There is a growing expectation among citizens that government provide similar technology solutions to those provided by private enterprise. This has created new challenges for the public sector, along with a corresponding need for more customer-centric transformation strategies.
While intelligent automation presents a significant opportunity to enable efficiencies that drive transformation, the public sector must proactively address challenges in realising its potential to offer better service to citizens, renewed job satisfaction and to increase engagement for public sector workers.
In seeking to drive efficiencies, government has traditionally employed a more cautious approach than the private sector. However, the availability of powerful and inexpensive processing power coupled with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing and the exponential growth of data, has created an opportunity for governments to embrace intelligent automation to help drive long-term transformation strategies.
Intelligent automation, defined as the automation of labour by leveraging digital technologies to supplement or automate the tasks undertaken by knowledge workers, can be put to work both in evaluating the quality, regulation and consistency of service delivered to constituents and in tackling the challenges presented by continually shrinking budgets and a workforce in flux.
Intelligent automation spans core technologies such as rules engines and workflow to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that can support cognitive reasoning. This technology is evolving at different rates, providing a spectrum of capabilities ranging from simple, repetitive task automation to machines or ‘bots’ that can learn and adapt.
The benefits of automation are already being felt in the private sector, where its deployment is resulting in significant ROI, greater job satisfaction, and better customer service. One example with potential application in a public sector setting is the call centre.
To be successful, change strategies should establish and reinforce the link between intelligent automation and continuing employee development, and the ability of new technology to enhance existing roles, while also creating new and engaging ones. Overall, they will reinforce the image of a newly “mission-focused” agency, facilitated by intelligent automation, which can provide opportunities for employees to deliver tangible value to constituents from the front lines.
As consumers, we live much of our lives digitally. As citizens, that’s not always the case. The conveniences that online retailers have built — websites that offer to remember who we are, what we did before, our preferences — may be uncommon experiences when we try to access government services. Pioneers in the public sector are beginning to rewrite the way things get done. And they’re embracing the same tools that have enabled transformations in private sector: more sophisticated web portals, mobile apps to crowdsource public concerns, cloud computing, data analytics and the potentially revolutionary record-keeping method of blockchain technology. Blockchain offers the potential to provide faster and more secure transactions, streamline and automate back-office operations, and reduce costs by leveraging cloud-based technologies.
A blockchain in the simplest terms is a shared database, distributed across a network of multiple sites or institutions. It’s made to securely record transactions and ownership of assets. Blockchains could create a universal record of who owns what and allow unified access to it. At KPMG, over 40 member countries in our global network are working with public and private clients to develop blockchain initiatives.
Data is at the heart of digital transformation. As governments at all levels recognise how data and analytics (D&A) can help improve their services and outcomes, there is an emerging international trend of recruiting chief data officers (CDOs) to help build data science capabilities. However, these new managers would be wise to take careful, initial steps to overcome typical policy, organisational, cultural and technical barriers, to help their agencies gain full value from the vast data at their disposal.
While the CDO title is relatively new in the government realms, many organisations have found it invaluable to have senior-level oversight of their D&A activities. This senior leader can serve as a D&A champion, while promoting data-sharing among groups, setting data policies to create standardisation of data assets, and establishing enterprise data governance. They often also lead enterprise data strategies and coordinate cross-agency analytics initiatives.
Information is powerful and technology delivers information to both the service provider and the service consumer. Successful innovation in healthcare, crisis services, senior services, financial aid or any other area of human and social services involves first rethinking the business-as-usual approach and then incorporating technology to provide solutions. Most of all, technology is allowing government to make a transformational shift from delivering programmes one agency at a time to focusing on their role from the citizen’s perspective.
The search for fresh insights to keep up with the pace of change has prompted leaders to seek lessons from governments in other jurisdictions – with many wishing for greater insights into emerging trends and best practices.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Cormac Deady, Director KPMG Public Sector.
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of EOLAS Magazine and is reproduced here with their kind permission.