In March 2020, as the UK entered lockdown, there was a rush to enable employees to work from home; allowing businesses to continue operating and for public sector organisations to deliver front-line services to their citizens. Since then, we have seen more organisations moving away from the office environment and enabling actual remote, hybrid and flexible working.
The Coronavirus pandemic accelerated the enablement of digital citizen services and also highlighted the importance of digital connectivity. The authorities that embraced this and enabled their citizens to engage with them digitally will reap the rewards for years to come, especially those focusing on digital inclusion with groups that were otherwise digitally excluded.
There are some important lessons to be learned from the pandemic, and practices that we must continue. Remote working and digital inclusion are some of the most important examples of these. We must not just go back to the way we did it before.
Digital Inclusion means providing access to online services and the internet. However, it also means developing the skills to use the internet. This includes the motivation to use the services, trusting in one’s knowledge of the internet, and how to avoid becoming a victim of cyber-crime. By enabling citizens in these ways, services can be delivered online, making them more cost-effective and efficient.
On the other hand, employees can now spend more time with their families and lead more fulfilling lives, especially when working from home instead of spending that time commuting. Working from home has opened their minds to more possibilities. However, returning to offices and enabling hybrid working is a technological challenge and a policy-based one. Ensuring that employees are prepared for a digitally enabled future will be critical to the success of future digital and public services.
Often, public sector organisations talk about digital skills, a skills gap and being digitally trained. This means multiple things:
- Employees having the basic digital skills to fulfil their role
- Employees having the confidence to embrace new technologies as part of their role
- Employees having the technical skills to implement and utilise new technologies
Ensuring that employees have digital skills will always be important. Although the private sector has been able to plug the gaps and support organisations with these developments, this has become part of the problem. Although a Managed Service Provider can partner with you to deliver RPA (Robotic Process Automation) change and AI (Automated Intelligence), your employees need to learn how to work alongside these technologies and use them to enhance their day to day roles.
These technologies are, more often than not, cloud-based. When considering moving to cloud-based services, you must remember that the cloud is just somebody else’s server – it still lives in a data centre somewhere. Whether you own and operate it yourself, outsource some of that to a cloud provider, or partner with an organisation to support you with managing the environment and applications, you own the data and are responsible for protecting it.
The cloud aims to be cheaper, more secure and more available than traditional on-premises services. However, utilising cloud services won’t always save money, and it’s a mistake to think it will. Cloud also isn’t always the right answer for every organisation. Our tips for cloud adoption are:
- Don’t start by talking about the end result and where you think you want to be at the end of the project
- Engage with multiple partners, exploring your challenges and the possible solutions
- Be aware that people working within ICT often look at the technologies they already know and are comfortable with.
- Work with technology partners to understand your underlying requirements, both now and in the future
- Ensure that your chosen solutions solve your current problems now and are flexible to address your future challenges
- Ask yourself how the solution will improve employee or residents’ lives
- Look at the bigger picture and break it down into smaller, more manageable bite-sized chunks
This article has covered a lot, from cloud to digital inclusion, from employee flexible working to digital skills of citizens. The public sector has been part of a giant wheel of digital adoption over the past 12-18 months, the speed of which has been extraordinary. It’s expected that this speed will begin to slow if it hasn’t already. However, we cannot go back to the way we were before, whether that is working in office buildings every day, or delivering services offline inefficiently. Embrace digital. Embrace change. Embrace digital transformation.
To speak with our digital transformation experts, please get in touch. Whether you’re analysing if cloud services are right for your key software applications or adjusting your policies to enable hybrid working, Cantium can help.