Microphone in a local government meeting
Chapter 6

Comment - Simon Gray, Agilisys

Focus less on the ‘technology’ and more on the ‘transformation’

As technology advances at an incredible pace, transformation, rather than specific systems, should be councils' focus.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone working in, and alongside, local authorities. We have seen the overnight transition to home working, the reimagining and reshaping of service delivery, the managing of urgent and complex community needs, and all against a tight budgetary backdrop. Given the adversities, local government can be proud of what it has achieved in terms of digital transformation since March 2020.

We have seen local authorities recognise and embrace the need to transform; there has been a profound cultural shift. The pandemic has brought home to many local authority leaders the immense dedication and commitment of their people, the value of being flexible and agile, and that technological transformation need not be scary or slow to achieve.

The lesson I would therefore argue of the past 18 months is one that may sound odd for someone in my position to say. It is that, when you are thinking about technological transformation, focus less on the ‘technological’ and more on the ‘transformation’. It is about taking a fresh look at services. However, rather than starting with: “What’s the technology we need here?” instead ask: “What’s the change we need here? What is it we need to do differently? What is it we want to be doing differently?”

Numerous local authorities may be looking at their legacy systems, many of them now creaking, and be thinking: “Where can I start?” This is where private sector partners can help. We recognise technology moves at an incredible pace. We are not going to tell you we can build you a solution and guarantee that in 10 years’ time it is still going to be the answer.

"The real game-changer is the way data use has advanced"

Simon Gray Head of finance and operations (F&O), Agilisys

What we can do is talk to you about, and help you to see, the change you need; show you that, actually, buying a new platform or embedding a new system does not have to be the big, scary investment that it once used to be, especially now with Cloud-based solutions.

The real game-changer is the way data use has advanced. No longer should spreadsheets reside as data silos on individuals’ laptops. And no longer do you need to have 20 spreadsheets open; we have online collaborative tools where people can look at the data and, from there, make decisions.

Technological transformation is no longer about a magic computer with a big red button saying ‘press me’. It is about using data and insight to inform decision making. It is about delivering services with greater agility and flexibility. It is about enabling your people to perform their roles more efficiently. And understanding the steps you need to be taking to get to where you, and your community, need to be. After all, if it is not working for your people, it is not working full stop.

- Simon Gray, Head of finance and operations (F&O), Agilisys