Business Post Interview with OpenSky’s Business Development Manager, Susanne McCabe

opensky Data Systems Limited

Building chains of trust in public sector

 
Public sector IT is about trust, and IT consultancy OpenSky reports an increased interest in deploying blockchain to meet this need. 
 

As a technology, blockchain has been quietly maturing for some years now; quietly at least in the sense that work is under way to demonstrate useful applications in surprising places, because the fuss around the distributed ledger technology itself is anything but quiet.

Across Europe, on both a national level and on an EU basis, blockchain is being considered for delivering so-called e-government – and with public-facing offices shuttered across the continent due to the coronavirus pandemic, delivering public services online couldn’t be more important.

“The reform unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is issuing guidance around the potential uses and challenges to government,” said Susanne McCabe, business development manager at IT consultancy OpenSky.

OpenSky delivers IT consultancy and services to large business and government clients in Ireland and Poland, as well as other countries in Europe and North America.

Blockchain is coming up more and more in conversations, said McCabe. In government, though, technology must prove itself.

“Is there a use case in government or not? The government is very clear that they don’t onboard a technology for the sake of it,” she said.

International examples abound, however.

“If you look across Europe, there’s a lot going on in different countries. Estonia would be one of the counties testing it; they have astonishing digital services – but they were coming from a place where they didn’t have a lot of legacy digital systems,” said McCabe.

“They were also the first to look at blockchain e-law.”

Meanwhile, other applications include Sweden’s law commission’s adoption of blockchain for land registry, while Romania uses it for penalty points in road safety.

“Britain has done a lot in food supply chains, seeing that all compliance checks were done at a certain time and place,” she said.

OpenSky has itself applied for EU Horizon 2020 research funding for a project that looks at the use of blockchain as the digital driver in maintaining compliance in a fractional ownership model with key partners in Ireland, Germany and Spain.

“Last year we started this journey; while there are some key organisations very established in this area delivering blockchains for financial services, we don’t see a specialist in government – and this is where we come in. So, this year, we have undertaken some key initiatives to build our capability and will launch our Blockchain 4 Government practice towards the end of 2020.”

Ireland is in a good position, McCabe said, when it comes to adopting blockchain.

“It’s in a really strong, exciting place. We have Blockchain Ireland and the Blockchain Summit and we have a government that is open to it. As a company, Ireland’s only govtech specialist, we are making the point that the citizen can be put at the heart of all blockchain designs,” she said.

In practice, one of the benefits this brings is enhanced privacy. Blockchain makes use of decentralised identifiers (DID), pseudo-anonymous identifiers for a person, company, object.

“Each DID is secured by a private key. Only the private key owner can prove that they own or control their identity. One person can have many DIDs, which limits the extent to which they can be tracked across the multiple activities in their life,” said McCabe.

“For example, a person could have one DID associated with a gaming platform, and another entirely separate DID associated with their credit reporting platform.”

This year OpenSky launched a new blockchain research division, exploring how the technology can enable new methods of government engagement with the public – and vice-versa.

“When I get up and get on with my daily life, there’s very little that doesn’t interact with multiple government agencies. Driving is a good example: is my car taxed, is my car insured, do I have penalty points, did I speed, did I not speed, is my car NCTed, is it registered properly and so on.

“There are a lot of agencies that I have to interact with. Blockchain can break the silos,” she said.

OpenSky is now developing proofs of concept with some of its government clients to work through how the technology adapts to their individual tasks, as well as working with its strategic partners, Microsoft and PA Consulting.

As the technology is relatively new, it will also require new skills. Indeed, OpenSky’s head of research is advertising at the minute for a research fellow specialising in blockchain

“It’s to help us continue to stay ahead of advancements in this technology,” said McCabe.

New jobs, even new categories of job, will be the logical outworking of this.

“A good engineer, these days, is having to learn new technologies all the time, and there’s a lot that comes out from partners of ours, such as Microsoft, to help that,” she said.

Business Post: Achieve Business Competitiveness – with the Right Technology

The Business Post published an article by OpenSky’s Managing Director, Michael Cronin. In his piece, Michael advises businesses how to achieve business competitiveness – with the right technology.

Michael writes, “As businesses emerge from the aftermath of the crisis, new trends and hyper-global competition are forcing companies to redesign business models and seek a greater edge in order to retain or increase their market positions. Regardless of business type, financial strength or situation, if a company is not focused on competitiveness, then the longevity of it is at risk.”

Focusing on staff retention, prioritising customer centricity, driving down costs and supporting expansion are key strategy examples to enhance competitiveness – and technology represents one of the primary channels through which one can positively impact these strategies, delivering competitiveness and efficiency to the business.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one such technology which has the proven ability to take a company to the next level. It does this by automating workplace processes, imitating the tasks that humans perform but much faster and with greater accuracy.

The full article is published in the Business Post and can be read by clicking here.

RPA in financial services isn’t diminishing human value, it’s empowering it!

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a hot commodity in today’s financial services enterprises and across many business units from finance and HR to IT and marketing. It accelerates performance by automating routine (and often mind-numbingly boring) work formerly done by humans. Its impact is transformational, disruptive and enables real business value.

What is RPA and how can it be harnessed in the financial services sector?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that allows anyone today to configure computer software, or a “robot” to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA robots utilise the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like humans do. The financial services sector requires a huge amount of daily task management that could be easily re-organised and streamlined by adopting RPA technology. Repeatable tasks are costly for the sector so when RPA offers a solution, then initiating it should be made a priority.

