How to modernise digital infrastructure with public finances under pressure
With a new Prime Minister imminent, there will be pressure to change the agenda, super-charge policies and deliver more results much faster. But the digital machinery of government continues to be dogged by legacy systems that are hard to adapt, hinder innovation and cannot keep pace with political change. So, how to modernise government IT when public finances are under pressure?
The old, go-to answer has been to implement process automation of one type or another, but this on its own perpetuates inefficient legacy ways of working because many of the current process flow and data structures in government have a policy and design provenance that dates back decades.
When added to the ever-increasing operational and administrative activity, as well as the expectations of the digital economy, that typically translates into people, process, data and IT complexity, making trying to bond old to new incredibly difficult.
The government rightly recognises this challenge, acknowledging the need to “augment” systems in the policy paper on how the government will improve the way digital and data is used across central departments by 2025. This now has extra urgency, with new challenges such as the cost of living crisis. How we enable government departments to advance plans for improved and tailored citizen service has become of cardinal importance.
The case for an agility layer
The way to address this challenge lies in combining AI, CRM and work management capabilities, to orchestrate across functions, processes, people, data and IT, in effect creating an agility layer over legacy IT.
Doing this with the right platform technology, to bring those capabilities together and be able to substantially re-imagine the supporting processes for the digital age is key. In addition, it should also be capable of keeping pace with citizen needs as they unfold over time as well as provide the opportunity to replace ageing legacy systems in the background, in a more sustainable and risk mitigated way.
There are many examples across government where building this kind of agility layer can add value, from defence support and asset management to health programmes for screening and treatment, as well as for driving citizen engagement in central government. Although each use case is different, they share the common characteristic of the user journeys being overlaid onto multiple IT systems, with a need to orchestrate the associated tasks across that landscape.
With advanced AI and automation capabilities, government becomes better equipped to understand citizens, their intent and their relevant point-in-time context, through historical, real-time, and predictive data. This in turn can generate next best decisions in real-time, and predict future needs, based on learned data factors, to enhance user experience, support human/machine teaming and drive intelligent automation.
In addition, combining these capabilities within a low-code platform not only creates the ‘Agility Layer’, but also means that frontline Civil ervants with little technical knowledge but substantial subject expertise, are able to engage in process improvement and IT change, prototyping and deploying new capabilities over the top of existing IT systems.
An example of what is possible lies in how HMRC mitigated error and fraud risk with business and individual applications for the government’s Covid-19 support initiatives. Through intelligent automation, the department was able to orchestrate and automate manual aspects of its existing claims validation process and ensure payments were made quickly to those who needed them while managing cases where claims could put the department at risk.
It is this new combination of intelligence and automation that will ultimately be how government maximises the value of their two biggest investments, people and technology, by understanding how users interact with applications and providing insights into how work gets done. For agile to be successfully utilised in government this fundamental rethink of all that sits around it is essential.