Local government could face a bleak future with predictions that by 2020 its core funding will be reduced from the Government by nearly £16bn over the preceding decade. This means that councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 that the Government has provided to spend on local services in the last eight years. Local government is in a desperate situation as they attempt to make substantial savings and increase revenue to balance their deficit.
This undoubtedly will have a huge impact on how local authorities operate, changing the face of local government forever. Councils have the prime objectives of achieving savings and looking at methods on how to increase revenue by becoming more commercial, which are preferable options over having to cut frontline services. It appears to be ‘mission impossible’ but surprisingly it’s not. Local authorities can make significant savings by re-engineering their processes and adopting a digital transformation strategy. Resulting in employees becoming more efficient and productive, improving services for citizens, whilst achieving substantial savings at the same time.
Facing the now
The Government and local government relies on its legacy IT and voice infrastructures, which hold them back from improving their services and the way they operate, invariably in silos.
There are several reasons for this, such as: they want to carry on using the technology they have in place, they don’t want to invest in new technology, they are unsure of what they require and why. And furthermore, they don’t have the skills in-house to implement and manage new technology and process change.
Local government is now in a crisis and it’s running out of time to future proof; if they don’t disrupt, they will be disrupted. The future is now, and technology and digital transformation will evolve as time goes on. Now is the time to invest in new technology and infrastructure. Often councils can continue to use existing technology, thereby protecting their investment, introducing new cloud technology (integrating into existing architecture and processes) to address targeted areas to achieve rapid cost saving initiatives, or support new revenue generating opportunities.
Cloud is a great infrastructure for this as it is flexible, easy to manage and provides the ability to adopt an agile innovation culture, underpinned with suitable pilot tests to demonstrate suitability and adoption.
Deconstructing digital transformation
Digital transformation is often feared as it is undeniably a mammoth task, however by working with a partner who is experienced in the public sector, they can work closely with you to deconstruct it into manageable sized projects. Helping set objectives, a strategy and technology road map ensuring that you will achieve short and long term results, whether that is improving services for citizens, saving money and/or increasing revenue.
The digital skills gap is a huge issue not just for local government but for the UK as a whole, this combined with lowest levels of unemployment since 1974, productivity at 1/10th of pre-financial crash levels and wage growth outstripping GDP action must be taken.
By teaming with a partner with the requisite experience, agile cloud services and targeted managed services, councils will be able to re-imagine a more agile and innovative future, reengineering customer interaction and workflows to remove waste, digitise and automate services, removing the legacy of large monolithic outsourcing contracts and working in partnership to focus on more revolutionary projects that drive business productivity, increase the customer experience or that enable flexible working. You also get the benefit of having access to the latest technology without having to invest in hardware.
Improving services for citizens and reducing the cost to serve
Councils are in desperate times and to help them balance their books they should harness digital transformation and its latest disruptive technologies. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) can transform the services councils provide for citizens, improving productivity and efficiency amongst employees and even save money.
Conversational AI solutions, can learn content from websites and several councils are currently using them to improve services – refuse being one example. Councils receive thousands of calls a month with citizens asking questions such as – what refuse is it tomorrow? What are the dates of the refuse collection over the Bank Holiday? What date is the garden waste? And so on. The answers to these standard basic questions can be resolved by digital assistants, so effectively citizens can use self-service on your website to receive instant first time resolution without feeling frustrated at being put on hold, or transferred from one department to another. It also frees up the contact centre agents to focus on more complex requests that require the human touch.
Through using AI conversational solutions, you can reduce the ‘cost to serve’ by as much as 95% compared to other communication methods such as a telephone call, email or live web chat. It also provides councils with insight of the citizens’ journey enabling them to understand more about them and with more knowledge of their online journey so they can continue to improve and streamline it.
Increasing revenue with social value
A well designed digital transformation strategy can not only help you save costs but also devised in the correct way be flexible enough to use as a foundation for a revenue generator.
Most councils are currently investigating how to generate revenue to not only balance the books but to also provide sources of income to support local services going forward.
Social value calls for improvements in social, economic and environmental well-being. Digital transformation is enabling the creation of new operating models and services within the local economy. Paving the way for local authorities to become a hub for local businesses, contractors and franchises to boost revenue in the local community.
Digital transformation and an innovative mind-set will create a value driven economy, providing access to the latest services and tools into local businesses helping them compete on a global scale. One example, is following the introduction of flexible working initiatives many are looking at or indeed are renting out
Council buildings as office space to the local business community. The business people can not only use the space but also can have access to the latest technology infrastructure, applications and innovation as a managed service.
Some councils are merging some of their services to save costs and their technology infrastructures are an example of this. Councils are sharing cloud services for their contact centres and voice networks to utilise the benefits of the technology across counties.
Councils need to think and operate more commercially to accelerate profit and save costs. By re-engineering processes, and automating workflows, connecting IoT devices (with automated notifications, alerts and data insight) and streamlining citizen interactions with self-service and AI, digital transformation can transform the council and the services it offers. So, rather than ‘mission impossible’, it is very much ‘mission possible’, especially when you select the right partner.
We recommend you embark on this digital transformation mission NOW.
Jonathan Sharp is director of Britannic Technologies