Empowering Staff

Taking staff away from repetitive tasks and ones that are dull or tedious can allow them to capitalise on their new free time by offering customers a better and more personalised experience. Mundane tasks don’t have to be run by a team of humans – the best-case scenario is a collaboration between robot & human i.e. the Robot is the human’s assistant. Ultimately, a business is not degrading or removing the importance of the human element of a job – instead they are powering their staff up, to work on vital roles in the organisations, facilitating career development, long term staff retention and an ultimately happier workforce.

Business benefits of RPA

The financial services sector is consistently faced with compliance, regulation and auditing challenges making RPA an ideal solution to deliver 100% accuracy to internal processes within these organisations. RPA technology can deliver a whole range of benefits

  • Better – more efficient processing with lower error rates
  • Cheaper – lower cost processing
  • Faster – faster throughput delivering quicker responses to customers and increasing customer satisfaction

Insurers and Banks work with many highly data intensive processes, where data is often held on individual legacy systems and must be moved around for processing purposes. This can mean that the data needs to be transferred or copied from one system to another. Financial Service providers also frequently need to take in data from their customers, carry out assessment on that data and make judgements based on the information provided. Examples include bank loan administration, checking of customer data for the purposes of KYC, claims administration, the adding of beneficiaries to insurance policies, accounts payable, reconciliations from investor trading systems to accounting systems, and the annual renewal of insurance products. These are just some examples of processes that can run more efficiently using RPA, quickly delivering benefits to both the business and its customers.

Furthermore, the financial services sector is a model environment for realising transformational RPA solutions. RPA is here, it’s evolving into many organisations and it’s here to help with some impressive business benefits:

  • 4x Faster than a Human Worker
  • Lower Cost Processing
  • Lower Error Rates

Improve Audit Capability & Protect the Business from Regulatory Burdens


The financial services sector must adhere to strict guidelines to avoid regulation breaches and other issues that could potentially damage reputation and lose business. That’s where RPA comes into its own as it automates systems with such a significant level of accuracy, that compliance is guaranteed. It leaves a trail so tracking is easier, and measurement is available while it can identify areas in the business that may need attention.

Grow Revenue with Enhanced Operational Efficiency


RPA grows revenue with enhanced operational efficiencies and ROI is usually visible within 12 months. Operational efficiency is achieved by RPA capturing and imitating what a human user does, extracting data, and instigating workflow automation. Using robots to execute processes independently or as part of a larger business process and doing so faster than a human would. Physical manipulation is not required via the mouse and keyboard and human interference is only required when unpredictable situations occur. RPA is quickly installed and instantly generates reports with no disruption to business operations. This ensures operational costs are reduced and productivity increases allowing for faster claims processing and recoveries.

Change the Customer Experience by Increasing Customer Satisfaction


As customers’ expectations continue to increase for seamless and speedy interactions with service providers, RPA enables financial service providers to increase customer satisfaction with faster processing, improved security and 100% accuracy – increasing your competitive advantage and accelerating growth. Customer experience is a vital part of the financial services offering and no financial services company should risk a level of reputational damage through muddled systems or problematic paperwork.

Customer Expectations are improved by:

  • Faster Processing
  • 100% Accuracy
  • Speedy Interactions
  • Seamless Service
  • Improved Security
Other Key Benefits of RPA

  • Digital Transformation Acceleration

Delivery of omni-channel customer self service
Increased adoption of connected insurance (IoT)

  • Improved employee engagement

Removes the monotonous, dull tasks that plague offices
Staff are utilised more proactively in other areas of the business.

  • 24/7 operation with improved security

No rest time needed
Completes tasks every day of the year, securely and effectively.

  • Data gathering capabilities and predictability

RPA can log, update, and process data.
It understands repetitive processes so it can predict outcomes.

Preparing for RPA technology


Altering the way, a business works is always going to be challenging and moving towards a more technological efficient system does take time but the benefits when it is implemented make the journey worthwhile. The initial planning will work to align the plans with efficiency and reduce the chances of complications down the tracks. Collaboration is key and not forgetting, the need to engage with other stakeholders and team members so they are educated and prepared for the changes ahead. Often transformation projects get delayed as people aren’t prepared or projects are not fulfilled due to fear amongst staff so there is a requirement to initialise training and collaboration with teams. Once it is planned, implemented and structured into a financial services business, RPA will become an important team member in daily business operations, empowering your staff, improving customer experience and increasing revenue.

The key to streamlining government services is innovative thinking, and bravery  

Managed Application Support

The Government is striving towards the digital age with investment in various digital platforms to spearhead adjustments in the day to day management and operations of government services. Government departments face various challenges, but they must commit to innovating to ensure citizens are being considered in their daily processes. A certain level of risk-taking is required when investing in innovative technology which will inevitably, transform the way services are addressed and then operated. Innovation plays an integral part, but it is the bravery from key stakeholders that instigates change and navigates new technological services.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) 

The Government has a responsibility to deliver a safer nation, foster change and to enhance life and artificial intelligence has all the capabilities to do so by tackling issues in government offices. The biggest issues the Government face, that directly impacts citizens are processes that can be lagging, costly or labour intensive. With AI it takes care of the issues by reducing time, lowering manual labour, identifying problems at an earlier stage, speeding up decision making as well as advancing accuracy. A responsive government is a better government and it is one that monetises innovative tools to improve inefficiencies that plague public service offices. AI improves infrastructure – making it smarter by navigating routes and reducing commuter journeys. Robotic process automation (RPA) offers increased speed, better productivity, heightened coping skills and an overall reduction in manual errors that can be observed in office operations.      

“A responsive government is a better government and it is one that monetises innovative tools to improve inefficiencies that plague public service offices.”

