Technology leaders urge the public sector to step out of an era of data blindness

A report which calls for a shake-up in IT enabled transformation in the public sector has been published today by Civica, a market leader in specialist software, technology and outsourcing services which help organisations to transform the way they work. In the report senior technology leaders warn that unless the public sector overhauls the way it works, it will neither deliver the savings demanded by the new government nor make the ‘One Nation’ vision a reality.

The report identifies how the UK public sector can prepare for tomorrow’s digital society. It reveals that priorities need to include: increasing the public sectors’ data IQ, developing a self-service and social nation and committing to outcome-based intervention driven by an overall cultural shift.

Data rich but information poor
We live in an era where we are constantly plugged into a myriad of systems, devices and social networks, which is creating more data than ever before. The challenge for all organisations is in making sense of this data to drive tangible benefits for the end user. However, with the majority of public services relying on multiple systems to collect data, it’s vital that they take a ‘whole area approach’ to identify and avoid overlap between organisations, draw out insights and create predictive services.

Jackie Walley, Head of Modernising Education at Denbighshire County Council explained that, with over 300 active systems, the cost of maintaining them is not viable. The council is now working towards collecting data once and pushing it out to relevant parties as an available service, to streamline processes, create efficiencies and reduce costs.

“To date, public services have been data rich but information poor. With £30 billion in savings yet to be found, data insight is pivotal to enabling public service organisations to act smarter, identify opportunities for greater efficiency and deliver services at the point of need,” commented Steve Shakespeare, Managing Director, Civica Services.

John Hood, Chief Technology Officer at Civica, further explained: “From a data insight and analytics perspective the last ten years have seen public sector organisations progress only 20% of the way through the business transformation journey, with the remaining 80% to be delivered over the next ten years. For innovation to happen we need to step out of this era of data blindness.”

Self-service social nation
Public service organisations are under increasing pressure to focus on the user experience by enabling greater opportunities to self-serve. Today, consumers need to be able to access information at a time, from a location, through a channel and via a device of their choice. To pre-empt needs and better manage resources, the leaders urge their public service counterparts not to overlook wearables which can be used to identify a problem before it develops further, allowing for preventative action to be taken. And yet, according to Civica research, only 9% of local government heads of service and IT directors believe wearables for supporting integrated patient care will be commonplace in five years’ time.

“We need to improve the user experience; that’s what people really care about. The provision of services need to flex how, when and what the consumer wants – exactly as is expected in other service industries,” added Richard Jones, Senior Partner at Moorhouse Consulting.

Outcome-based intervention
Driving change in public service delivery means organisations must think differently. The technology leaders also called for budgets to be released and a more joined-up approach to procurement. Public sector organisations need to change from being focused on service supply and delivery to becoming much more customer-centric. Part of this approach requires creating a safe, blame free environment in which people can experiment freely and innovate continually.

Steve Shakespeare, Managing Director, Civica Services explained: “We can’t underestimate the importance of getting under the skin of consumers. In this digital era, consumers of all ages have become accustomed to a certain style and level of instant service, making them impatient and demanding for organisations on the back foot. Technology has a critical role to play in reimagining public service delivery and enduring the cross-fertilisation of new ideas between public and private sector organisations.”

Radical shift in culture
The technology leaders agreed that an information rich environment, a self-service nation and outcome-based intervention will not happen in time unless there is concurrent shift in culture. However, cultural change and technology innovation needs to be trailblazed from the top by a CIO with a bold, strategic vision which goes beyond the parameters of technology-based transformation. Such CIOs are also known as agents of change. According to the report contributors, only about 10% fall within this category.

Jonathan Mitchell of Harvey Nash concluded: “The CIO is crucial to any IT-based transformation project. In reality, it’s never about technology; it’s all about change management and being willing to bite the bullet.”