05 May 2021

Boosting local council productivity through cloud technology

Guest blog: Lorna Ward, PwC Partner as part of our #DigitalPlace week.

COVID-19 lit a fire under councils’ technology infrastructure, making them adapt to providing online services across all service areas at the same time as needing to enable their workforce to work effectively from home. 

This has thrown into sharp relief the underlying need for councils to modernise their ways of working and adapt to a more digital world.  In order to better engage with residents and to attract the best talent, councils need to rethink where they invest, how quickly they do it, and doing so for 20 years’ time, not for the technology needs of today. Adopting a digital mindset represents an opportunity to streamline business processes to drive enhanced productivity. 

Productivity vs cost savings  

In this blog I focus on productivity and how this links to technology. I have purposely used the word productivity rather than cost savings as you have a choice. For instance, if you automate a process which saves time, you can then choose what you do with that time; invest the time into another value adding activity or take it as a saving. 

In order to get the  benefits of technology, the mantra needs to be ‘adopt’ your business processes to the solution standard way of working rather than ‘adapt’ the solution to your current ways of working. This then sets you up for taking each system upgrade quickly and cost effectively. 

The local government technology market is such that you may never satisfy 100% of your requirements from a single vendor or application - although you will get close.  For the remaining gap, rather than customising said application, you can invest in flexible, dynamic and tactical solutions around its edge.  For example, adopting standard processes creates the baseline to consider further automation opportunities through utilising robotic process automation (RPA) to automate high volume transactional processes - as this case study from North Lanarkshire shows. You should always standardise your process first before adopting RPA to avoid automating an inefficient way of working.  

New technology has modern ways of working inherently built within it, for example ‘self-serve’ both for customers and for employees. Self-serve should now be seen as a standard way of working, not as a ‘nice to have’. Introducing such technology for even simple activities, for example chat bots and apps to book holiday, on legacy systems is very difficult, complex and expensive. This is how Generation Z expects to interact with organisations, it is their norm, using their phones on the go. The low representation of this age group in the wider local government workforce is both symptom and part-cause of the slow adoption of this approach.   

Transforming your IT estate onto cloud technology also requires a different approach to financial decision-making. It may actually represent an increase in Opex and requires capital investment in the initial transformation. However, cloud technology benefits from constant upgrades (normally quarterly) which, when combined with a culture of continuous digital improvement from that initial transformation, allows you to reap the benefits as the digital market moves at pace. Contract this with legacy on-premise technology which can become out of date very quickly as upgrades are difficult and expensive to execute so many organisations choose not to upgrade.  

In conclusion, transformational IT investment should be top of your investment priorities. This requires a different mindset but one that can deliver many different benefits to many different communities in your place. 

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK

Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Social Care, techUK