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Sign of the Times - The impact of COVID-19 on the Public Sector

Neil Kelly, CTO & Strategy at New World Tech, discusses in this article discusses some of the challenges facing the Public Sector today, the potential areas of focus and how NWT can help provide insight.



We are living in unprecedented times as the country comes to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic as both government and businesses, try to safeguard lives and livelihoods. Organisations across all levels of Government are expecting increased demand for services, with rising citizen expectations around delivery of virtual services and a move towards digital to enable Government services of the future. In this insight we explore and discuss:

· Potential long-term impact of COVID-19 across Government and the public sector

· Key questions Government executives might be asking

· Next steps and how NWT can help

The country is going through a period of enormous transition

For Government, the short-term actions have rightly been focused on managing the health emergency whilst attempting to avoiding permanent job losses and failures among otherwise viable businesses. Through a series of cash injections, the Government has sought to protect the impact on the economy whilst implementing lockdowns to manage the impact of the nation’s ability to cope with the health crisis. Apart from the enormous impact on the NHS, both central and local Government have seen huge changes.

Technology strategy and associated plans are being revisited, and investments are being rethought with a greater emphasis on the public. Just as industry comes to terms with the increased influence of the consumer and the subsequent need for customer value, then Government faces a similar challenge in respect of the citizen’s expectations.

The pandemic has also accelerated the desire for the implementation of digital technologies; and many areas of the public sector are being driven by the urgency to carry out new activities such as `Track & Trace` and increased demand for certain services such as processing benefit claims.

New schemes have required urgent attention and implementation, and support mechanisms need to be put in place to support both the public and businesses. For example, if you consider HRMC, they have had to create tax helplines, new schemes to handle cash injections such as the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, as well as revised schedules for filing postponements and payment extensions, whilst still maintaining ongoing operations and delivering existing programmes / projects.

Every area of Government, both civil and local, is impacted as management teams review IT related aspects such as infrastructure needs, supply chain risks, robust crisis management programmes and resource and personnel availability.

Change is inevitable and priorities will move as the pandemic continues to impact, but we also have other catalysts for change on the horizon as the economy recovers, Brexit negotiations conclude, climate and sustainability requirements have to be addressed and a `new normal` emerges.


The post-COVID world will unleash structural and systemic change. Practical next steps, including reprioritisation of current programmes and the introduction of Digital, are required to help the country adapt to new priorities beyond the current health emergency. Even as the COVID-19 crisis continues to create a world of uncertainty, the goal must be to rebuild for the longer term.

Many questions have to be answered along the way such as `How do we protect our people?` How do we safeguard workers, including surge staffing and in virtual environments?, `How do we stabilise the supply chain across an ecosystem of providers?` How do we provide critical services to citizens in current high-peaks as well as sustainably prepare for longer term period of continued high demand? and `How do we make sure we can protect our citizens and their data?`


Decisions must be made on where investments are required and the value that can be gained by the introduction of Digital technologies whilst dealing with the 'technical debt' problem that exists today in many areas of Government.


When COVID-19 arrived, Government had to make urgent changes. They had to increase the speed of decision making, use technology and data in new ways and accelerate the scope and scale of innovation, to accomplish new tasks and achieve positive results in record time. But it is not just about the technical approach and programme management for implementation, it is important to address areas such as training and reskilling people. Organisations and operating models, and the processes that support them, now must be redesigned with speed in mind. New agile ways of working, quicker decision making, execution excellence, new skills and key partnerships with third party suppliers are just some of the areas that must be revisited.


Let us take one area and consider its implementation. One of the key digital enablers is cloud and its associated cloud transformation. But moving to the cloud needs to be well thought out, and there are many challenges to address.

For a department to capture the benefits of a cloud transformation to meet its objectives, you must understand your cloud strategy and your vision for the future end state. You must understand the value that the cloud will deliver for you and how you are going to migrate your applications accordingly. It is important to choose the right cloud service provider and the services that they provide whilst at the same time working with current service integrators and partners who manage your current estate. Then you need to put the right operating model, processes and governance in place to take you forward and utilise the benefits of the new environment.


Many organisations in the private sector are faced with similar challenges and they don’t always have the right people and expertise within their teams to help them to design, produce and implement their strategy, design, plan and operations for the initiatives that they need to deliver. Then they also need assistance in reskilling their people and putting in the necessary organisational model so that can capitalise on the benefits of moving to the cloud.


A lot of information is floating around now and some of it is often confusing and contradictory; and depending on how this is interpreted, you can be an optimist or a pessimist.


At NWT, we are optimists, and we believe that we have a range of services that can be used to help deal with the challenges that lie ahead. In the example above, looking at the implementation of cloud transformation, we have the necessary expertise and partners working with us to ensure that we work with you and help guide in specific areas where you feel you need support.


At NWT we view these types of challenges as a journey and believe there are imperatives for organisations looking to navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead using a clear framework of activities:


Discover Understand what is required, the mind-shift that needs to take place to move from current policies and strategies to a new long-term sustainable digital footing that reimagines many aspects of Government activities. This stage ensures that there is an understanding of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses and it is clear on the future vision. This helps to focus the investment decisions and can help to understand the value that will be gained through various programmes. It is also about ensuring that any agreed strategies balance business value and architectural constraints against the investment budget.


Develop

Government organisations will need to develop new digital channels, agile operating models and supply chain links that prepare and support the country for unique challenges. Business cases need to be robust, but they need to focus on the value to be gained from the programme in the widest sense, rather than looking at specific savings, usually articulated through infrastructure.


Decide

Government organisations need to decide on where to reallocate funding, what to prioritise in order to give citizens a more streamlined experience on and off-line and be better able to share data and analytics across departments and functions. Decisions will have to be taken and not only on technology and partners. Transformation leaders need to develop robust plans to achieve the desired end state based on data and alignment with the overall strategy.


Deliver

The new normal, where the physical and digital worlds are combined to reimagine and reshape Government and public sector – where performance is measured in a comprehensive, outcome oriented way, and work is managed through agile, focused, multidisciplinary teams. Organisations also need to actively balance their delivery digital aspirations with existing constraints. The biggest hindrance may well be related to legacy technology and the ability to transform so experience around managing migration is key.


The good news is that UK Government already has the mechanisms in place to speed up procurement and put an ecosystem in place to support delivery of key projects, programmes, and services. The G-Cloud framework enables quick decision making and execution with the right partners. NWT is delighted to be one of those G-Cloud suppliers.

At NWT, we believe that the transition of systems and policies will be two of the most visible activities for the UK Government and public sector organisation in 2020 and beyond. The pandemic is proving to be an accelerator to reimagine many aspects of Government activity and to find new ways to deliver services to foster economic growth.


We know what it means to organise for rapid change and the ways of working that will be required. We can help with the strategy work with insights into new technologies and how they can be successfully deployed to digitise quickly and effectively in the wake of COVID-19.


In the IT industry there is an over-used term called `Trusted Advisor` and whilst must companies can talk about its definition, we believe that we understand what it really means for our customers. We are not just advisors and consultants, but professional colleagues who earn the trust of our customers by our actions and commitment. Whilst recognising the knowledge, experience, skills, and services we bring, we want to be part of a successful team delivering a catalogue of change that is going to help this country go forward again. We understand the challenges and have the means to help you to address them


For further information about NWT in the G-Cloud please contact graeme.strain@newworldtech.io

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