Bravery and Innovation  

Streamlining services isn’t just about innovation – as we have mentioned, bravery is very much part of the digital transformation. The capabilities exist but the Government must strive to reinvent the wheel and shake off the old traditional methods. 2020 brings a new decade, a new opportunity to think ‘outside the box’ and to drive shifts to greatly improve and alter the current landscape of public services. Culture, mindset, current structures and work practices require a massive overhaul to redefine how public services function and why it is important to do better. A connected government is a daring government who are aware of the changes the world is experiencing and how capturing some of these digital tools will greatly benefit the public, not only now but in the future. Society demands technology and innovation with more people benefiting from it throughout the day without ever comprehending how the modernisation has made lives easier. The public trusts the Government to offer the greatest and most innovative digital technologies available with its numerous capabilities. Understanding citizens to achieve better outcomes, providing streamlined services, discovering innovative solutions to policy changes, and delivering public and stakeholder engagement are expectations that must be delivered now.  

Public Expectations and Personalisation 

Public expectations are higher and certainly more ‘on demand’ than ever before as everything should be available at the touch of a button, and more services are available online but that doesn’t mean the work is complete. There are copious opportunities to respond to and enhance peoples end-to-end experience of public services. By doing so and using innovative solutions, the belief is that the Government are motivating change and switching their culture to redesigning policy and delivering faster and more valuable services. Promoting such innovation creates a level of trust, improves user experience and finally, it has superior results for all involved. The private sector is showcasing their courage with personalisation, quick responses and platforms that are replacing traditional methods of interaction and there is no reason why the public sector should fall through the cracks. In today’s world, people expect the same level of personalisation and swift response from the public sector than that of the private sector.   

“Disruption is happening, innovation is happening, technology is happening so the question is, are you brave enough if we provide the innovative solutions?”

Driving Change and Quality of Life 

Boosting public services comes with a pressure to be the pioneer of such solutions and to gauge the market, plan and continuously innovate to stay ahead. The Government should force change instead of being forced to change with business models that are immensely beneficial to the public. The Governments relations (with innovative services) will be able to create a fantastic quality of life for the public, gain trust and remain competitive in a technologically advancing world.  

Disruption is happening, innovation is happening, technology is happening so the question is, are you brave enough if we provide the innovative solutions?  

OpenSky partners with UiPath to help Irish public sector leverage robotic process automation

William Flanagan – Director Commercial & Technology and Michael Cronin – Managing Director of OpenSky Data Systems.

– Partnership will streamline back-office processes for government agencies 

– UiPath is fastest-growing enterprise software company, with 400,000-strong developer          community and customer base of more than 2,800 customers 

–  Robotic Process Automation (RPA) boosts employee productivity and efficiency  

–  Approach also makes services more accessible for citizens in Ireland 

Dublin, 23 July 2019 – OpenSky, the Irish GovTech transformation specialist which provides process automated solutions to public sector bodies, announces that it has partnered with UiPath, the leading enterprise Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software company.  

Through this strategic partnership, OpenSky will design, develop and implement cutting-edge RPA solutions for public sector bodies and government agencies in Ireland.  

Leveraging robotic automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), OpenSky will provide automated solutions that enable organisations to maximise efficiency – up to 80% of organisations using RPA have experienced significant increases in business process efficiency (The Impact of RPA on Employee Experience; Forrester survey, Aug 2018). 

These solutions will also help to reduce operational costs and free up resources, enabling employees to work on more customer-focused and business critical tasks, as opposed to menial jobs.   

The collaborative venture will also help Irish public sector organisations to enhance the citizen experience by making services more accessible via online portals and digital touchpoints. This digitisation of core services also means improved responsiveness and better value for the public 

UiPath has a 400,000-strong developer community and a customer base of more than 2,800 customers, including 50% of the top 20 Fortune Global 500 companies. Leading the ‘Automation First’ era and championing one robot for every person, UiPath brings digital skills to more than a million people, with its Enterprise RPA Platform already automating millions of repetitive tasks for businesses and government organisations all over the world. 

UiPath’s Enterprise RPA Platform is an end-to-end, high-performance solution that facilitates robotic process automation. OpenSky will customise, implement and support it within Irish public sector organisations to create digital, integrated ecosystems; helping to save time and expense, and improving data quality and compliance. 

Meanwhile, OpenSky has delivered major projects for leading government organisations which impact 2.5 million people every day. Its new partnership with UiPath ties in with the company’s wider plans to maintain revenue growth, increase staff numbers and expand further in international markets. 

Michael Cronin, Managing Director, OpenSky, said: It’s great to work with such a valuable partner and world leader in terms of RPA. UiPath is helping us to innovate and deliver cutting edge solutions for our clients. We pride ourselves on bringing valuable technology to the market that makes an impact for government organisations, not only for those who work within these organisations but for Irish citizens as well. 

“Together with UiPath, we are enabling government digital strategy to produce successful outcomes, transform the way in which they work and improve access to services for the general public. Through automation and RPA technologies, we can boost productivity, experience and satisfaction for everyone involved.” – Michael Cronin.

Michael Cronin – Managing Director of OpenSky Data Systems.

“Ever since our early days, we at UiPath have made it our mission to empower organizations and their staff to take back control over their time by relegating those repetitive, time consuming menial tasks to a digital workforce made up of software robots. Via this partnership, we get to witness technology at work bringing more efficiency to the public sector and freeing up critical human resources that can better focus on increasing citizen experience and ultimately channel their efforts on making our cities a better place to live.” – Jan Ursi, VP of Partnerships for EMEA at UiPath.

OpenSky hosted an event in collaboration with UiPath at the 5* Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge on the morning of 11th July. The half-day workshop showcased use-cases on how automation improves government processes through AI-powered RPA. Gov-Tech C-Suite & Senior Management were invited to attend. 

