Digital transformation in the public sector: key challenges facing UK Finance leaders today

  • September 21, 2021

The public and not-for-profit sectors in the UK continue to be hampered by their reliance on older, less efficient IT infrastructure. Digitisation promises to transform these sectors and reshape how organisations and governments collect, process, share and act on information. At the highest level this will impact fiscal policy design, the delivery of public services and the administration of social programmes.

Digital investment and upgrades continue to be high on the agenda of public and not-for-profit organisations despite a lack of resources as we continue to see increased efficiencies through automation.

 

What’s driving digital transformation within public and not-for-profit sectors?

The adoption and integration of innovative digital technology into all areas of the public sector are driven by a number of important factors as we head toward 2022. 

1. Covid-19

Covid-19 continues to have a huge impact on the increased pace of digital transformation in these sectors. Local governments and not-for-profit organisations have been driven to make changes that a few months ago were considered impossible. At the beginning of 2020 Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, reported that he had seen two years of digital transformation in two months with regards to the change toward remote working.

The impact of Covid-19 continues to influence digital transformation. Government stimulus packages, economic investments and furlough schemes have led to the need to make savings in other areas. One way to do this is to increase the pace of digitisation.

2. Customer experience

Digital innovation has been quicker to take off in the private sector and, as a result, consumers are more comfortable with technology and have begun to expect the ease of access, usability, personalisation and support they are used to online when they interact with public services.

Customers are increasingly digitally conscious and are more likely to engage with organisations that provide a consistently better digital experience.

3. Advancements in cloud technology

There is increased availability of cloud-based solutions that offer the public sector the opportunity to modernise without the huge outlay of major infrastructure overhauls. Additionally, there is increased focus and awareness amongst developers of security and data regulations within the cloud.

What digital transformation tools are being utilised within the sector? 

● The G-Cloud 12 Framework is a government initiative which helps customers in the UK public sector find and buy cloud services.

Open-source systems that allow organisations themselves to make changes to the software without relying on the original developers. They enable faster, more flexible and cheaper systems.

● System sharing, for example Public Services Network (PSN) which allows different parts of government to share information securely and develop joined up services, address duplication of information and resources.

● Mobile Applications and websites designed for use on mobile devices particularly for payment systems which can increase the number of payments taken, and for the reporting of graffiti, fly-tipping and other issues. This means councils make savings due to the reduction in use of call centres and admin costs whilst they drive up customer satisfaction due to a reduction in response times.

Benefits of driving efficiencies through automation in the public sector

 ● Services are available and accessible at all times of day and night and are able to stay open during a crisis or if staff are not available. This increases user satisfaction and interaction.

● Automation supports productivity, reduces backlogs and admin costs and frees up resources. For example, Bristol City Council used mobile technology to allow its roving officers to complete paperwork without visiting an office, reducing office hours for a quarter of its staff and contributing to an estimated £10 million in savings.

● Improves the collection of information and how organisations react to that information. Can shape policy and show where resources are best deployed.

 

How is digital transformation shaping finance roles and responsibilities?

Digital transformation has pushed finance teams from back office to front of house. They are increasingly working across organisations to increase revenue, decrease costs and improve growth.

Finance teams increasingly need to be able to analyse and interpret large amounts of data, and the most successful will be able to develop and utilise digital technologies to help them do so.

 

Is there a skills deficit in the public and not-for-profit sector finance team?

There is significant, growing demand for data-literate employees across the public and not-for-profit sector. Yet many organisations are struggling to fill these roles. Only 49% of public sector organisations and 45% of local government and not-for-profit organisations believe that their organisations have the data skills required to succeed in the future.

This skills deficit related to digital expertise and data analytics is particularly acute for finance teams as these skills become increasingly critical for the running of their department.

 

What steps can be taken to prepare finance teams for the future?

● Offering training and upskilling opportunities to existing employees to develop both hard finance skills and soft skills, such as ‘critical thinking’, ‘project management’, either in house or through external schemes.

● Bringing in independent contractors or consultants can be a solution for more short-term projects which require an instant influx of skills. This can also be a flexible solution if your budget does not extend to hiring new talent.

● Levy apprenticeships and targeted recruitment to attract and develop top talent. There is a lack of data science graduates coming through the system and 61% of business leaders identified apprenticeships as a key route to closing the skills gap.

 

 How can Morgan Law help?

Morgan Law specialises in interim, temporary, contract and permanent recruitment across business support, middle and senior management level positions. Whether you’re looking for a talented professional for a key role, or help with bespoke campaign management, we’re the public and not-for-profit sector recruitment specialists.

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