Digital automation in local government
Today, local authorities are facing increased pressure to improve public service delivery, but to do so with fewer resources. Tightening budgets, limits on how much they can raise council tax, and increasing populations means they are constantly challenged to do more with less. In parallel, expectations from the public are rising, to the point where they demand many services to be more responsive and available 24/7. Lastly, there are new requirements for authorities to operate more sustainably wherever possible. These factors have driven a general level of dissatisfaction in the delivery of public services. McKinsey research found that citizen’s rate public services at an average of between 5.5 to six out of ten, compared to a score of around eight for the best-rating private-sector industries.
The root cause: Underlying complexity and multiple systems
Much of the problem stems from the scale and complexity of the typical local government organisation. Because of their sheer size, authorities rely on a plethora of disparate systems and workflows, causing unnecessary gaps in service, lengthy time lags and an inefficient use of resources. Take a simple example, such as onboarding a new project manager to the town planning department. This would require a convoluted workflow involving different functions such as IT, human resources, security, facilities and line management. Typically, this process will involve multiple entries, requests and notifications via different platforms, supported by a series of emails and maybe even phone calls. Many authorities are turning to automation and a single platform to help solve this sizeable challenge. Under the umbrella of the wider digital transformation of public services, more and more authorities are embracing automation – particularly the kind that works in tandem with employees to address inefficiencies and make service delivery faster. This blog explores how and where local governments can apply such digital automation to best effect.
Introducing Enterprise Service Management (ESM)
Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between digital transformation and digital automation. The former is how the general concept of technology can improve business operations, while the latter is more specifically about the application of a single software platform to simplify and speed-up core processes. Automation in this context is often referred to as Enterprise Service Management (ESM). This is where business processes are streamlined and reorganised through a blend of human and automated processes, in order to improve productivity. ESM borrows from the established principles of IT service management, so they can be applied across all business functions – enabling them to embrace self-service and automation, along with a greater rigour in service delivery. ESM solutions can be provided as a fully-managed service, or through plug-and-play technologies that are self-operated by an authority. But the real key to ESM is that everything is run through a single platform. Take the earlier onboarding example. Rather than processing requests through multiple systems, a single portal would take the initial onboarding request. After the request has been submitted, the platform will automatically distribute the tasks and assign them to the relevant departments – ordering equipment from IT, requesting clearance from security, identity card processing from facilities and an induction through HR.
ESM in local government
Looking at ESM from a local government perspective, the benefits of this approach are many, including:
- Greater public trust: delivering improved experiences that cause the public less stress will inspire more positivity in local government. McKinsey found that satisfied people are nine times more likely to trust organisations providing services
- Better data sharing: enabling easier sharing and co-ordination of data between councils, partner organisations and the public can reduce the time-consuming collection of duplicate data. This data can be analysed to improve understanding of what the public needs, and how resources can be better managed
- Improved capacity and skills: by taking care of repetitive tasks that cost time and money when done manually, human resources can be freed up to apply their skills where it’s really needed. This allows local governments to do more with less, and to provide more personal and empathetic delivery of services in key areas
- Process optimisation: connected to the previous point, automation is applied to elements of an end-to-end process to reduce duplication, improve speed and simplify workflow, enabling the roles of both humans and machines to be fully optimised
- Service improvement: Technology can also be used to make some services even more efficient while improving the user experience. Tools such as chatbots, live chat social media and self-service support channels will improve user interaction, while freeing up human resources
- Easier to reach targets: with more flexible services available around the clock, local governments can hit KPIs around performance, value for the taxpayer, and in sustainability. In the case of the latter, automated services can replace the time and carbon footprint created from the public travelling to service centres in person
Prime use cases for digital automation
Which applications of automation are right for your local authority will depend on the individual characteristics of the body you represent. But these seven common use cases demonstrate the breadth of what’s possible:
- School transport driver vetting: automated checking of identity and background of applicants as soon as they fill in their details
- Bin collection incident tracking: real-time updating of any information around delayed or missed collections
- Disabled parking badge processing: ensuring quick processing, approval and dispatch of blue badges, so disabled people can access the spaces they’re entitled to
- Environmental incident tracking: fast response to environmental alerts can reduce the overall impact of any incident
- Housing benefit claim processing: cross-referencing of claim details and quick processing can ensure a fast and fair process for claimants
- Tree management: information around regular tree checks and maintenance can alert staff to upcoming re-checks or jobs
- AI-driven service recommendations: a customised, analytical approach can connect the right people to the services they need
As the above list demonstrates, the capacity for Enterprise Service Management to maximise the potential of digital automation is enormous for local government. By implementing digital automation in the right areas, local authorities can work within ever tightening budgets without compromising on service quality or essential services. Achieving this, however, needs careful planning and a properly-devised deployment, so that automation is only used in the places where it can be of genuine benefit. This is where the assistance of an expert partner can make a huge difference. When you partner with SCC, you access a depth of expertise and digital automation technologies to help you maximise efficiency. Take a closer look at what we can do for your business here.
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