Swati Kungwani 26 July 2018

Exploiting digital opportunities

Technology has made a significant impact on our lives. It has made things easier, on-click and effortless. No wonder why we expect everything to be connected with technology. From social networks to financial transactions, one can’t imagine the world without technology.

The private sector has harnessed the digital powers really well. On the other side, the government sector has been a slow adapter. The comparison between private and public services is never justified. But, citizens make a comparison. And, sadly the government cannot stop them from expecting the same level of service. In fact, they are always seeking ways to balance the citizen expectations and budget.

Unlike the private sector, it’s impossible for the public sector to segment and target specific customers to generate revenues. The public sector organisations cannot only focus on revenues. The government is responsible to take care of all the citizens. It needs to address their concerns equally. But, going gets tougher for the government as they face issues like reduced budgets, spending cuts and rising demand for services.

Where there is a will, there is a way!

The public sector is always committed to serving citizens. They try their best to meet the service delivery goals and overcome the challenges. If utilized with a strategic vision, digital technology can be a game changer. The positive effect of approaches like ‘Digital-by-Default’, GovTech fund, GDS, Digital Marketplace and online transactions is visible. The government has realised the importance of technology and is gradually adopting it to optimize outcomes.

Recently, to encourage digital transformation initiatives, local government minister Rishi Sunak stated a new digital declaration involving £7.5m funding. It is dedicated to helping councils through the channel shift transformation and providing online services. 50 organisations across the UK have already signed the declaration. It brings a new hope for the residents to receive improved services. The government is also encouraging IT players to develop bespoke solutions via GovTech fund and competition.

The councils must understand and leverage the digital tools in the most optimum way. The digital transformation is more than just creating a website. The focus should be to develop a one-stop destination for the citizens to do transactions, access information, contribute the content, get all updates and make most of the services at their convenience. On the other side, it should also target to streamline the back-office administration and make extensive use of data.

Focusing on the Right Direction

It’s not only about providing the digital accessibility. In fact, the whole process of moving services online should focus on increasing customer satisfaction with the collaborative working of all departments. Listing few points for the councils to exploit this digital opportunity-

Self-Service Channel

A growing number of users now prefer self-service over the other communication channels. It is an easy, frictionless and a 24x7 channel available to the users. Many councils are turning to see how the private sector has been successful in implementing bespoke self-service apps. Self-service applications are at the heart of the council’s digital transformation. To improve their online facilities, a council must include the ‘self-service’ strategy.

Self-service channel reduces the load of direct contact. There is no room for waiting in queues or on phone calls. Instead, the applications are a boon. Such apps increase customer satisfaction as they can access information and request services anytime and anywhere. Putting all the basic interaction processes like tax payment, license renewal, parking permit, reporting issues (graffiti, anti-social behavior, waste collection, abandoned vehicle, potholes, etc.), booking facilities and applying for benefits should be included in the all-in-one self-service application.

Effortless Administration

Less paper, more productivity! The statement holds true as technology promises to change it all. The public sector organisations need to reorganise their working patterns and re-engineer their internal processes to deliver the best services to the citizens. There is no point in simply having digital tools for the external interactions. The same paperless approach needs to be followed for the internal working of the staff as well.

It is necessary to ensure that the council’s processes are well-placed. For instance, enabling automated workflows tends to increase the productivity. The staff needs not shuffle between files or multiple applications to resolve a problem or answer a query. The use of cloud-based solution helps the staff to become more efficient and answerable to the citizens. It ensures timely actions and response to the citizens. The council can adhere to agreed SLA’s and address the concerns.

Real-time Data Synchronisation

Data is becoming more important to every business than ever. Even for councils, collecting, managing and analysing data is a big concern. If addressed in a correct way, this concern can be a huge opportunity. Central data sharing with authorized access using cloud technology can help the council to govern an end-to-end process. It enables real-time information sharing. Citizens, council executives, third-party agencies and field workers can receive and share the updates.

Sharing updates can be of great help especially at the time of emergencies, disaster, natural calamity, public announcements, and meetings. Analysing data can also help the councils to take proactive actions. Councils can enhance citizen experience by allowing them to access information in real-time. It will also promote transparency as citizens will know what exactly is happening behind the scenes.

Citizen Feedback

To know what is good for the citizens, the best way is to ask them directly or indirectly. It is easier to solve it, once you know the problem. It is recommended to use feedback and/or rating tools to let citizens speak their voice. For instance, allowing them to rate the service and experience after completing their request. Or, taking their suggestions via the app about the existing service delivery model, improvements needed and problems faced.

Councils can also increase civic engagement by encouraging them to participate in community discussions and meetings. Involve them in decision-making. This helps to build trust among the citizens. Not only that, the government bodies should also take relevant actions. Councils can also analyse the feedback data and dashboards using the modern applications. Move closer to the citizens by hearing them and involving them in building a happy and healthy community.

Embracing Technological Advancements

Newer technologies like Chatbots, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) are increasing the scope of digital platforms. The public sector organisations can use these technologies coupled with online services to take the citizen experience to another level with reduced manual dependency. For example, Chatbots can be quite efficient to answer basic level queries with the help of knowledge-base.

IoT sensors have found a place in wide applications like smart bins, hospital beds, traffic monitoring, and security and surveillance. The information shared between devices enables accurate response and actions. Councils can improve service delivery largely through the power of automation. Though it may take some time, the future holds a great potential.

The 3 ‘S’ Strategy - Service. Synchronisation. Satisfaction

The ultimate goal of every organisation, whether public or private, is to keep the customers happy. The government aims to create a citizen-centric culture. But, they fail to realise their goals in a complete sense due to some limitations. However, thanks to technology, it is possible to reimagine the public administration. We recommend a comprehensive strategy:

1. Reconstruct your service delivery models – Include use of online tools to interact with and engage citizens. Empower the staff with adequate tools to enhance service delivery. Reduce costs with smarter investments.

2. Synchronise data and coordinate processes – Quit the old methods. Gather data and procure results. Improve operational efficiency with end-to-end and seamless processes.

3. Increase satisfaction – Focus on increasing customer satisfaction. Build a community around them. Be there for the citizens with a multi-channel approach. Redefine customer journeys paying attention to all touchpoints.

It is not just a day’s process. Things cannot change overnight. Councils need to prepare themselves for the channel shift with the incremental steps. Many organisations have already moved in this direction. But, this transformation has a much wider scope. Be constant in delivering consistent ‘value-for-money’ service with measurable performance.

Swati Kungwani is a business analyst at iTouchVision

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