In the last few years, austerity measures and central government’s digital agenda have required local authorities to look into new ways of working.
With smaller IT budgets and more technologically savvy workers, it has become necessary for local government to embrace emerging technology and drive innovative change. Indeed, 82% of senior public sector officials view austerity as the catalyst for transformation.
Cost savings are often seen as one of the main benefits of technology change. Whilst this is true, those fully embracing digital change are fast discovering other substantial benefits from their investments. Three areas in particular have captured the imagination across local government and are fast driving change: collaboration, social and mobile.
Fostering a collaborative environment in any workplace can instantly help to enable faster working, greater teamwork and as a result more efficient services. Cloud based collaboration tools can drive innovation by making everyday tasks faster and simpler to complete, allowing more time for creative thinking and problem solving. Cloud technology is seen by many in the sector as key, with our research revealing 60% believe that it will benefit their organisation by making collaboration easier.
It’s not just happening in the future either. Some national Government departments such as the Department for International Development (DFID), have set an early example to local authorities and public bodies. DFID introduced Google Apps, using Google Sites to enable collaboration between partners and staff delivering aid programmes across the globe with great success. This could very easily be replicated to great effect in local government in order to aid teams spread across different locations or working in the field across authorities.
Sharing information is just one part though - organisations achieving real change are combining collaborative technology with social, to make communication easier and more innovation focused.
The Millennial generation now forms a significant part of the workforce, many barely remember life before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and would be lost without their smartphone. Whilst staff are using fast communication tools such as social media and mobile chat in personal lives, communications in the workplace have been slow to catch up and provide the necessary speed of contact to foster innovation.
Historically intranets have been the key internal communication channel within many local authorities, but they often adopt a prescriptive, top down approach, not designed to support mobile and collaborative workforces.
Innovative public sector organisations are transforming their intranet to bring people together in a social environment, encourage interaction, enable collaboration and deliver a more personalised news feed providing relevant, on demand, and critically useful soundbites via any platform.
Social tools will be used to foster creativity and innovation whether organisations introduce them or not. Among those choosing to ignore this technology, a large proportion of workers are instead turning to shadow IT solutions, such as Facebook groups, to support their collaboration and enable social interaction. Most CIOs are well aware of the issues presented by shadow IT, and the problems created by SILO working. Consequently, whilst prioritising investment on something deemed internally facing is difficult, it is arguably critical in enabling workplace transformation and innovation.
Mobile working is nothing new for local government. There is a long tradition of taking services directly into communities. However the technology to support this innovative approach to delivery hasn’t been introduced nearly enough. Teams are being expected to work on location or provide out of office services. As a result, staff must be able to work on the move. Introducing a BYOD policy or providing a mobile device rather than a permanent desktop will help to improve productivity.
Ultimately, if you look at any organisation, efficiency and accuracy are reliant on communication. Whether it means sharing ideas, providing support, managing departments or motivating staff, all require people to interact. By creating an environment where the user has the same experience using work technology as their own personal device, workers will be more comfortable. This will not only improve efficiency but lead to scores of other benefits such as increased innovation and job satisfaction.
All of this available technology is driving the necessary change in local government. Over the next three years, demand for collaboration in real time is predicted to double. This demand must be met, alongside investment in social and mobile technologies.
Organisations have a growing library of best practice case studies to inspire genuine transformation to the way they work, whilst also cutting costs and fulfilling central Government ‘digital by default’ targets. Mobile, social and collaboration technologies working in synergy help to enable a focus on people and processes, ultimately driving innovation.
Duncan Farley is head of business transformation at Ancoris