07 May 2021

Adopting a citizen led approach to reinventing service delivery through artificial intelligence and robotics

Guest blog: Elizabeth Ajayi - Liz is PwC Consulting CoE lead for intelligent automation in the UK. She also leads PwC’s local public sector Intelligent Automation team which is currently supporting multiple council’s across the UK with their automation journey.

“COVID-19 has created a whirlwind catalyst for councils to re-think their service delivery models, and accelerate service automation to deliver better outcomes for citizens.”  

Addressing operational pressures with with AI and automation  

Local authorities are now more than ever under pressure to manage the rising cost of an ageing population, increasing demand for services and pandemic-related support, and the need to re-prioritise staff capacity and budget from administrative tasks to front-line operations.  

To address these pressures rapidly, councils need to reinvent their service delivery model by adopting automation across  major service areas to create capacity across the workforce to support residents more effectively. Automation solutions such as robotic process automation, chatbots and other artificial intelligence technologies can be deployed on processes in weeks to deliver these results and return on investment quickly.   

Councils like North Lanarkshire Council, London Borough of Hillingdon, London Borough of Redbridge, Falkirk Council and many others are already realising a plethora of benefits from robotic process automation. These include a reduction in operating cost and complexity and a hybrid workforce of humans and robots that is scalable, agile and can rapidly evolve in response to new resident needs, government imperatives, crisis and other disruptions. 

Establishing a successful and scalable automation programme 

Many councils are striving to establish a successful programme alongside other digital and transformation initiatives, while others are struggling with scaling their programme and realising expected return on investment. 

To establish a scalable and successful automation program, councils need an approach that is strategic, holistic and citizen led based on the following principles:  

  • Strategic automation programmes are designed to deliver cost reduction, productivity, recovery and other transformation ambitions. Programmes are often embedded into an overarching digital or transformation portfolio to ensure that there is continuous alignment across automation and other strategic initiatives.  

  • Councils need to identify opportunities for process improvement, productivity and ways of working alongside an automation intervention. This holistic approach will truly reinvent processes and address existing operational challenges. 

  • Citizen led automation programmes identify opportunities ‘through the eyes of the customer’ by understanding user journeys and identifying opportunities for improvement and automation based on what matters to residents. 

  • Automation programmes need to be empowering for the workforce. Staff members should be at the forefront. The automation programme should be positioned as a workforce empowerment initiative and councils need to put their prerogative to thrive and reimagine their work at centre stage. Automation needs to be seen as a tool allowing them to explore ways of doing things better. 

Getting started with your automation programme  

Starting an automation programme can be daunting in the current COVID-19 recovery landscape. For councils who are keen to get started, the five actions below will help you establish the foundations for success and scale automation successfully: 

  1. Find the right opportunities by conducting a thorough assessment and enabling those closest to business processes to generate ideas and opportunities for automation. 

  1. Create a business case to clearly define expected benefits and measures of success. Size the prize in full and seek to understand the impact of change by extending measures of success from ROI to workforce adoption, productivity, customer experience and workforce experience. 

  1. Design an implementation roadmap for piloting and scaling artificial intelligence and robotic process automation across key service areas. 

  1. Build skills required to understand, develop and work alongside the technology and consider standing up a centre of excellence to develop specialist in-house capability to sustain the program.  

  1. Invest early in change assessment and management to coach the workforce and customers to adopt solutions.