As the UK emerges from COVID, councils are beginning to restart their strategic digital transformation activities. With this in mind, we spoke to Mark Eves (Chief Solution Architect) to provide us with his vision on council technology trends that will shape the local gov future over the next 5-10 years.
1) Automated online self-service is the future
The 80/20 rule has been the focus when designing council systems, automating and optimising 80% of high volume/low complexity processes to drive efficiency and cost savings. Councils have traditionally been comfortable leaving the other 20% for human intervention.
This will not be the case for much longer. Councils will be forced to automate the remaining 20%, designing processes with minimal interaction between customers and service agents. This is in stark contrast to current processes, where customers receive a guided journey from contact centre staff. Customers in turn are starting to accept a single choice for online and automated self-service applications. COVID accelerated this to the point where online self-service is now the default provision across all sectors.
In the future, all service payments will be taken through cards or direct debit. Councils will rely on automated notifications and algorithms to validate information. This council technology trend will lead to…
2) Gimmicky council technology solutions and multi-channel offerings being eliminated
Multi-channel was one of several council technology trends in the 2010s. The concept of customers communicating via email, social media, Alexa, etc, was appealing. The reality is that these channels saturate service areas already under pressure, as well as making the customer experience more confusing.
In the future, only tried and trusted IT solutions will be available to customers. Emerging solutions like chatbots, Alexa and WhatsApp for Business will be phased out. They are simply too gimmicky, take too much time to maintain, and will not offer the real value that councils require.
In the 2020s and beyond, we will see councils becoming entirely focused on web- and mobile-based solutions. Services will operate through a simple channel that the council can dedicate 100% effort into. Ensuring a seamless and creative user experience is paramount. As a result…
3) For many councils, remaining contact centres will be vastly reduced
The adoption of online self-service will render most middle-office processes largely obsolete. Council real estate is already being sold off. The ability for customers to walk into a building and speak to an advisor will be a thing of the past, with budgets and resources dedicated to delivering frontline services. If contact centres do continue to exist, they will be a fraction of their current size.
4) Cross-boundary working and consolidation of councils
Because of budgetary constraints and the direction of current government thinking, councils will be forced (at a minimum) to work in greater partnership, sharing resources and delivering services together. In many cases, councils will be merged to create super unitary councils responsible for all services. The recent Somerset County Council announcement is a good example of this.
From an IT perspective, future systems need to be flexible enough to adapt to these changes, and robust enough to handle the traffic going through the single system.
5) Harmonisation of IT systems
Councils have been gradually consolidating their technology real estate for some time. With budgets likely to shrink at faster rates, existing back-office systems will need to be phased out.
With a big push for process unification across UK councils, they will move to a handful of IT platforms. Typically, this will be one platform purely for finance, and another for service delivery.
Projects like Blue Badge will be harmonised to ensure every council follows the same approach. While councils may want to offer their own bespoke service, they will not have the funding or resources to sustain it.
Ultimately, everyone will likely follow the same processes and deliver the same services. The main upside of this is the elimination of a postcode lottery, ensuring a fairer and more uniform service delivery.