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Senior public sector workers must embrace emerging technology

By: Duncan Farley, Head of Business Transformation at Ancoris
Published: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 13:16 GMT Jump to Comments

Improving staff and budget efficiency must come from the top

Investing in technology is vital for almost every company or organisation. The IT and communications sectors are evolving at such a rapid pace that essential systems become technologically redundant in just a matter of years.

The cost to maintain these ageing systems is a huge financial burden. With smaller budgets and more technologically savvy workers, senior officials in the public sector need to embrace emerging technology, such as collaboration, mobile and social tools, to ensure they improve their operations.

When the ‘cloud first’ policy was launched, it saved the government £316 million in its first year. This figure is expected to continue to rise. On premise, systems are costly to maintain and restrict spending power unnecessarily. Cloud technology on the other hand is transformative, having been designed to be run and maintained by an external provider, reducing dependence on in-house resources.

Cost saving is often seen as one of the main benefits of a change in technology. While this is true, those fully embracing digital change are finding other substantial benefits from their tech investments. Organisations are fast discovering that staff are more efficient if the systems they use at work are similar to those they use in their personal life.

We recently conducted research, in partnership with iGov Survey, to find out what senior public sector workers think about technology transformation in their own organisation. From this, we discovered that:

-72% believe the use of cloud technology could benefit their organisation
-82% mention mobile as the new technology being adopted by their organisation
-Almost two-thirds plan to introduce both cloud and collaboration technologies as part of their IT strategy.

These three key emerging technologies are clearly seen by many, holding senior positions in the public sector, as areas to invest in.

Collaboration

It is not just all happening in the future either. Some national Government departments, such as the Department for International Development (DFID), have set an early example to other government departments, local authorities and public bodies. DFID introduced Google Apps, using Google Sites to enable collaboration between partners and staff delivering aid programmes across the globe, with great success.

Cloud technology is seen by many in the sector as key, with the iGov Survey revealing that 60% believe that it will benefit their organisation by making collaboration easier. It can drive innovation in the public sector by making everyday tasks faster and simpler to complete. Sharing information is just one aspect; to achieve real change, and to make a difference to day-to-day activity, collaborative technology must be combined with social to make communication and work quicker and easier together.

Social

The Millennial generation now forms a significant part of the workforce. Many barely remember life before Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and would be lost without their smartphone. Whilst staff are using fast communication tools such as social media and mobile chat in their personal lives, communications in the workplace have been slow to catch up.

Historically, intranets have been a key internal communication channel in the public sector, but these often adopt a prescriptive, top down approach. They were not designed to support a mobile workforce using smartphones and tablets. Despite external websites receiving massive investment to become dynamic mobile responsive shop windows which harness the power of HTML5, the humble intranet remains a relic from a time since passed.

Clever organisations are transforming their intranet to bring people together in a social environment. The aim is to encourage interaction, enable collaboration and deliver a personalised news feed that delivers relevant and on demand soundbites via any platform.

In organisations choosing to ignore this technology, a large proportion of workers are instead turning to shadow IT solutions, such as Facebook groups, in order to support their collaboration and enable social interaction. Most CIOs, however, are well aware of the issues presented by shadow IT, and the problems created by SILO working. Consequently, whilst prioritising investment on something deemed internally facing is difficult, it could arguably be critical in enabling workplace transformation.

Mobile

Mobile working is nothing new for the public sector. There is a long tradition of taking services directly into communities. Mobile technology has not, however, been introduced nearly enough.

Teams are continually expected to work on location, or provide services out of the office, so organisations must ensure their staff are able to work on the move. Introducing a Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD), or providing a mobile device instead of a permanent desktop, will help organisations improve their staff productivity.

Ultimately, if you look at any organisation, efficiency and accuracy rely largely on communication. Whether it is sharing ideas, providing support, managing departments or motivating staff, all require interaction.

By creating an environment where the user has the same experience using work technology as their own personal device, workers will be more comfortable. This will not only improve efficiency but lead to scores of other benefits, such as increased innovation and job satisfaction.

With all of this technology available, the next step for the public sector must be implementation. Over the next three years, demand for collaboration in real time is predicted to double. This demand must be met, alongside investment in social and mobile technologies.

When working in synergy, these three technologies enable a focus on people and processes, ultimately driving innovation and efficiency, whilst cutting costs.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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