Recent press coverage stemming from the UiPath & OpenSky partnership press release:

Why We Use Web API’s

The Future Of Digital Regulation is here

An API (Application Programming Interface), or an interface for programming applications, allows developers to use ready-made blocks to build an application. In the case of web applications, the API can give data in a format other than standard HTML, making it convenient to use when writing your own applications.  

Based on the above, we can distinguish two existing components tied to the web API: server and clientIn this case, we consider the server to be an abstract machine on the network that can receive an HTTP request, process it and return the correct response. The physical essence and internal architecture of the server are absolutely not important, whether it be a regular laptop or a big cluster of industrial servers. it doesn’t matter what technology is responsible for processing the request, Apache or Windows IIS, which codePHP, Python or C#, processes it and forms the answer, which data storage is used: PostgreSQL, MS SQL or MongoDB. The main thing is that the server responds to the main rule – to hear, understand and respond. 

The client can be anything that can generate and send a HTTP request and there are several situations in which we need to create a Web API for our own lovingly written and refactored application. 

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  1. Mobile appMany mobile applications for various services work when using the API of these services. You describe the API, make a simple mobile application and the client with the smartphone will receive information into their device through the API. Simple & Convenient. 
  2. Open Source:  If your application has a certain audience that uses it, why not utilise this to your advantage? Create an API and with the help of your users, they can create new clients for your application and new services based on it, which will reveal its new facets. 
  3. Maximum separation of frontend and backend:  When using front-end frameworks such as ReactJS or AngularJS, a Web API allows you to provide customer data regardless of the technology used for the development, including programming languages. And, the client can be rewritten in a completely new technology without the need to replace the API code.  

Using Web API allows you to expand the capabilities of the program, easily accompany various versions of the services provided and in terms of placement in the cloud, it can easily be expanded to provide better performance. 

 Although JSON-Pure API are becoming more and more popular, the most common standard for Web API is REST. 

REST (Representational state transfer) was originally created as a simple and unambiguous interface for managing data, which involved only a few basic operations with server: data extraction (GET), saving (POST), changing (PUT / PATCH) and deleting (DELETE). In addition, REST has a number of architectural principles that are strongly recommended to be observed when developing: 

*Server independence from client 

*The independence of the storage format of the data transfer format 

*Uniqueness of resource addresses 

*Visibility of the responses for all of the metadata necessary for using the API e.g. error messages, the total number of records in the collection for the correct display of page navigation etc. 

API

Creating a complete API for applications is only half the business. For correct use of the API, you must provide the necessary documentation to service users. There are several libraries that allow developers to automatically generate the documentation and place it in the same hosting as the API itself e.g. Swagger. Another solution would be creating an API framework that clients can use for communication with an API service. For large API services like e.g. GitHub, Twitter have frameworks written in different programming languages to allow as many clients as possible to use their API easily.  

Using a Web API allows you to expand the capabilities of the program, easily accompany various versions of the services provided and in terms of placement in the cloud, it can easily be expanded to provide better performance. 

Are you really doing DevOps?

The Future Of Digital Regulation is here

DevOps nowadays is such a trendy topic – you’ve probably noticed so many references to it on articles, tech conferences talks, videocasts, training courses etc.  General awareness in this area is on the rise and this is not surprising at all since modern systems are becoming more and more complex with vast amounts of data to be processed and with simultaneous user access. But what’s most important is that modern systems have to be open and flexible to introducing new changes and meet the demands of an always on, 24/7 working environment.  Without this commitment, there are losses – of revenue, reputation…or in some cases lives!! 

So, what is DevOps and how does it help? Well there is no concrete definition for DevOps – in fact in you search Wikipedia you’ll find;  

DevOps is a set of software development practices that combines software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops) to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DevOps 

And while this definition offers a very broad overview to what DevOps is, there’s so much more it and so many more questions than the basic ones like: 

Qs: Are you doing DevOps?  A: Oh, yes we are! We have Jenkins in place for our Dev/QA environments. All we have to do is to hit a button and watch the magic happen! 

and 

Qs: Does it also transfer to Production Environment?  A: No, our customer security policy does not allow us to do so. 

Having a continuous Integration tool, a new shiny system version shipped to a production environment is only the start of what’s involved.  DevOps is more of an organisational change, the company being the engine that needs to have all the parts and components running correctly – which needs to be maintained and inspected regularly to future proof for potential issues.  

So, how can DevOps can help with this? How can we move towards something that will fit our needs and tackle problems in a better manner?  I’ve provided a compact guide below: 

 

Daily Basis: 

 

Standardisation: 

 

* Define ops and development standards in your Organisation (if you haven’t already!) and follow them – apply KISS (Keep It Simple Stupidprincipal and try not to re-invent the wheel. Be aware that complex solutions have longer learning curves and are harder to maintain. 

* Follow best practices – if you have a problem you need to tackle, there is a high chance that someone has been faced with the problem already. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and gain from another people’s experience – whether in or outside of your Organisation. 

* Don’t lock yourself to specific stack/technology. There are no perfect solutions, but some are better in dealing with specific problems than others. Always try to seek alternatives. 

* Create a Technology radar for your Organisation that will help you track new technologies – in IT everything is changing fast so you need to plan ahead and be prepared for introducing changes.   

 

Automation: 

 

* Try to automate any repeatable manual work – deployments, testing, daily checks – you name it. This will not only save a lot of time but also prevent any human error caused mistakes. 

* In order for automation to work correctly, enforce standardised environments – all fixes and patches should be applied across DEV/QA/UAT/PROD. 

* Is there an issue each time you request new environment? Adopt and implement Infrastructure as a Code using dedicated tools/platforms. 

* Once you have automation in place – focus on reducing its error and failure rate – this will get you up to speed in no time. 

