The path to hyperautomation: a real gamechanger for citizen services?
Pressure is mounting on central and local public sector organisations to perform better. These pressures are especially acute because of the impact of Covid-19 and the replacement of the usual long-term comprehensive spending review with a one-year review in late 2020. The Government Transformation Strategy of 2017 envisages digitally-enabled transformation to improve the experience for citizens, businesses and users within the public sector as well as departmental and internal government transformation for greater flexibility and efficiency. While Covid-19 has disrupted delivery of the 2017 vision, the core principles and direction of travel remain relevant and indeed strengthened by the experiences of the pandemic. BJSS expects a forthcoming revision to the government digital strategy to underscore these values while directing additional attention to issues around skills and data governance. No matter how you look at it, building sustainable capabilities in creating, delivering and operating digital technology is absolutely fundamental to the future of the entire sector.
The future for public sector organisations is personalisation of citizen services. We are leaving the era of undifferentiated, mass production of service packages designed for a stable, industrial society and entering an era of individual engagement where citizens’ lives, careers and personal circumstances change constantly within a more rapidly evolving socio-economic environment. A key enabler of this is Intelligent Automation (IA). While several public sector organisations – such as the DWP which cleared a backlog of over 30,000 new pension claims in just two weeks - have recorded success with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), IA adds Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the mix. It augments robots with greater powers to understand their environment, change their behaviours and discover patterns in the flow of their activities. The result is business systems which learn as they go, so that the organisation becomes smarter and more effective in real time, while the robot is able to adapt to a changing environment. This is real continuous improvement: moment-by-moment, live review of the organisation’s processes with integral, automatic course correction and capability enhancement.
Put simply: IA extends your automation footprint, bringing the benefits of automation to processes where there is variability, ambiguity, evolution and nuance. The targeted application of AI techniques in specific aspects of the organisation’s live operations both augments and amplifies human capital. Pascal Bornet, Ian Barkin and Jochen Wirtz defined potential public sector IA use cases in their recent book ‘Intelligent Automation: Welcome to the world of hyperautomation’:
- Automate tax assessments. Analyse and assess predefined risk criteria regarding income tax returns or statements of financial transactions. For example, identify and analyse gaps between employer and employee tax declarations
- Leverage past crime data (eg crime type, location, date and time) and other external data (eg events, weather) to identify patterns and predict crime. Identify hotspots and suggest optimal police patrol presence
- Customise public services. Use citizens’ transactional and demographic data to define granular citizen categories and derive consuming patterns. Customise service portfolio to increase citizens’ satisfaction
- Predict the air pollution level using environmental factors such as weather, traffic index and fire maps
- Support city planning by analysing traffic flow, traffic signal timings and the condition of roads.
IA is reinventing organisations. The workplace is becoming a mixed environment of people and robots, working together to get more done with fewer resources while improving quality. But IA is not just a gamechanger for organisational operations. It will also impact customer relationships, supply chains, business models and entire sectors of the economy. Today, excellence in IA is a differentiator – but soon it will be a necessity. We strongly urge public sector organisations to start professionalising their IA transformation approach now.
Laura is techUK’s Programme Manager for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.
Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.
This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, Digital Identity and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential women in UK tech by Computer Weekly and as a key influencer in driving forward the Big Data agenda in the UK Big Data 100. Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.
Prior to joining techUK in January 2015 Sue was responsible for Symantec's Government Relations in the UK and Ireland. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Before joining Symantec, Sue was senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Sue has an BA degree on History and American Studies from Leeds University and a Masters Degree on International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Birmingham. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.
Zoe is a Programme Assistant, supporting techUK's work across Policy, Technology and Innovation.
The team makes the tech case to government and policymakers in Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels and across the UK on the most pressing issues affecting this sector and supports the Technology and Innovation team in the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.
Before joining techUK, Zoe worked as a Business Development and Membership Coordinator at London First and prior to that Zoe worked in Partnerships at a number of Forex and CFD brokerage firms including Think Markets, ETX Capital and Central Markets.
Zoe has a degree (BA Hons) from the University of Westminster and in her spare time, Zoe enjoys travelling, painting, keeping fit and socialising with friends.