In my last blog post (Digital Transformation in the Public Sector) we looked at the benefits digital transformation can have on a public sector organisation. Now we have identified the need for local authorities to embrace digital transformation, what is the next step to take?

For local authorities who are interested in implementing digital reform in their organisation, the first question they will be faced with is: “How do I get started?” Many do this by creating a ‘digital strategy’ which looks at the processes, benefits and potential challenges faced by moving a variety of services online. At this early stage of development, it is important for public sector organisations to continually consider how to engage both current and future customers in any development along with how to also empower employees and improve current business processes.

In Microsoft’s report Digital Transformation:  The Age of Innocence, Inertia or Innovation?’, it suggests to create a successful digital transformation strategy, Transformation Officers and IT Managers will have to re-envision new models for their organisation that embrace a new, digital way of bringing customers and staff together, whilst still creating value.

With this in mind when starting the process of digital transformation and before creating a digital strategy, public sector organisations should consider a variety of questions:

  1.  What is the role of a local authority in the digital age?
  2.  What possibilities could be created or problems solved by using digital technologies?
  3.  What value can we bring to customers in the digital era?
  4.  What impact will a transformation have on staff?

Adapting to reflect customer demands:

It is important that a local authority evolves as its customers do and continues to offer services on a platform that suits the way their customers prefer to engage. Many councils may see 2017 as an exciting time for their services, with various local authorities taking a digital by default approach and capitalising on the advances in technology that present a variety of new opportunities. However, for some, the whole process of moving physical documents into an intangible cloud can seem daunting or maybe even impossible.

Reaping rewards of digital transformation:

As we’ve looked at previously, moving services online will save money through channel shift and can allow for the automation of processes. Taking bookings and receiving payment will no longer be limited to office working hours, with online systems enabling customers to make a booking at any time and from anywhere in the world – creating a flexible and simple way to book. However, services that are more complex will need to take into consideration the consequences of enabling 24 hour booking and try to minimise risks by asking questions in advance such as: “Do we need to limit bookings for certain appointment types to specific days?” or “Do we need to build in a minimum notice period for appointments with special requirements?”

Public sector organisations may seek external services to assist in anticipating these needs and offer advice on best practice or put local authorities in touch with previous clients who have undergone a similar change. It is important for public sector organisations to not be afraid of asking questions, to make the most of the resources available and to try anticipating problems before they happen.

However, it is not only when or where customers will access online services that a digital strategy will need to consider, but also how. In 2015, Ofcom recorded that 33 per cent of internet users preferred to browse the web via their smartphones whilst more than half of UK households owned a tablet device.

With this in mind, it is important for organisations to ensure their public facing elements of any new online service should be mobile-friendly and easy to use.  Responsive templates and compliance with an accessibility standard such as WCAG will be a must for any modern public facing transformation.

Empowering employees:

According to the information technology research and advisory company ‘451 Research’, digital transformation is the result of IT innovation aligned with well-planned business strategies. In their report, ‘Digital Transformation; the what, the why and the how?’, the goal of any organisation making the shift to digital should be to transform how they can serve not just customers, but also employees and partners by inventing new business models and improving current operations.

Introducing new digital ways of working in a council can sometimes cause worry amongst employees who fear they won’t have the technical skills to keep up. However, once provided with proficient training, the benefits of utilising online booking systems for both staff and customers will soon be recognised. By shifting customer interactions online and to call centres, staff will have more time to fulfil other work tasks – helping to keep human error at bay and any previous associated costs low.

It is important for all organisations to transform to compete and keep up with demand in a digital economy, and local authorities are no exception. By embracing a solid digital strategy and focusing on how it can bring people, data and processes together, public sector organisations won’t just survive through digital transformation, but thrive when working with the right partners.

At Stopford we provide our clients with cost-effective, engaging online booking systems which help to streamline back-office functions and improve customer experience, with full training provided on any system implemented. Why not contact us today to see how we could help you?