 

Team: 

 

* People are the true value of every IT Organisation. Be aware of that & trust them.  Don’t micromanage your team as this leads to problems. Remember that good teams can be fully autonomous and can manage on their own. 

* Try to balance team workloads and be aware that multitasking can do more harm than good. Apply WIP (Work in Progress) limits if necessary 

* Support people and teams during failures – everyone makes mistakes. The key is to learn from them and provide a means for these to not happen again. 

* Create an on-boarding plan for new Employees – not everyone has the same knowledge level, but actions should be made to mitigate this.  

Having a continuous Integration tool, a new shiny system version shipped to a production environment is only the start of what’s involved.  DevOps is more of an organisational change…

Development/Deployment approach: 

 

* Move towards Agile methodologies – Waterfall is an enemy of DevOps and causes issues when applying some of its best practices. 

* Increase Deployment frequency – if you only have Continuous Integration in placetry expanding it into Continuous Deployment and ultimately into Continuous Delivery 

* Follow some deployment patterns that can be adopted to your Product: 

Canary releases 

Rolling deployments 

Blue-Green deployments 

 

Change Management: 

 

* Define a standardised and transparent process to be followed by your Organisation – by default it should have as little overhead as possible and a quick turnaround. 

* Define and follow a Release management process for provisioning your systems. 

 

Monitoring and Alerts: 

 

* Watch your system as they work in order to gain insights and prevent or predict possible failures/issues on either system or infrastructure level. 

* Implement alert mechanism in order to mitigate issues before they occur. 

 

What to do if your Production system is down or facing a serious issue? 

 

Prioritisation:  

 

* The key rule to most production issues is to mitigate first in order to provide continuous operations. ‘Proper’ fix can be applied a little bit later. 

* All services need to be recovered based on impact. Look into what’s most critical first to get you up and running. 

* It’s very important to record all evidence related to the issue (times, logs etc.) as this will be used for Root Caused Analysis later on. 

 

Communication: 

 

* When facing issues, communication is key and needs to be timely sent and always transparent – do not try to hide anything. 

* Don’t cause panic – communicate the issue only to the affected parties. 

* Separate external and internal communication – customers usually won’t understand tech talk so the information provided to them needs to be clear and understandable.  And consider ChatOps as a good solution to have one centralised place for internal communication. 

* Have an ‘Incident Manager’ in place who will coordinate everything in correct manner. 

* It’s good to have some insight of your system in real time otherwise your support might get overwhelmed with questions like ‘When will it start working?’ so a dedicated health check/incident page would be useful here. 

 

Now that we’ve identified the cause and restored initial functionality – what’s next? 

 

Root Cause Analysis: 

 

* Perform accurate Root Cause Analysis (RCA) – go through recorded timelines, think of lessons learned and possible future improvement plan to ensure the issue does not happen again.

* Create a Post Mortem document that is clear and accessible to everyone. 

* Review your Post Mortems to see if you are not falling into the same rabbit holes. 

* It is very important that RCA and Postmortem be done with blameless approach – everyone can make mistakes and if you approach analysis with a witch hunt style, it’s likely to result with your team not sharing the important details they know which are crucial to the analysis. 

 

Improvement plan 

 

* Create an improvement plan – this should be initiated from the Root Cause Analysis document. 

* Track your improvement proposals so these get implemented properly – regardless if this is a process modification, monitoring improvement, code fix or Architectural change. 

 

Great, what’s next? 

 

So much to cover right?  Do you have to do all of this from the start?  No! Improve on what you have. Start small, fail often and learn from it, adopt, adjust, improve! Improve! Improve! 

Supporting Efficiency in Government with Emerging Technologies

The Future Of Digital Regulation is here

The Current State of Digital Government 

The public sector is taking advantage of technologies that have delivered improvements in other industries in order to achieve a higher performance and an exceptional culture.  However, the sector faces its own series of unique challenges from regulations, which can add complications to Government making simple improvements.  The complexity alone of securing citizens’ information from within the vast volume of government agencies and organisational silos between departments is a challenge in itself, which can only be achieved with sophisticated technology and business innovation. 

Governments are making great progress in their transition to the digital world. According to the Public Service ICT Strategy published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2015, “the new strategy would deliver better outcomes and efficiency through innovation and excellence in ICT“ such as; 

* The Public Service will be more agile and deliver more user centric and innovative services for citizens and businesses. 

* Innovative use of ICT in the Public Service will deliver better value for taxpayers by creating efficiencies through integration, consolidation and sharing of common infrastructure, systems and resources. 

* Adoption and facilitation of digital technologies will increase productivity, improve the relationship between citizens, businesses and government and will deliver social and economic benefits for Ireland. 

* Integrated services and increased data sharing will drive significant efficiencies; will facilitate insight driven decision making; will increase openness and transparency between Government and the public; and will provide a much higher user experience and quality of service for citizens, businesses and public servants. 

* Improved ICT governance will ensure alignment, reduce risk and support unification as envisaged under the Public Service Reform Plan and Civil Service Renewal Plan. 

* The future needs for ICT skills will be met through professionalisation of ICT streams, targeted recruitment and improved mobility and succession planning across all Public Bodies.” 

 

However, four years after the strategy was introduced, some of the greatest challenges still lie ahead for Government.  While much progress has been made to enable citizens to access many government digital channels, the true potential of digital government stands unexploited today versus the plans outlined in the strategy in 2015, such as; 

* Many end-to-end digital services are still not available. 

* Many of the existing digital services are still not optimised for mobile devices. 

*  Most departments are still struggling to comply with GDPR legislation. 

