Public sector organisations have faced extreme funding shortages and had to implement cost-saving measures for many years. Seemingly, there is always more money to be saved and efficiencies to be found. Many of these problems have been solved with the introduction of ‘digital transformation’. The idea is that public sector organisations would move from traditionally paper-based or physical processes to online and digital ones.
The benefits were obvious – time and money saved, efficiencies found, services delivered better. Digitally, after all, is how the modern user wants to interact with organisations and get things done. With the advent of all these new digital processes, public-sector bodies are now producing more data than ever before. But what are they doing with it? Alarmingly, not enough.
Less than half of UK local councils are confident in their ability to make the most of their data. But 90% see the opportunities that digital presents to them – especially for engaging their communities and delivering services better. There is a mismatch there. Public-sector organisations need to embrace analytics and the power of data as part of their digital transformation plans.
Given the conditions under which the public sector is now operating, being able to make decisions based on data and data-derived insights is invaluable. Every penny of spend must be accounted for, and the value of projects must be objective and backed by the numbers. 72% of councils are aiming to reduce spending next year without impacting on the quality of services and it is easy to see how that process could be improved.
Robust data analysis tools, including data visualisation, democratises data within large public bodies such as councils and government organisations. Too often data is held privately by the very few at the top and insights are rarely shared with the wider teams. Data visualisation tools deployed in the cloud mean this access can now be granted to anyone across the organisation, at any time, in any location and on any device. This sits firmly within the remit of digital transformation and gives public sector bodies the tools to make better decisions at the same time.
Analytics is also essential to improving the way public sector organisations provide their services and interact with their users. Digital transformation means that many services are now moving online and there is confidence among organisations and service users that this will improve services. Given that the value of services will now almost exclusively be based on outcomes, the public sector can use analytics to refine, target and optimise their services.
The collection of demographic data for the users of particular services, for example, can be monitored for trends, identifying whether target groups are using the service as expected or they are failing to engage. Likewise, new online services that depend on internet servers and other systems to be available to the public should be closely monitored to ensure services don’t drop out – modern users have extremely high standards. Robust analytics tools will allow real-time reporting on this data and can even deploy predictive analytics to suggest when capacity may need to be improved. Likewise, it can also suggest quieter times when capacity can be reduced, and money saved.
Being able to adapt to future technologies and use these to improve services will be central to how public-sector organisations move through digital transformation in the 21st century. Currently, only a worryingly low number of public sector bodies (30%) feel confident in embracing new technologies like AI, robotics or machine learning.
As pressures for cost savings increase and demands for better, more personalised and more reactive services also rise the public sector must either embrace new technologies or risk total failure. AI and machine learning are already a part of more robust data analysis tools and are already being used to identify problems before they arise and decide on the best courses of action for cost-cutting exercises. Simply, analytics can process this information in ways that humans are just not able to.
The public sector has been working hard on digital transformation plans for a few years now, but not all of them have recognised the value of data and analytics as part of this. Not only should a thorough approach to analytics be an integral part of any digital transformation, we would argue it should be one of the earliest aspects introduced. Having these capabilities will allow organisations to run their transformation plans as smoothly and as effectively as possible – all without interrupting the provision of essential services.
The time is also right for the public sector to capitalise on data and analytics. Robust tools have never been more accessible – with lower pricing and easy deployment methods including cloud computing meaning they are available to all. Modern tools represent true value for money.