Published on in Public SectorDigital Transformation

Back in January a Financial Times editorial paid a pretty big compliment to the hard-pressed local councils of Great Britain; it said, ‘many councils have proven during the austerity years to be effective managers of scarce resources.’

For the FT, that’s huge praise. It’s not a sentiment you hear very often, either from other papers or from politicians. It proves that local councils who have been on the frontline of austerity since it began, have frankly, performed miracles.

A recent report in Public Sector News highlighted the fact that though the government has signalled the end of austerity, it will take a long time to recover the funding power which councils once had. In fact, the ‘legacy’ of austerity will need to be addressed for years to come.

So, how can we define the challenge that faces local government?

I believe there are two themes here: local government, collectively, has built up a depth of fiscal skills which mean they understand how to get value for money; and those skills will be still be needed for years to come. At Fujitsu we’re working to enable local government to make the most of what we hope will be a new era, and to leverage the power of technology to deliver better value for money, higher productivity, and most of all a workforce that’s more engaged and more responsive to the needs of citizens.

Technology has never been the only answer. Even though that’s our focus, we understand that the needs of people – citizens and the council employees who serve them – are the priority. Always have been; always will be. Technology is now a vital part of the daily lives of both your people and the people you serve. It’s important to use technology to deliver an experience that reflects the every-day world of apps, social media, and online shopping so that everyone feels comfortable engaging with you. With the help of technology, it also means that your people can cut down on repetitive tasks and focus on delivering higher levels of service to citizens. Save time, save money and reduce the frustration for your employees and citizens.

OK, how do you enable those outcomes?

Well, doesn’t it mean spending a lot of money on new technology, ripping out existing systems and training the entire workforce on how to use new systems? It doesn’t. We all know that there’s a lot of pressure for local authorities to go to the cloud, do almost everything as-a-service, and achieve ‘digital transformation’. But the reality of the world you must operate in means that there are risks which can lead to the kind of disruption that would be both costly and harmful to your local services. There is another way. It’s one we’ve designed with your needs in mind so that you can deliver transformational improvements without the effort of ripping out existing infrastructure.

Right – how do you do all that?

You start by delivering a ‘quick-win’ for your local authority by adding a top layer of services to your current systems which match the ease and accessibility of the Facebook/Amazon/Google world of simplicity and elegance. It’s not complex – you don’t have to go on a three-day course to learn how to input a few data fields or financial information sets – it just works. By innovating and connecting your existing front-end online systems, you get the ‘softer’ benefits your people are demanding. Benefits which not only deliver a truly modern work experience that can but also better engagement with citizens. It’s better than the zero-sum game that you’re often told you must accept.

It’s what Fujitsu’s range of offerings is all about. We’re focused on helping you modernise your existing applications, so they benefit both your employees and the people you serve. The point is to deliver simple but satisfying solutions like drastically reducing the rekeying of citizen data. It’s a problem that inevitably leads to lots of errors. We help make your processes more streamlined by deploying automated responses to deal with frequent queries. So, there are far fewer calls to HR, finance or customer services. Less frustration, more productivity. And we also ensure that you can offer a truly joined-up experience across all devices from desktops to tablets and mobile phones.

It’s innovation that gets more value from existing tech and saves money through better ways of working. It’s not rip-it-up-and-start-again but build on what you have and move forward with confidence into a new era of local government. It might sound expensive, but the initial cost is, actually, relatively low. The long-term cost savings and efficiency benefits can be substantial.

Ultimately, our offering is, in itself, a quick win for local government! It helps you continue to manage austerity, deliver better value for money, boost productivity, and most of all ensure that your teams are more engaged and responsive to the needs of citizens.

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