How the public sector can deliver ROI through technology

David Morton highlights three approaches public sector organisations can use in the back-office to maximise the return on technology investment

With local authorities and government departments continuing to face budget pressures, it is crucial that investment in technology delivers significant value by cutting costs and enhancing the quality of services.

We’ve seen how digital self-service platforms are transforming citizen-facing services in the front-office, creating value by enabling employees to focus more of their time on helping people with more complex enquiries. But there still remains a real opportunity across the back-office where investment in technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), cloud computing and shared services, can deliver substantial savings and free-up resource.

Here are three approaches councils and government departments can adopt to reap these benefits:

1. Creating agility through RPA
The burden of repetitive administrative tasks is significant – our own research revealed that 57 per cent of government organisations see more than a tenth of staff spending the majority of their time on these activities. Streamlining key functions such as HR, payroll and procurement can help to address this challenge, empowering teams to focus resource on elements of their role that rely on a human touch.  

Intelligent technology, such as RPA, provides a new route to achieving this. Following rules-based business processes, it interacts with systems in the same way that people do. This creates an agile, virtual workforce able to mimic human processing of high-volume, time-consuming tasks.

Some local authorities are already reaping the benefits of this technology. Neath Port Talbot Council has transformed its HR operations using an RPA solution that combines public sector process expertise with automation technology. The platform now automatically manages key functions such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) requests and returns and employee information changes. Since its introduction in August 2018, the technology has handled more than 12,000 transactions, saving a total of 1,000 hours of employee time.

Introducing RPA also provides an opportunity for employees to learn new digital skills. By adopting a build-and-deploy model, public sector departments can access best practice consultation and training to enable employees to run and monitor the processes in-house, boosting long-term efficiency savings even further.

2. Making the move to the cloud
Another solution that can drive return on investment is Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which brings together multiple back-office systems and integrates them seamlessly into one easily-accessible platform. ERP systems are naturally flexible, suitable for large and small-scale solutions, covering full end-to-end business processes or individual services.

When adopting these technologies, move them to cloud. Doing this equips the public sector with the enhanced security and back-up protection offered by the cloud, as well as the opportunity to introduce innovation and new platforms quickly, with the solution able to be scaled up or down instantly to meet demand. This enhances agility and helps to drive down costs by allowing departments to only ever pay for what they need.

The potential savings of this approach are significant. Arvato is supporting the Department for Transport’s (DfT) with the migration of its existing ERP platforms to the cloud, in partnership with cloud services company Mobilise.

Another key benefit of making the switch to the cloud is the elimination of maintenance costs for data centre hardware. For the DfT, adopting cloud infrastructure has reduced the cost of its ongoing rack management by 45 per cent and eliminated the need for a ‘technical refresh’ of the department’s physical data centres. Overall, this has delivered a multi-million-pound saving over four years.

3. Powering shared services through technology
The principle of shared services is not a new one, but as technology advances, we are beginning to see a peak in demand. Its ability to provide the resource to consolidate and automate key administrative tasks helps to make every process as efficient as possible, allowing employees to focus on value-added or citizen-facing activities.

Crucially, shared services create economies of scale by consolidating business operations and solutions. Underpinning these services with technology helps to generate even greater efficiencies, streamlining processes to enable additional functions, such as automation and self-service, to be introduced more simply. Packaging services together within one centralised, standardised digital platforms also allows for a single, real-time view of operations, tightening control over key policies and procedures, and delivering enhanced speed and accuracy of service delivery.

We rolled out a shared services solution for the DfT and its executive agencies, including the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Highways England (HE), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Our work has helped to transform the department’s HR, payroll, finance and procurement operations, providing fully standardised back-office services for 19,000 civil servants that are effective, efficient and allow our clients to drive forwards core departmental objectives.  

The programme has delivered key service enhancements, resulting in our customer survey reporting an improvement in first time contact resolutions from 89 per cent to 91 per cent, processing 100 per cent of client payroll queries by their due dates and handling 90 per cent of purchase orders within 24 hours. The programme’s recent success has seen the DfT’s overall customer service rating reach 94 per cent.

It’s clear that by entrusting time-intensive processes to digital platforms, the public sector has a significant opportunity to demonstrate maximum return on investment through technology. Automation and consolidation of core functions can help to deliver sustained and cost-effective transformation, which in turn creates a more productive and satisfying working experience for civil servants and council workers.

Crucially, through targeted technology investment in the back-office, councils and government departments will not only find ways to make their budgets work harder, but will be empowered to focus more time on delivering vital public services, creating value for citizens across the UK.

David Morton is Sales and Solutions Director at Arvato CRM Solutions UK.