match both the ambitions of our clients with the desire of their stakeholders to consume services in the ways that they are increasingly using to access other markets. Game changing platforms such as Facebook, Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon do not allow other providers of goods and services to continue with traditional methods and still retain happy customers. For these and other digital leaders, digital transformation has been powered by an enormous leap in customer expectation.
In Local Government this customer expectation across a diverse range of services is also driving change and we see many different approaches to delivering digital business strategies.
So how should Local Government drive through this digital change?
We recognise four key ingredients for success which concentrate on how digital can transform the way Councils and their citizens both provide, and receive, services. They recognise that it needs careful planning if it is to provide real, useful, affordable and usable alternatives to the current methodologies.
1. Make the most of existing technology
The first stage focuses on long term planning, and encourages the immediate use of facilities already available within existing technology applications and platforms to ensure that current investment is used to its full potential. This approach encourages quick wins at low cost.
2. Small step transformation
At stage two, we start to enhance the physical service delivery with digital content, taking small manageable steps towards digital transformation. The intention is to enhance the customer experience by increasing the ability to interact with the council online and to start to introduce new ways of working.
3. Re-imagining delivery
Stage three makes greater and greater use of a redesigned on- line presence to replace or extend existing physical processes with digital operations and digital enablers. This would be visible through continuous customer improvement processes that increase customer contacts through digital access channels and offers the digital fulfilment of service requests. Where appropriate, the web will become the default channel of choice, allowing greater service time and funding to be diverted to supporting more vulnerable citizens.
4. A digital business
The final stage of the digital transformation is to develop new digital business and operating models that reach the full potential of the digital environment without just reflecting and duplicating existing physical process.
The activity would be to redesign existing business structures to take full advantage of a digital approach to service delivery. This may take the form of working with partners to improve business outcomes by sharing data and processes. It may consider new commissioning models that are not restricted by traditional barriers but that continue to improve service delivery whilst also reducing operating costs.
The world is changing and digital is changing the ways that we work, rest and play. In another five years we will look back at an unprecedented period of change. Let’s make sure that Local Government is able to embrace the opportunity to deliver lasting and sustainable change today and provide that solid foundation for the next revolution – whatever that may be.
The clock is ticking.
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