* Customer Service still relies totally or partially on call centres which are not facilitated by an always-on service.  We need to meet the demands of current day customer/citizen expectations for a 24-7-365 service. 

* The functionality and user experiences of government online services are usually poor compared to commercial organisations who have set the expectation to customers, of a user friendly, efficient & functional platform. 

 

The Need to Modernise 

In today’s digital era, keeping up with shifting consumer expectations and providing them with the low-friction and straightforward experiences they crave is a massive challenge that most public and private organisations face. Often, the problem lies in the fact that due to platform constraints, many companies are slow or even incapable, of deploying the digital technologies that consumers already expect and have adopted in their day-to-day lives.  

Many citizen transactions are still supported by old systems and platforms that lack the flexibility, scalability, extendibility and interoperability to deliver the digital channels needed for 24/7 citizen access as well as ensuring that customer interactions are not only more efficient, but also have a strong focus on delivering exceptional experiences. 

Therefore, in order to meet the increasing demands and expectations of more experienced digital users, Public Service departments need to go beyond digitising processes and services and leverage the power of digital technologies and data to improve efficiency and transform their business models 

OpenSky specialise in enabling Government to get the benefits of a true digital transformation – providing efficiencies by lowering operational costs and improving quality of service, resulting in more satisfied citizens. 

 

Platform Modernisation 

Microsoft Dynamics 365 can digitally transform the public sector by eliminating reliance on legacy systems, databases and paper-based services.  It provides the platform and tools that equip organisations in deploying seamless, end-to-end, multi-device, multi-channel digital case management systems – that allows users to transact their business while online, without having to resort to printing forms or calling a service centre.  

 

The key advantages of Microsoft Dynamics 365 are its; scalability, extendibility, flexibility, maintainability and interoperability as well as its seamless integration with other applications and services on the Microsoft Cloud (including SharePoint, Yammer, OneDrive, Skype for Business, Microsoft Flow amongst others).  

 

Some of the key benefits that Microsoft Dynamics 365 can bring to the public sector are; 

  1. Improved process efficiency – digitising and streamlining in person and/or paper-based processes, making services more available and convenient for citizens and cutting down the administrative overhead for government agencies. 
  2. Increased productivity – automating back-office operations, reducing bottlenecks, ensuring processes are always followed and reducing end-user training needs. PowerApps and Microsoft Flow can also be used to extend process automation with no-code solutions. 
  3. Improved reporting and analytics – agencies can interrogate data with highly flexible, customisable reporting and turn data into insights. Dynamics 365 Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service can help agencies to optimize their operations and create better customer service experiences. 
  4. Improved flexibility and maintainability – Dynamics 365 provides tools to empower organisations to configure/customisthe way they do business without the need of a developer and eliminates potential impact of customisations on platform upgrades. 
  5. Improved interoperability  Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps can be used to build no-code integrations with other internal and external systems and the Common Data Service can be leveraged for integrating Dynamics 365 with other business apps seamlessly. 

 

My colleague Marius Stoica wrote a great article which provides insight on how OpenSky minimises the business impact of the upgrading process when providing scalable, sustainable and future-proofed upgrades as well as replacements of obsolete case management systems – for many Government & Large Private Enterprises. 

Public Service departments need to go beyond digitising processes and services and leverage the power of digital technologies and data to improve efficiency and transform their business models.

Automating information classification and regulatory compliance 

Traditionally, implementing a successful enterprise search has always been a challenge. Search relies on classification and more so on consistent classification and relying on a manual classification process managed by end users, has never worked and it never will.  

In today’s digital world, consuming information has crossed application and service boundaries to the extent that it has an impact on security, enterprise content management, migration, text analytics, collaboration, compliance and information governance. Most agencies are still unprepared to address data protection, security breaches and data leaks as well as complying with the requirements of GDPR. And most, focus primarily on perimeter security even though a high percentage of data breaches are caused by internal stakeholders. 

In order to increase productivity and decision making while reducing costs and so importantly, ensuring compliance is maintained across the Public Sector, have all content (structured, semi-structured and unstructured) auto-classified and available in a single search index is paramount. 

By investing in a platform that; 

* Automatically generates metadata and makes it available to search engines, enterprise content management systems and line of business applications 

* Leverages Intelligent Metadata Enabled Solutions for Data Privacy, Protection of Confidential Information and eDiscovery 

The public sector would be empowered to; 

* Eliminate end user tagging, reducing errors, rework, and time 

* Create a virtual centralisation through the ability to link disparate on-premises and off-premises content repositories, improving decision making via the retrieval of all relevant information in a single interface 

* Enable concept-based searching for information 

* Ensure all privacy data vulnerabilities are identified across diverse repositories such as scanned documents and e-mails  

* Notify data exposures in real time  

* Automatically protect content that contains a potential data breach 

* Enable quick implementation to address regulatory changes while avoiding fines and audits 

* Minimise end user training 

 

Preparing for 2020 and Beyond 

Using automation to bring efficiency into the digital age  

While Process automation platforms have been around since the beginning of this century, there has been a more recent increase in general adoption across industries with the emergence of Robotic Process Automation. But what exactly is Robotic Process Automation and how can it be used to increase efficiency? 

 “Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that allows anyone today to configure computer software, or a “robot” to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA robots utilise the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like humans do. They interpret, trigger responses and communicate with other systems in order to perform on a vast variety of repetitive tasks. Only substantially better: an RPA software robot never sleeps, makes zero mistakes and costs a lot less than an employee.”  UiPath 

A great example of how RPA can be used to increase efficiency can be found in customer contact centres. 

Customer contact centres rely on a number of different systems and applications to process a high volume of repetitive tasks, which makes them an ideal match for RPA.  

