As the population in the UK is increasing so is the demand of Local Government services. IT departments are under increased pressure to find new ways to decrease costs, while delivering a higher quality of services for citizens. According to Gartner just over 50% of Local Government organizations in the UK have started digitalizing their day-to-day processes. The rest are still relying on out-of-date legacy systems, which are expensive to maintain and hold organizations back when it comes to improving services.
With budget cuts being made across the board and an expected further decrease of nearly £16 billion over the next decade, Local Government can’t afford to wait any longer to move away from legacy infrastructures, become more digitally enabled and provide better services at a lower cost.
Main barriers within Local Government IT departments
- Legacy systems - The most significant barrier preventing Local Governments from investing in digital transformation is that they are still clinging on to legacy systems. These systems are expensive to maintain, and the many hand-coded connections are crumbling under the weight of today’s need to capture, store, access and process data. Unquestionably, modernizing such ecosystems requires strong commitment from IT departments, but it will still be less than the time and effort legacy systems need just to keep on working.
- Budget - Another important barrier are the continuous budget cuts of IT departments within Local Governments. Creating integrated environments and adopting modern technologies –be it cloud, artificial intelligence, IoT etc., requires significant investment, however the gains from optimizing processes, reducing the legacy footprint with all its associated costs, and becoming overall more efficient and productive would soon offset the initial costs.
- Fear of Failure – The term ‘Digital Transformation’ and all the associated jargon can be daunting, and not just to Local Governments. Undoubtedly, it is not an easy endeavor –it needs to be a strategic decision and requires a lot of planning, committed resources and clear goals. One of the reasons why digital transformation initiatives are not at the top of the agenda, is fear of failure which, in the case of Local Government, comes in various guises including political pressure, public outcry, media shame etc. One way to control the risk of failure is by starting with small, manageable sized projects before increasing the investment. And because of the complexity of such projects, it is also advisable to work with an experienced partner who can help Local Governments formulate a clear strategy and navigate through the different technologies and routes to success.
Why Local Governments need digital transformation
- Increased automation – An urging matter for Local Government is the need for greater automation. By integrating their systems and applications, IT departments will be able to get rid of obsolete, time-consuming processes, whilst automating and streamlining others. Decreasing the number of manual processes that have been building up over the years, will in turn free up the time of staff to focus on more high priority tasks, reduce the risk of error from the manual process of data, and improve the overall experience of citizens.
- Improving citizen services – Omnichannel is not the prerogative of just the retail sector. Today, more and more citizens expect to be able to be served via different channels, both online and offline, same as they would by their favorite brand. Key characteristic for a successful omnichannel strategy, is the ability to offer the same experience to users across channels, and this can only be achieved by operating a fully integrated environment with a unified view of information across departments, agencies etc. Another technology-enabled step to improving services whilst reducing effort and cost, is the introduction of Artificial Intelligence to automate the more ordinary, non-critical communication with citizens.
- Better Intelligence – For any Local Government it is important to have a good understanding of the people, businesses and communities within their domain or region, in order to offer better, more targeted services. Unfortunately, this is not easy as data is locked into a range of legacy systems, often in a proprietary format that makes it hard to extract, process and analyze. Depending on the data, such issues could be solved either with an integration platform as a middleware to connect the different systems, or with a big data lake, both of which will enable users to get better, more accurate and inclusive insights. Another important reason why Local Governments should invest in getting that intelligence, is to combat fraudsters. With Artificial Intelligence they’d be able to detect anomalies like similar handwriting, duplicated phone numbers, location, IP addresses and search activity to stop fraudsters and protect taxpayers' money.
- Data security – Research shows that Local Governments are not increasing their investment into cyber-security, although the number of cyberattacks is increasing. With hackers becoming more sophisticated and bolder, Local Governments need to be prepared for potential security breaches. A cyberattack can be extremely disruptive to day-to-day operations, whereas data breaches could be detrimental as authorities hold some of the most sensitive data. Today, Local Governments need new, intelligent tools and methods to prevent, detect and terminate cyberattacks in real-time. Machine Learning and algorithm techniques can analyze logs, system reports, network packets, flows and files, and uncover deviations from established patterns of behavior, highlighting those that could pose a security threat to the organization.
The majority of Local Government organizations are too far behind in the digital transformation journey. It’s time to move away from legacy systems and processes and bring their operation and services to the 21st century. To be able to save money in the long run local governments will need to invest now in the modernization of their infrastructure and the upskilling of their employees.
Other useful links:
Coforge MuleSoft Services
The State of Big Data in the UK 2019
Coforge Big Data Services