We've discussed extensively the impact of COVID-19 on data and ecommerce for private sector enterprises , but customer expectations have changed universally – so what has been (and what will be) the effect on public sector organisations? What’s changed in our behaviour and our expectations with regards to our consumption of public services when we consume services from the many different public bodies we touch as part of our everyday lives?
“We expect to experience a holistic digital service from any organisation we interact with”
Given the incredible transformation of the past 12 months, it should be taken as rule of thumb that we expect to experience a holistic digital service from each and every organisation we interact with – regardless of sector, or industry or indeed size of organisation. As people, customers, consumers and citizens, we have moved far beyond just filling in a digital form in place of a paper ones – just think about the way we’re now interacting with even in the way we now interact with making an appointment with our GPs – and there’s clearly much that can be done to address the complexities of the public sector and ensure that all citizens are able to access support and services in a way that is most convenient for them.
The public services have of course already taken note of this – with McKinsey noting how the sector is increasingly embracing the 24/7 benefits of digital, as well as enjoying the reduction in administration time and the many ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ costs that are incurred by a complex. Matrix-led organisation.
“Huge immediate potential for public services to become vastly more efficient”
In fact, with an intelligent digital strategy, there’s huge immediate potential for public services to become vastly more efficient for all stakeholders through an intelligent digital strategy – whether that be it’s through unifying citizen-support services into a single platform to improve ease of use to deal with the large influx of critical citizen requests while working with limited resources, or embracing chatbots and automation in a way that’s complementary to existing processes, to boost productivity and reduce the administrative burden, – or enhancing collaboration across access departments to break down silos and, integrate workflows enable greater efficiency and innovation and bring a far more flexible, agile and measurable way of working.
There’s clearly so much that can be done in a relatively straightforward way to address the complexities and workload that the public sector currently faces, while ensuring that all citizens are able to access support and services in a way that is most convenient for them.
“The Welsh Government is looking to lead the way”
The Welsh Government is looking to lead the way in this – allocating £4.9 million to make public sector digital services better for the people of Wales. Recent success stories include Neath Port Talbot Council working with Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils, (supported by the Centre for Digital Public Services) on a project to improve people’s experience of accessing adult social care services online, – and the sterling work done by Caerphilly County Borough Council’s in using digital automation to manage applications for free school meals, which has resulted in a much speedier process.
“It’s critical that our public services evolve to meet the changing expectations of the people who need and use them”
As Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, quite rightly notes: “Digital is now a central part of all our lives and that’s never been more evident than during the pandemic. It’s critical that our public services evolve to meet the changing expectations of the people who need and use them – and that they are as simple to use and intuitive as the services we access when we are online shopping or providing our energy readings.”
That vision of citizens being able to easily access the services they want through a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen is eminently achievable, if public services invest in the skills, knowledge and applications that make that happen. Just look at what we achieved with GP Wales within four months of the pandemic hitting us – accelerating the development of an online jobs and shifts database that which makes it easier to place locums in pressurised GP Practices throughout Wales.
“Now is the time for the public sector to step forward and optimise all that they can do through digital services”
With these lessons in place and so much more that we can achieve, now is the time for the public sector to step forward and optimise all that they can do through digital services – whether it’s reviewing technical architecture for efficiencies and future enablement, conducting the research and testing needed to identify and remove the usability and accessibility pain points to improve usability and accessibility;, or beginning the journey of embedding a broad-reaching culture of digital transformation to enable ongoing innovation into the future.