04 May 2021

Beyond COVID-19: Five key actions to accelerate digital transformation

Guest blog: Stewart Wilson, Partner PwC UK as part of our #DigitalPlace week

Local authorities across the UK have transformed their operating models, working practices and the way they serve their residents as a result of the pandemic. Councils have particularly had to adapt at an unprecedented speed and transitioned a large proportion of their workforce to remote and virtual working at an impressive scale.  

As the UK emerges from lockdown and citizens adapt, there is an opportunity for councils to harness the new found levels of digital interaction, operations and ways of working to accelerate digital adoption and initiatives post-pandemic. This will help to clear backlogs rapidly and ensure services and organisations are fit for the future. We have carried out our own research in relation to this agenda. Our Future of Government work has confirmed a growing proportion of society is keen to engage with their local councils using digital channels. 

There are two considerations for local authorities to bear in mind to accelerate a post-Covid digital agenda. The first is how to reimagine their front office to adapt to new customer preferences and harness digital CRM capabilities. The other consideration is how to reinvent their organisations, how they work and organise themselves to deliver services efficiently.   

To address the considerations above, councils must determine what the mid to long-term implications of the crisis are and how they need to balance tactical digital acceleration with strategic digital transformation, in order to emerge as a digital leader.  

If you are a local council looking to lead with digital in the new era, the following five actions will set you apart:  

  1. Re-invent how you interact with and serve your customers: COVID-19 has impacted how local authorities interact with their residents and councils need to scale some of the digital interventions introduced during this phase for the longer term and re-invent their front office to harness disruptive digital channels and capabilities like chatbots and virtual AI assistants. It is important to design these new channels with scalability and resilience in mind. 

  2. Rapidly digitise operational services and processes: Councils need to rapidly redesign and automate their front, middle and back office processes using artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to clear existing backlog, improve efficiency, reduce cost and free up their staff from transactional and low value adding tasks. To get started, councils should identify high transactional activities across revenues and benefits, housing, social care, back office and other areas and consider deploying robotic process automation and artificial intelligence to automate these activities.  

  3. Enabling and upskilling your workforce: Local authorities should start with ensuring their workforce is well connected and enabled with the tools and workspaces they need to work efficiently and collaborate remotely. Conducting an assessment to truly understand the needs of the workforce will highlight additional digital interventions that would improve staff experience and productivity. To accelerate digital adoption, councils will need to upskill their workforce to understand and embrace automation, analytics, cloud and digital ways of working. Upskilling is not only a critical success factor for digital adoption but is also crucial to future proofing the workforce and ensuring they are armed with the skills they need to thrive in the future.  

  4. Modernising your technology applications and infrastructure: Councils need to rapidly understand what digital capabilities and platforms they need in the short and long term to deliver immediate requirements and transform the technology estate. They also need to accelerate cloud adoption to replace legacy and physical hardware and infrastructure dependencies to enable agility and resilience for tomorrow. Local authorities should consider investing in making core systems more modular and evolvable, this would mean they can respond rapidly to disruption, integrate with emerging technologies and build resilience across the network. 

  5. Building resilience: The COVID-19 crisis has increased the odds of digital threats and cyber attacks and local authorities need to stay vigilant and in a state of preparedness so they can proactively manage incidents and compromises. To respond to threats with agility, councils will need to build and maintain resilience across the organisation 

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK

Ileana Lupsa

Ileana Lupsa

Programme Manager, Local Public Services and Nations and Regions, techUK

Tracy Modha

Team Assistant - Markets, techUK