The importance of communication in the public sector

Simon Chapman, head of Solution Engineering at Scoro, explains why communication is the first step towards digital transformation of the public sector

Communication between different departments, agencies and organisations has long been a challenge in the public sector. However, while much of the business world is embracing instant communication and real-time reporting, delays in data sharing have hampered the ability of government bodies to keep up, update their processes, and collaborate.

Across the public sector, addressing these disconnects means streamlining processes such as resourcing, reporting, and budgeting – no mean feat, even in the best of times. With finances now stretched further than before and teams divided between homes and offices, widespread reform may appear difficult, but improving communication is the first, vital move toward successful digital transformation.

In other areas, digitalisation in the public sector has already generated strong results. Public-facing digital services, for instance, have seen consistent growth and a 350 per cent increase in interactions since 2014, while use of virtual healthcare services, such as the NHS App, has risen by 111 per cent since March 2020. So what are the key challenges to executing digital transformation internally, and how can they be overcome?

Tackling the issues of legacy solutions
All too often in the public sector, departments rely on legacy systems that require the management of disconnected, manual processes. While this might have been workable in an entirely office-based environment, where people can better communicate in person, the shift to hybrid working – a combination of office-based and remote working – has accelerated the need for more innovative, digital solutions. For some departments, 2020 may even be the first time they have operated virtually, in conditions that prevent project leaders from simply looking in on teams to gain a view of progress.

As a result, enhancing visibility is a crucial part of achieving effective digitalisation. The public sector needs a set of standardised tools that establish a comprehensive overview of resource allocation, practices, and metrics across government agencies and departments. Reporting in particular is a huge part of building this visibility – organisations require access to immediate insights, which can’t be gleaned from a spreadsheet or legacy solution. These lack the capability to proactively supply data in real time, especially to the scale that government organisations demand.

Adopting more intuitive, digital tools can expedite reporting processes, supporting clearer lines of communication and allowing greater oversight. With these tools, teams can set concrete objectives and KPIs, and track these in a centralised, accessible way to monitor progress. Not only does this make internal operations more efficient, but it also helps to justify the spend on digitalisation.

Knowing what to reform and where to invest
Budgeting is a significant hurdle for deploying digital transformation, as public sector organisations often face high levels of scrutiny and must understandably rationalise investments in digitalisation. Through improving visibility and upgrading tracking software, departments can ensure they have an in-depth understanding of resource allocation and what teams are achieving with it. For example, project leaders can leverage this to see how using multiple, outdated data storage systems, which aren’t able to be harmonised, eats up time, people power, and ultimately money. When it comes to consolidating and processing data, digital tools can give a streamlined, holistic perspective that enables data-driven decision making and delivers faster results.

Although minimising inefficiencies is just one way to maximise the value of digitalisation software, its consequences are significant. By being able to better identify and communicate drains on resourcing, organisations can progress toward implementing more intuitive, straightforward, and functional processes that save time and boost productivity. As opposed to completely overhauling operations, government agencies can focus on using digital tools to continuously refine processes wherever necessary, while monitoring the incremental benefit of doing so. This will track the tangible impact of digital investments, as well as redefine best practices across departments and begin to unify core processes.

Budget should not impede innovation; in fact, empirical studies from Harvard Business Review demonstrate that constraints help sharpen the focus of innovative practices and generate more impactful outcomes. While budget conversations are always a challenge in the public sector, the benefits of solutions that allow effective communication are highly worthwhile to enable digital transformation and boost long-term results.