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Why pragmatism is the best approach to making the most of disruptive new technologies

Within Capita Local Government we’re seeing developments in technology generating exciting results in the pilots we’re running. Particularly when it comes to how AI and robotics could drive new approaches to customer services and personalised support, and how a focus on joining up digital systems can create applications that people want to use.

Many of these pilots are doing simple things better, and progress is always about the constant improvements and changes that bring confidence to move to next generation systems. 

We can reasonably predict that, by 2030, robots will be part of our lives and the next generation of automated personal assistants will be doing much more than talking to each other. They will be intelligently learning about us and re-designing their own responses across multiple AI platforms. With this will come a range of opportunities for how public service evolves as well as new ethical challenges about data security, privacy, independence and autonomy. For local government it will be a huge opportunity to better understand citizens, including hard to reach groups, but will also highlight the need to identify the best use of resources to achieve the best outcomes for individuals, communities and our economy.

Digital delivery is essentially evolutionary and, as we are re-building analogue systems, there are many steps on the road to digital nirvana. As customers we are pleasantly surprised when a service starts out being 100% digital, such as a re-mortgage application, with the bank managing digital signatures and text messages to keep us up to date, and advisors on hand to give us amazing customer service as and when we need it. But when it then moves to conveyancing, and suddenly becomes paper-based again, with physical letters and signatures being required, we can become aggravated and impatient.

If banks are still having to work at synchronising their processes, local authorities have the same, if not bigger, challenge. Getting there is a hard graft of innovation; design, development, testing and re-work; people taking risks with new technologies, managing those risks and learning the lessons, ie, the essentials of pragmatic project delivery. 

To shape the best approach to maximising the benefits of new digital technologies you need to constantly challenge if a service, that has been digitally designed, actually achieves the required outcomes. At Capita we approach things from the perspective of ‘many marginal gains’ combined with an evidenced-based approach to making the required step changes where appropriate. We need to ensure that services realise the projected benefits by taking a focused and disciplined approach to change management.

Questions you need to ask:

  • Is there a business case for change for using digital services better?
  • Is the client able to support an agile approach?
  • Has a digital mindset been applied to the design?  
  • Have interfaces and service boundaries been considered?
  • Is the design using best practice designs, preventing re-inventing the wheel?
  • Has data protection and data sharing been consciously considered?
  • Finally, has it transformed the experience of citizen facing services, delivering quality services that deliver better value for money? 

We’re seeing real benefits by focusing on these questions and taking a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach. We can and must look forward to 2030, and also get on with the changes that need to be made today.

This article was first published by techUK as part of its Public Service 2030 event.

Photo of Katherine Lyon

Katherine Lyon

Customer experience director, local government, Capita

Katherine has over 25 years’ experience in transformation and technology, working initially as a business systems consultant in the utility sector, then in local government leading on investments in ICT, customer services and transformation methodologies. Katherine is now part of Capita’s local government product development team, supporting innovation, applying new technologies to service design to drive better customer experiences for people and the communities they live in.

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