Creative solutions for forward thinking local governments

Darren Hunt, Director, Public Sector at SAP, examines how technology is transforming local government and services…

Local government is many things to many people. It provides services to citizens, protects the public, runs transportation systems, supports education, collects taxes and promotes economic growth. It also has to manage its internal operations, finances and human capital while facing the ever increasing pressure to do more with less.

These requirements will not change, but with the explosion in digital innovation the means of delivering them will. New technologies are leading to better decision making through more accurate and telling insights, and new efficiencies are delivering operational benefits. Perhaps most significant is the radical shift in the expectations of digitally savvy citizens who now expect their interactions with local government to mirror the intuitive and friction-free experiences they have in their daily lives.

For better or for worse, people expect that renewing your parking permit should be as easy as buying a book on Amazon. Technology is the means of achieving this.

This is leading to some significant changes in how services are delivered. Rather than being a provider of services, local governments are increasingly being seen as an enabler – facilitating, brokering and orchestrating delivery for its connected citizens rather than simply being the provider.

But for this to work effectively, local governments must focus on understanding their citizens in the same way that businesses invest in understanding their customers. Local governments need real time insights and a 360 degree view of how people are interacting with them.

To show what this all means, I have outlined three case studies of local governments in the UK that are using technology to achieve greater value for citizens. These are local governments that are starting out on their path of digital transformation. But the bold moves they are taking to look at innovative solutions to the challenges they face, will I hope act as an inspiration of what can be achieved.

Improving the way citizens and businesses interact with government – Cardiff Council

Cardiff is the fastest growing city in the UK outside of London and is expected to expand by 26 per cent within the next 20 years. With over 40,000 students, it is also Europe’s youngest capital and it attracts nearly 80,000 commuters on a daily basis. These trends have placed ever-increasing demands on services in the city.

With the Council facing budget cuts of £124m over the next three years, it sees technology solutions as an important component in its efforts to manage costs, reduce expenditure and meet the needs of a growing, youthful population.

Using SAP’s Cloud for Customer solutions together with the HANA Cloud Platform, Cardiff Council has created a digital self-service portal that enables residents to interact online rather than in-person, greatly reducing administrative costs. This appeals to the increasingly young population in Cardiff, with an intuitive user interface that mirrors the modern, e-commerce experiences of daily life. Self-service and more efficient call handling is critical in helping the Council to meet local government directives, while improving customer satisfaction.

Working together to build a powerhouse of knowledge and achieve economies of scale – Salford and Liverpool City Councils 

As with most other public sector bodies, Liverpool and Salford City Councils are seeking ways to deliver technology innovation across their IT infrastructure and digital services but are faced with budget limitations which on their own, would make it nearly impossible to migrate to next generation solutions. Both councils have made great use of their legacy ERP systems but in order to future-proof their operations, they needed to move ahead with technology which can gives them real-time data and a full view of their services and internal operations.

Working with SAP, the councils have begun to collaborate on a single technology platform – giving them both access to best of class SAP digital solutions while sharing the costs of implementation and maintenance. The collaboration will allow both councils to streamline their operations, reduce costs and provide more efficient and effective services for their citizens. There is also scope for other authorities to join in the collaboration to gain richer services and lower operating costs.

An engaged workforce to improved productivity – Essex Fire and Rescue Service

Protecting the lives, property, and environment of 1.74 million people; the Essex Fire and Rescue Service has a lot on its shoulders. One of the largest county fire services in the United Kingdom, its service area contains every conceivable high risk from oil and gas terminals to a power station, two airports, docks, and many more. So maintaining current and accurate information about staff, stations, and training is crucial.

By transferring their system to a unified IT platform, Essex Fire and Rescue was better able to manage training, events, scheduling, payroll, and personnel records. Centralised data and self-service tools helped staff manage personal information and get their jobs done more quickly. The implementation resulted in major savings of more than £1 million year over a year. The final result is less HR paperwork for everyone, leaving more time to focus on keeping the people of Essex safe and secure.

What is consistent across each of these examples is the need for local government to find ways of doing more with less while also flexing to the expectations and needs of citizens and businesses. By reimagining traditional models in innovative ways, local governments can do just this – improving services and building stronger communities often by fostering new partnerships and collaborations.

Darren Hunt

Director, Public Sector



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