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Maintaining the innovation momentum in local government

Michael Lonnon

Despite the tumult and heartache, the pandemic has led to a rapid – oddly positive – shift in the way local government authorities support and interact with their communities.

Digital disruption

It has forced each to find new and innovative ways to solve the unique challenge of service delivery. Centre to this has been technology. And no, we’re not talking disruptive large-scale rip and replace projects. Transformation has taken on a new more agile, more accessible, and more cost-effective form.

It’s about care, support and return on investment

The local government has typically lagged behind the private sector in terms of its use of more innovative technology. Access to funding, a lack of skills, and accessibility all playing their part in an exasperating lag. But things are changing.

Microsoft in particular has been at pains to make its more advanced technology accessible, reducing barriers to access. A point Microsoft’s Sam Bramwell, stressed: 

I think there’s a real shift from doing big bang approaches. If I look at things like ERP and even CRM replacements 10 or 15 years ago, it was a big bang. I see now more modular approaches based on need.

Sam Bramwell Public Sector Solution Director

Need based technology as opposed to technology-based need. It’s an intriguing concept. Actually, it’s an intriguing reality of this modular approach as Bramwell goes on to highlight: “I think it gets people engaged quicker and gets the ROI being delivered. I think there’s a great opportunity to look at what can you digitise today, what you need to digitise tomorrow, and just keep moving forward.

As well as delivering faster time to value, a modular approach and greater access to technology is shaping things in pleasantly surprising ways.

The rise of the citizen developer

The premise of giving people the tools to create what they need to suit their particular purpose is nothing new. It is after all part of the idea behind making software open source. But tools such as the Power Platform has the fundamental difference that you don’t need to be a developer or technically minded to create what you need. Barriers to use – and value – have been removed. And as Bramwell says: “there is no better person to develop an application than those who use the process every day.”

A point you cannot argue with. Those working in social care go into it because they want to help families. “Often, we have these brainstorming sessions, but we don’t bring the user in, or involve them in actually how to improve delivery. Lately though I’ve seen many smart people become empowered to create new services and we’ve got to continue with that.” Says Bramwell.

By empowering workers with the tools and skills needed – showing them new technology is not there to take away their jobs, it is going to make their job better – they’ll spend closer to 100% of their time providing the care needed. This rather than overcoming challenges brought on by a lack of technological capability because, after all, it’s likely they’ll be the one’s developing the solutions to solve them.

Local government can become a hot bed for digital talent

On one hand, many local authorities operate in a slightly backward way – relying on spreadsheets and even post it notes to maintain service delivery – but it’s a lack of investment in technology that encourages workers to default to their comfort zone.

Innovations in technology means there is a different way. A better way. And it’s easier and more accessible than ever. Gone are the days of big bang rip and replace projects.

The pandemic has forced many local authorities to begin looking at how technology can deliver community services but without the cost. The key though is to bring users in, not leave them as bystanders in technology decision making.

Access to tools like Power Apps has given rise to the citizen developer. No better person to develop an application than those who following the process every day. That’s not to say Local Authorities should become gung-ho, as Bramwell says, “We have guardrails in place around procurement for the right reasons, but we have to make sure they’re not barriers to innovation. I think there’s some self-reflection that needs to happen in local government to ensure we can go faster to drive momentum forward.”

With a little encouragement Local Government could be a hot bed for digital talent. Using modular tools to easily create applications. This alone will ensure digital momentum is maintained to improve the support and care citizens receive, in this constrained world we live in.

Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 21: Maintaining the innovation momentum in local government

With special guest Sam Bramwell, Chief Executive, Microsoft

✔ How has COVID impacted local government service delivery?

✔ How local authorities can use it's impact to improve

✔ What the opportunity is for local authorities

Click this link to listen to the 10-minute episode

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