Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 94: How to manage the growing pressure of Public Service delivery

With special guest Lisa Brooke-Taylor, Public Sector Solution Sales Manager, Microsoft

✔ The pressures facing Public Sector service delivery

✔ The programmes Microsoft is putting in place to reduce impact

✔ How to build the skills to enable more agile service delivery

Transcript

Welcome to episode 94 of the HSO Dynamics Matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology-related matters and much more besides.

And I’m your host, Michael Lonnon.

A request for more and better services on one side and the skills join put pressure on the other, it's a difficult tone for local authorities but it's not all doom and gloom because Microsoft has put together a number of initiatives to help authorities to reduce the impact of this internal and external pressure.

I had a chat with Microsoft's Public Sector Solutions Sales Manager Lisa Brooke-Taylor to find out more about these initiatives.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon
Plan for what is now or plan for what could be?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
Plan for what is now or plan for what could be?

Michael Lonnon
I tied that in lovely actually, because Microsoft's ethos is about building out infrastructure, building out a platform, building out a focus that allows you to think about or build for the future as well and that's where a lot of the technology and the focus is going. So, thank you. How are you today, Lisa?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
I'm very happy. It's Friday. Michael, I'm delighted to be here with you.

Michael Lonnon
I want to ask you a few things and particularly as we're at an event next week for housing associations. In particular, I want to ask you, in your opinion, and from what you're seeing today, what is keeping senior leaders of local authorities and housing associations up at night?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
I think my personal opinion, at the moment, up and down this country, there's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We're just coming out of the COVID pandemic, that in itself was a huge trial for all of us and now we're entering a lot of political uncertainty and we're not really sure what that means to us just yet and the impact of that. The top one for me at the moment is the cost-of-living crisis, which is really impacting families, people, and children up and down the country. That's what's going to be on the top of the minds for local authorities as well as housing associations, and the residents or the tenants that they're serving.

Michael Lonnon
How do you think it's going to impact them and how is it impacting them at the moment?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
I think there's this huge risk around what we used to consider the most vulnerable people in our society, the bar for that has now risen significantly with the cost of living, everything is costing more. When I think about that, it's those families and those people that are having to make choices on whether they feed themselves or heat their home. It's those people that might be at risk from losing their home. This has massive impact across local authorities as well as housing because there is never enough housing to go around and I think about, where we might be missing some of this new cohort of families and people that are now considered a vulnerable family or person because the bar has shifted so much. So, I think it's just about how we help local authorities and Housing Association identify who they are to be proactive.

Michael Lonnon
It must be really difficult for housing associates and local authorities to manage as you highlighted there that we're bouncing almost from crisis to crisis to manage those different things. How can they do this? There's no one way to fix these types of things, you can't anticipate some of the things that are happening, but is there a way they can build out their processes, their approaches to mitigate them or in a more agile way manage some of these problems and these things that are coming up?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
So, I've got some thoughts about this, Michael, and some are already doing this. I think it starts with data, both local authorities and housing associations will have lots of data about the residents or their tenants so how could they use that to really surface up some of those richer insights to perhaps identify the unknowns, identify those that are verging towards, living in debts, or living in some sort of crisis. How could they do that to then be able to proactively do something about that. The other part is, how do we help local authorities and housing with the outreach, how do we help them with tools, technology, or the enablement to raise awareness across the residents and tenants to signpost them to where help is available. I worry that people might get lost through the cracks and they may not be aware, they might not be applying for the right benefits, and they may not be aware of the authorities and housing out there to really help them. 

Michael Lonnon
Do you think that a lot of these organisations are using technology in the right way to help close those gaps, to help them engage better with residents, do you think they're doing it at the moment, or do you think there's work to be done there?

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Lisa Brooke-Taylor
I think in parts they are Michael; I don't want to sort of cast everybody with the same brush here, but I think there's still work to be done. If I just think about what we call a front door experience, if I'm approaching a local authority’s website, how easy is it for me to find some information? This is on the premise that I've got the technology to do it, I’ve got broadband that helps me connect to the internet and some families don't. So, we've got to ensure that we're catering for all.

Michael Lonnon
I was talking with an exec at Sunderland Council, and he was talking about the creation of a smart city and he brought it right back down and made you realise that although I sit here and I've got 4g network, I've got fast broadband speed and all the rest of it, I take that as a granted but not everybody has access to the those types of things. Lots of people are still using 2g and 3g. So do you think as part of this then that there's got to be greater connectivity in order for residents and citizens to engage better with their councils and authorities, so that's also part of the activity?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
I would totally agree with that but then there is a skill’s challenge as well, Michael. So, there are going to be some residents and some people up and down the country that just don't have the skills to use the technology, even if they have the infrastructure in place. So, this is where I think there's an additional impact, especially around community work, the outreach and social hubs and clubs and the stay centres. With a cost living crisis, what's the viability of those because they are crucial, they're an outlet to some of our most vulnerable people that might go to the centres for support, to get on to technology with a helping hand, or at least receive paper copies of where they can get help and things like that. So that concerns me as well. 

Michael Lonnon
How do you think technology, let's take Microsoft technologies as you work for Microsoft, how do you think it can close or help close the skills gap, because, as you quite rightly say, that is a real big issue at the moment and there's a real brain drain happening from public to private sector. How do you think authorities and Housing Associations close that skills gap?

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
There's a couple of elements here. So, if I think about the employees of local councils and housing associations, there is already in place lots of training opportunities that Microsoft can offer and that's from the enterprise skills initiative and a lot of that is geared towards the technology side of it, but not all of it. Then when we think about how we could leverage Microsoft digital skills, we can tap into Microsoft learn, there are lots of learning opportunities for you and I, as well as for residents and for the family or for the communities and that will help as well to get a little bit more upskilled around digital and technology it may even help support them get their next job or get them back into work. So, across Microsoft learn, there's lots of training available to people, of course, again, Michael back to this place of they need technology, they need infrastructure, but perhaps some of these hubs could provide some of this. In addition to that, obviously, with our partnership with LinkedIn learning, there's lots of softer skills, learning around CV creation, practice your interview and things like that. So, we are trying to do as much as we possibly can to cater for all in terms of bridging the skills gap.

Michael Lonnon
That's excellent and I'll share some of those links as part of this podcast as well, for sure. On that vein of things, then in terms of technology and helping close that skills gap. There's a lot of work and investment that Microsoft is putting into their technology to make it more not just accessible, but easier to use, things like power apps and the power platform and all the rest of it. I hate the phrase, pardon me of citizen developer, but to develop skills to build applications you don't have to be a techie coder kit, techie developer to do so these days, do you? 

Lisa Brooke-Taylor
You're absolutely right and we are spinning up communities as we speak, to really embrace the new developers of the world shall we say. Everything is possible with the technology and notwithstanding Microsoft runs on trust, our security comes first, and accessibility is right there with it and just allowing platforms like this to be in existence to help customers move forward on their digital transformational journey. They can leverage this stuff and just take on some learning which we're helping, customers up and down the country to embrace so they can be self-sufficient and self-reliant.

Summary

The role of local government is to help communities thrive to provide the services people need to get the most out of their lives and if you ask me it's a great reason to exist but my thoughts aside, it's not easy living up to this role internal and external pressures are changing what people want in their local authority or their housing association and it's changing how they interact. Lisa talked about the importance of using the programs Microsoft has put in place to reduce negative impact.

The enterprise skills initiative helps organisations learn about how to get the most value out of Microsoft technology and digital skills training in Microsoft Learn provides teams the ability to find new ways for communities and deliver value. So, if you are not already aware I would strongly advise you to check out these resources out.

And on that note, thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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