Blog: Supporting Efficiency in Government with Emerging Technologies

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By Manuel Tomas Estarlich

By Manuel Tomas Estarlich

Cloud & Productivity Solutions Architect

Supporting Efficiency in Government with Emerging Technologies

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. 

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About The Author

I am a dedicated I.T. professional with +16 years of experience within a varied range of organisations. I successfully combine excellent analysis abilities and exceptional technical skills with the proven ability of completing work activities to the highest standard whilst working within tight deadlines.

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