Dynamics Matters Podcast: Maintaining the innovation momentum in local government

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. 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 we’re not talking disruptive large-scale rip and replace projects. No. 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 Public Sector Solution Director, 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.

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 such as Power Apps has given rise to the citizen developer, and there is no better person to develop an application than those who use the process every day. That’s not to say Local Government Authorities should suddenly adopt a gung-ho approach, as Bramwell says, “We have guardrails in place around procurement and for the right reasons, but we’ve got to make sure they’re not barriers to innovation. I think there’s some self-reflection that needs to happen across the local authority industry to ensure we can go faster to drive momentum forward.”

With a little encouragement, and investment, Local Government could in fact become the UKs hot bed for digital talent. Using easily accessible modular tools to create needs-based applications. This alone should ensure momentum is maintained in the use of digital technology to improve the support and care citizens receive, in this more constrained world we live in.

If you’d like to get find out more about how HSO can help, please chat with our local government experts: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for the Local Government