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Oracle: Efficiency Challenge – How do we do more with less?

Guest blog by Alex McNeill, Finance Strategy and Transformation Director - Public Sector, Oracle as part of the Digital Transformation In the Public Sector Week. #techUKDigitalPS

Civil servants face an increasingly urgent question. As the 2021 Spending Review asks all Departments to make a 5% saving against day-to-day central departmental budgets in 2024-25, whilst grappling with complex problems such as economic inequality, rising health-care and living costs, significant economic pressures and protracted security concerns. 

Many departments are delivering complex, long-term programmes to transform public services; requiring the government to work across the government’s structures and processes for planning and spending, which tend to focus on the short-term, with long-term plans, often lacking in detail.  

Departments have been asked to reduce Civil Service headcount to pre-Brexit levels, with SR21 calling out non-frontline functions as the focus of this reduction, to create a more agile and productive civil service.  Finance should continue to play a more pivotal leadership role, with the function of providing insights and advice to decision-makers, and ensuring public funds are spent in a way that makes a real difference. Human Resources also have an important role to play in ensuring the government attracts and develops the talent needed to deliver better outcomes for less while addressing skills gaps to be able to meet future demand. 

Typical approaches 

With this strengthened capacity, the government is better placed to identify, plan and achieve efficiency gains.  

  • Service redesign and alternative delivery mechanisms including front-line service integration, prevention / early detection and the involvement of users in service design; 

  • Functional transformation enabled by technology, utilising the latest enhancements in Process Automation, Self-Service, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, to be more efficient by reducing the manual effort required to run their operations; whilst also having the right data and tools to be able to predict and put in place preventative measures to mitigate the impact of unforeseen scenarios; 

  • Markets and competition, including new entry and market creation, intelligent outsourcing, strengthened incentives and cost benchmarking; and 

  • Reorganisation and workforce reform, including changes to organisational structures, improvements to capabilities and shared services. 

It will likely require a combination of these levers to deliver the change that is needed.  

So how can departments remain resilient whilst still delivering efficiency reduction targets?  

In planning efficiency gains, departments will need to manage the relationship between reducing costs on a day-by-day basis and maintaining the capacity to deal with emergencies or unexpected issues. We often see departments focused on short-term / in-year planning, not having the right tools to plan for different scenarios and react in an unplanned and uncoordinated way to problems as they arise. This means they do not have the time or resources to anticipate, plan or prepare for unexpected issues or areas of uncertainty, in order to build better ways of operating that would make the government more resilient to changes in demand. 

Save to reinvest 

Departments may also need a ‘save to reinvest’ strategy to deliver the frontline service levels expected of them, with back-office and corporate services needing to deliver significantly greater efficiency reductions if overall department targets are to be achieved. There is a risk that departments look to cut costs against corporate services, without carefully considering the changes and improvements that need to be made for corporate services teams to be able to sustain and improve the services they provide. 

Great, but how do we measure the outcomes? 

Finally, measuring the delivery of these efficiencies and the broader outcomes will be of paramount importance to be able to hold departments to account. HM Treasury has emphasised in recent years the need for public value - insisting that the public should expect a measurable return on their investment, which is not just measured on the inputs but also on the outcomes that matter to people.  

SR 2021 has only strengthened the emphasis on this. In response, each department has set out their priority outcomes and strategy for achieving them in an Outcome Delivery Plan (ODP) and will be required to share regular performance reports, overseen by the Number 10 Delivery Unit and supported by a new Evaluation Taskforce who will work with departments to promote evidence-based and (where appropriate) cross-cutting objectives and metrics.  

For departments to be able to measure and report their progress, they will need the right tools and data to do so effectively; as well as having access to real-time information that can be used to inform decision-making at the moment, to avoid this becoming a retrospective and reactive exercise. 

To read more from #techUKDigitalPS Week, check out our landing page here.

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Alex, Oracle.jpeg

Alexander McNeill specialises in delivering complex operating model transformation, technology-enabled process improvement, business case development and strategic cost reduction. He supports CFOs in delivering their functional and corporate roles of leading an efficient and insight driving Finance function and providing strategic advice to their business. As a Finance Strategy and Transformation Director at Oracle, driving their go-to-market strategy for Finance / ERPM in the UK Public Sector. Learn more about Oracle, by visiting their LinkedIn and Twitter.

Alexander draws on his experience, to bring insight, a different perspective and new ideas; to help articulate the case for change for our customer's journeys to Cloud Applications and how this can be used as a key enabler to Finance/Commercial operating model and process transformation. Also, Alexander has led multiple back-office transformation programmes, across Public and Private sectors and uses this experience to help his clients understand how the role of Finance, Procurement and Commercial functions will need to change in the future; especially considering the disruption created by cloud, automation and digital reporting technologies. Learn more, and connect with Alexander via LinkedIn.

On Tuesday 5 April, techUK was delighted to host the Cabinet Office and industry representatives for the launch event for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook which was published on 28 March 2022. The DDaT Sourcing Playbook sets out guidance – in one place – as to how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies and the wider public sector. Through the application of what is commercial best practice, the Playbook addresses 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities that will ensure government gets things right from the start when it comes to procurement.

You can watch the recording of the launch event in full here:

DDaT Playbook Launch Event

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techUK talks with… Shaheen Sayed, CEO - UK, Ireland & Africa, Accenture

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For the fourth instalment of our popular techUK CEO Talks, we are delighted to be joined by Shaheen Sayed from Accenture to discuss her journey to CEO of one of the UK's largest businesses, and how technology can build a better future for the UK’s economy, people, society, and the planet.