Customer representatives need to understand a customer’s intent and carry out a series of actions that involve switching between systems and apps to find the required information and in turn, inform/direct the customer. This process has some disadvantages, including the long waiting times for the customer while the customer representative is busy dealing with data followed by the representative asking the customer for the same information more than once. The result, an increase in the duration of the interaction that wastes resources while creating customer dissatisfaction. 

By identifying frequent customer queries and analysing the tasks that the representative needs to perform in response, an RPA solution can be built to facilitate those actions by totally or partially automating those tasks.  For instance, for an interaction in which entering customer data in one or several systems is required, a robot can be built so when it is launched by a customer representative, IT performs most/all the actions in seconds. 

The above scenario could be taken a step further by the combination of a virtual agent (more on this in the next paragraph) and a robot, in which the virtual agent interacts with the customer to gather the necessary data and triggers the robot (sharing the collected data) to perform the actions, requiring only the intervention of a human when a negative sentiment in the conversation is detected or when dealing with a person is explicitly requested by the customer (escalation from virtual agent to customer service representative) or, when part of the process relies on the abilities than only humans possess. 

 

Using AI to drive citizen engagement  

A no-code, AI driven virtual agent can handle most citizen interactions to improve productivity, reduce workloads and create positive experiences by guiding citizens to the right solution every time. 

What are the Benefits of AI driven virtual agents? 

Connectivity – connect to different APIs, business applications and escalate seamlessly to human agents. Virtual agents can create great citizen experiences that evolves and learns with context. 

Deflection – free up human agents to work on high-value interactions by deflecting routine queries to a lower cost channel like chat. 

Dialog – provide quicker response timewith guided users interaction. 

Intelligence – handle complex service interactions quickly and effectively through rich conversations driven by AI which provides them the ability to understand voice, language, intent, sentiment, image. 

Interoperability – trigger back-end process automation workflows and automation robots 

“Chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion annually by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017” Juniper 

“Chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020” Gartner 

 

 

About OpenSky 

As Ireland’s Only Govtech digital transformation specialist, we deliver future-proofed citizen access and operational efficiency.  

Our Govtech business expertise has transformed over 50 public sector bodies in Ireland & the UK.  Within transport, waste, housing & health, our systems impact 2.5m people every day & manage 100m digital transactions every month in Government. 

Taking a Customer-Centric approach, we equip government teams with scalable and sustainable citizen platforms, shared digital business process information systems, legacy system modernisation and data management services. 

Our expertise & approach provides our clients with a path towards increased cost-efficiency, reduced risk of investment and superior citizen services. 

Working with the best technologies & MS Gold Certified Partners, we have 15 years of digitising processes, connecting citizens – building a safer nation. 

A Day in The Life of a Data Scientist

About Us Opensky

I remember that when most of my friends were trying to do everything in their power to avoid maths, I always believed it was one of the most creative and interesting subjects for me to develop. My love of numbers lead me first to accountancy, and ultimately into data science and machine learning.  I like to think that my strong understanding of financial numbers and business gave me a competitive advantage when switching careers. The best thing about being a data scientist is that I work on a variety of projects, using different tools and facing new challenges every day with a certainty that I will be crunching into numbers at some point of the day. Data science is used as a buzzword for analytics these days, but generally, it is associated with machine learning, artificial intelligence and data visualisations. 

My working day usually starts at 9:30am, checking my meeting schedule for the day while drinking coffee!  Most days we have team daily planning meeting call at around 10am. One of the things I learned very quickly in my role with OpenSky, is that communication is one of the major success factors in any project. As a data scientist, I not only interact with my ‘data’ team members (who are incredible people by the way 😊), but I also collaborate on projects and tasks across multiple departments. Analytics is more than just coding and data modelling – it combines the human element of knowledge and science.  

That’s why I usually spend 20% of my time analysing the project objectives and requirements from a business perspective, creating documentation, conducting a series of interviews with stakeholders, and finally transforming this knowledge into a plan. Armed with business knowledge, a plan and caffeine, I am ready for the next phase: data understanding. To begin with, I start gathering the data. It usually comes from multiple sources and in various shapes. Early data discovery helps me to find key insights and links, but most importantly it tells me whether the data I am looking at is representative of the business problem I am trying to solve.   

“Analytics is more than just coding, and data modelling. It combines the human element of knowledge and science.”

Shortly after this, one thing that I am constantly faced with is that the data I am reviewing, is not in the best shape and usually far from perfect. Finding and cleansing dirty, noisy or missing data, takes around 60-80% of my time each day. After following multiple steps preparing data, can finally start building and evaluating the models. I repeat the steps until I am happy with the results and the model can be deployed. This will keep me busy for the rest of the day.  

On a daily basis, I use T-SQL to fetch and analyse the data, RStudio for data cleansing and profiling, PySpark to create a data models and SQL Server Integration Services for data extraction, transformation and loading. I develop SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports and create cubes from scratch using Analysis Services. I use Azure Cognitive Services to build intelligent algorithms into apps and bots and Power BI for data visualisation which brings the data to life. 

At OpenSky Data Systems I am always challenged with interesting projects and encouraged to generate and develop ideas. By finding meaning and value to data and enabling users to interact with it, I can support a wide range of evidence-based decisions which need to be taken. Depending on the needs of our clients my goal is always to make data more understandable, useful and accessible. I think that nowadays we are all suffering from information overload and the same applies to businesses. By visualising data, I can find and concentrate on information that needs attention. I can tell the story and bring everyone’s attention to the important patterns and connections between numbers that could be scattered across multiple reports.  

