Government departments should consider the long-term opportunities digital can bring rather than simply focusing on upfront costs.
In March 2016, then Chancellor George Osborne announced £4bn in spending cuts across a wide range of government departments.
This led IT departments to focus more on ensuring money was being spent on the right technology in the right places.
The end result for citizens was arguably an improved service, and for public sector employees it was greater efficiencies in their working day.
Despite this, many departments are still failing to look at digital as an opportunity to streamline services and are focusing instead on the upfront cost.
Finding a balance
Prioritising the need to save money while taking advantage of digital is a difficult balance for public sector IT teams to achieve.
It is not an uncommon problem, but opportunities are being missed by government organisations that are more focused on cutting the cost of IT than using IT to cut costs.
If the Government is going to realise digital’s potential for improving internal efficiencies and delivering enhanced citizen services, technology decision-makers need to do better at highlighting the long-term benefits of IT investment.
Transformation in government is enabled by technology, not delivered by it.
Using digital as a force for change
Digital needs to be the strategic force for change – modernising and improving back-end and public sector government IT.
Worryingly, according to our research, a third of public sector organisations admit they do not have a clear digital strategy mapped out.
To take advantage of the economic and organisational benefits of technology, government organisations must create new, high-speed digital strategies that sit alongside the back-office IT that civil servants work with on a daily basis.
This is especially important in the public sector, where citizens have little choice over the services they use and also expect those services to be digital – from online tax assessment to booking hospital appointments.
Creating digital efficiencies
Public sector organisations can also use digital as a key tool to facilitate strategic change and generate efficiencies.
Fujitsu worked with Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to provide staff with the tools, processes, support and information to allow them to be a truly empowered and connected workforce.
From the beginning, Cafcass had a clear strategy on how it wanted to improve, which Fujitsu supported with end-to-end services that have brought benefits to staff and ultimately the families and children they serve.
Employees were given 4G laptops or tablets allowing them to flexibly work at home, in the office, at court, or when travelling to visit service users, while video conferencing reduced the need to travel to offices for meetings and improved case management systems took the pain out of daily admin.
In the background, Fujitsu was also able to digitise incoming court orders, local authority checks and Police National Computer checks, which in turn means social workers no longer have to transport heavy case files to court.
The strategy saved Cafcass 105,000 hours, enabling them to focus their efforts on the people that need them the most: the vulnerable who require human interaction for their care.
Addressing cost drains
Digital tools can also be used to address huge cost-drains in public sector organisations, such as fraud and error. Fraud and error cost UK public services a staggering £31 billion per year. There is a massive opportunity for cost-savings in an era of scarce resources.
For example, Fujitsu provided a fraud and error reduction service for HMRC which to date has resulted in saving over £400m. As well as this, the IT transformation paid for itself within the first two weeks of implementation!
For the public sector it’s now time to embrace digital and look at how IT can strategically help reduce costs in each department.
While taking the leap into digital may come with short-term challenges, in the long run, the benefits for employees and citizens alike are undeniable.
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