The United Kingdom Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) was announced last month and, due to a £27 billion ‘windfall’ (predicted interest rates and tax receipt improvements), was reported by the majority of the press as ‘the end of austerity’.
Looking at this through a very benevolent lens one may accept this view as cuts to Government revenue (running cost) expenditure was expected to be either 25% or 40% for those few ministries that were not ‘ring-fenced’ and protected due to their special status.
This level of budget reduction did not, however, transpire. Indeed the average reduction made was half of that experienced in the last spending review period (2010 to 2015), apart from a few unlucky souls such as Transport and Local Government. Increases in budget were awarded to priority areas such as Defence, Housing and the NHS.
The CSR was reported as being a politically astute exercise by the Chancellor, George Osborne, but this is a view that does not tell the whole story. Look beyond the rhetoric, and you’ll find that that there remains a need to focus on improving the efficiency of agency operations, especially back-office, in order to deliver improved services to the public within reducing funding envelopes.
This is a tall order by anyone’s reckoning, especially given austerity measures that have been in place for the last 5 years. How much blood can be squeezed from the proverbial stone?
Another factor that needs to be considered is the certainty of the predictions made by the Office for Budget Responsibility. What happens if the £27 billion windfall doesn’t materialise? Prudence and planning for improved efficiency and citizen service should be the order of the day.
Rethinking the organisation of government
There has been a significant amount of attention surrounding the need to radically rethink how government is organised. Scientific analysis has concluded there is a direct relationship between public spending and economic growth and so, for everyone’s wellbeing, there is good reason to continue to reduce public spending. But how?
Government as a Platform (GaaP) is not about just sharing an IT platform; while delivering cost reductions, this alone will not deliver the required savings. Government reorganisation and process redesign is also needed, so consolidation of 1,000 public sector organisations may be the upshot.
It’s true that GaaP, the coalescence of service around common need, will require time to implement but it’s nonetheless the best way to deliver improvements at an affordable cost.
Other initiatives (big data and analytics, cloud, omni-channel, agile, mobile, social) are just examples of supporting technologies that will support the shorter-term imperative – getting work done in a way that satisfies citizens’ needs at a more affordable cost.
How technology can bolster government needs
Getting work done is usually linked to process and case management, but this is only part of the capability set required. We need to be more precise with how we deal with citizens. To do this, we need to have access to a broad set of information beyond departmental silos, to inform how to interact with them.
Specifically, a fully functional, integrated set of customer service capabilities is required, which need to be supported by the appropriate, easily adaptable and dynamic technology – namely an enterprise platform.
For governing agencies, enterprise platforms are notoriously difficult to justify. A major challenge to establishing this type of platform is that UK public sector governance tends to authorise on a point-by-point project and solution basis, with pre-defined benefits associated with each. It does not recognise that foundations are being built, which support future agile and incremental transformation.
The long and short game
Government investment tends to follow parliamentary cycles, so investment in supporting platforms may not initially appear to deliver the return within the right timeframe. Care needs to be taken, therefore, to select platforms that have rapid time to benefit capabilities and the ability to adopt change as legislation and policy changes.
Procurement needs to focus on strategic outcomes, not just cost and benefits of point solutions. A strategic business transformation case needs to be articulated and approved.
It’s important to focus on the approach and strategy associated with transformation, as well as the return on investment of individual projects. To do this effectively, government needs to have an informed approval process supported by qualified individuals who fully understand the department’s long-term goals and how an enterprise platform can support them.
Establishing and implementing an enterprise platform will certainly require additional budget, but will ultimately save money in the long run – particularly when compared to multiple point solutions. Incremental implementation of solutions in an agile fashion will reduce risk and support re-usability and lower cost of operation.
GaaP is the right idea, but it needs to be implemented correctly to deliver on necessary savings and improved service. To have the best chance of doing so, an omni-channel, scalable and agile platform needs to be implemented to support more efficient public sector work, as well as improve the ability to address citizens’ changing needs.
Sourced from Peter Ford, public sector expert, Pegasystems