If you consider a career in Data Science, I believe Andrew Ng is among one of the most influential people in the field and his Machine Learning course on Coursera is a fantastic introduction to the topic https://www.coursera.org/learn/machine-learning. If you are interested in data visualisation, I would recommend “Visualize This: The Flowing Data Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics” by Nathan Yau which offers insight into a practical guide on real-world examples. 

 

About OpenSky 

OpenSky Data Systems for Digital Government That Works. 

As Ireland’s Only Govtech digital transformation specialist, we deliver future-proofed citizen access and operational efficiency.   

Our Govtech business expertise has transformed over 50 public sector bodies in Ireland & the UK.  Within transport, waste, housing & health, our systems impact 2.5m people every day & manage 100m digital transactions every month in Government. 

Taking a Customer-Centric approach, we equip government teams with scalable and sustainable citizen platforms, shared digital business process information systems, realtime monitoring and analysis, legacy system modernisation, minimal viable product designs and implementations and data management services. 

Our expertise & approach, provides our clients with a path towards increased cost-efficiency, reduced risk of investment and superior citizen services.  

Working with the best technologies & MS Gold Certified Partners, we have 15 years of digitising processesconnecting citizens – building a smarter nation. 

OpenSky, Technology & the Citizen

Government & Public Services

We in OpenSky have spent 15 years working hard to improve technology in Government. It is one of those things that makes it easier to get up at 6am on that Monday morning when it’s dark and wet (& that’s during the better part of the year here in our green & beautiful Ireland). While Tech is not the full story when it comes to change for a better and safer world, it has its place and we are proud to be driving force for some of that change in Ireland.  

Digital Citizen Tools 

Not so long ago, a friend said to me in passing, that since most, if not all Government services are now online, surely thjob is done since citizens can interact easily with the services they need. While yes, it’s great that many services are available online for citizens, there is quite a journey to travel before everything is available that’s needed.  Take a recent project of ours to enable a new digital way of interacting with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLR) as part of their wider Civic Hub initiative. Yes, DLR already had online methods of interacting with their citizens, however this project not only delivers digital channels to the citizen, but it also completes the digital journey throughout the numerous divisions with the Local Authority, in effect joining the Citizen directly to the responsible department, not just to the initial contact desk.  

Then you add the digital tools needed for the Local Authority to efficiently deal with the issue raised by the Citizen, now the digital solution not only supports the Citizen request straight to the relevant department, but it also underpins the resolution of the request and subsequent update to the original requestor. The end result is that DLR are now able to provide a faster service to the Citizen using less resources, whilst providing 24×7 contact channels.  A major step up from filling in an online form which sits on someone’s computer screen awaiting action.  For more on this topic, you might like to read another of our Blogs about Minimising Business Impact when Upgrading your Case Management System”.

Collaboration in the Provision of Homeless Services 

It is true to say that often Technology is just an enabler for our better safer world. For example, in OpenSky, we provide the technology platform behind Ireland’s response to homelessness. While the technology platform we built, does not give out blankets on cold nights, does not serve food to those in need – as this is managed by the fabulous people working in Voluntary and Government agencies, the system we built allows up to 100 separate agencies, to jointly collaborate in the provision of services to those experiencing homelessness.  It underpins the availability of emergency accommodation to those in need and crucially, it allows analysis on how to continually improve our policies in response to homelessness.  

To me it is clearly our responsibility as Technology Innovators to ensure our AI systems reflect business and societal rules of conduct. 

Artificial Intelligence 

One of the other motivations to face the world on that dark and wet Monday morning, is that when working with Technology, everything is always changing (although sometimes it is a reason not to get up too!).  Taking a customer-centric approach to continuously bring value to those who matter most (our customers)we must constantly evaluate and innovate with the best technology options. Some of these are bringing change to how the Citizen experience is in the digital world.

The much talked about Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now, or is definitely becoming, the face of many businesses – which has brought a new level of responsibility for companies like us in OpenSky.

If our AI is deciding, for examplewho gets the allocation of a house on the social housing list and that intelligence is evolving, it’s now not necessarily the employee of the Government Agency who is taking the decision on the allocation of housing, but initially a programmer in OpenSky and additionally the ability for the system to self-learn.  

To me it is clearly our responsibility as Technology Innovators to ensure our AI systems reflect business and societal rules of conduct.  The intelligence programmed by our teams must be transparent in its decisions and open to interrogation and routinely audited. Our AI will work beside the staff in our Government customers, often as a trusted advisor and collaborator, assisting in routine tasks and decision making at all levels. This again brings service efficiencies to a higher level and allows for an exploitation of information to support decision making not previously possible, all positive for you or I as citizens.  

Our Goal: A Safer World 

The goal for our Technology, is to support that drive for a better and safer world, which enables all people to actively participate in governance and receive the services they need. The advent of AI driven solutionsbrings responsibilities for OpenSky – to set standards for what it means to realise a responsible digital eco-system that is transparent in the way it makes decisions, and which creates trust with our customers and citizens. 

Am I excited? Yes. 

Nervous? Maybe just a little…. 

 

About OpenSky 

OpenSky Data Systems for Digital Government That Works.

As Ireland’s Only Govtech digital transformation specialist, we deliver future-proofed citizen access and operational efficiency.  

Our Govtech business expertise has transformed over 50 public sector bodies in Ireland & the UK.  Within transport, waste, housing & health, our systems impact 2.5m people every day & manage 100m digital transactions every month in Government. 

Taking a Customer-Centric approach, we equip government teams with scalable and sustainable citizen platforms, shared digital business process information systems, legacy system modernisation and data management services. 

Our expertise & approach provides our clients with a path towards increased cost-efficiency, reduced risk of investment and superior citizen services. 

Working with the best technologies & MS Gold Certified Partners, we have 15 years of digitising processes, connecting citizens – building a safer nation. 

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