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 ballooned (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. Each transaction is its own mini ‘case’ isolated, independent of other needs or services.
This is instead of seeing it as a customer receiving a service, as part of the organisation’s wider need, and with most of the data required for decisions already known to the authority. Additional questions are only asked if necessary, and they help inform decisions on this and any other services.
As a result, today 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 a complete transformation, as a better way of achieving it, rather than waiting for the slow process of evolution. 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 this series of blogs, I want to ‘call out’ the fake transformation. I want to talk about solutions and ideas. But most importantly, I want to start a wider debate about the importance of being clear on what your transformation means for you and your suppliers.