Will 2018 be the year governments get their citizen services in order?

Profile picture for user Henk Jan Onstwedder By Henk Jan Onstwedder January 21, 2018
Today's digital generation expects efficient, online citizen services. Will 2018 be the year governments get them in order? asks Unit4's Henk Jan Onstwedder

US Bill of Rights manuscript 'We the People' © larryhw - Fotolia.com
The consumer economy has set new expectations for how citizens want to be treated when they interact with government agencies.

In the past, people waited for hours in long queues where government officials seemed to move along at their own pace.

Now, armed with self-service applications, instant access to account status info and apps that can handle essential financial functions, people don't want to wait. Their lives are too complex and their time pressures are too intense to set aside a day at their local government office.

Meanwhile, government oversight commissions are looking closely into how to improve efficiency, reduce headcount and do more through automation.

Both sides can come out ahead by taking advantage of the latest advances in digital technology and financial automation for public institutions.

In particular, there are four core areas of the digital technology infrastructure that are helping public sector organizations and even NGOs automate more, ramp up productivity and receive higher marks in citizen satisfaction evaluations.

1. Cloud-based ERP

Mobility and data analytics are among the top challenges that strain the capabilities of traditional public sector organizations. Many years of frozen budgets and changing priorities have prevented organizations from investing in newer technology, even as society adopted new standards. Fortunately, the latest releases in financial automation provide transparency to the public at a lower cost while maintaining tighter control over financial data.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) automation can solve many problems at once for overburdened departments. Easily sharable financial reporting tools must be able to track budgets and expenses in real-time and ensure compliance before spending becomes a problem.

The focus for governments today is on delivering services based on the needs of the people they serve, and budgeting based on citizen priorities is vital. In doing so, they can increase public satisfaction and ensure responsible spending with desirable outcomes. Tasks like paying taxes, managing benefit applications, and renewing driving licenses need to be efficient and deliver a seamless experience to the citizen.

The entire citizen experience must be analyzed and supported as citizens today expect more transparency and responsiveness from the public sector. In today’s digital world when most customer interactions are undertaken online, citizens won’t continue to make exceptions for government agencies. They must up their game this year.

Back-office operations are just as important as the front facing portals and citizen experience at the front end. They control the speed, simplicity, and efficiency of services. Organizations that are addressing back-office IT infrastructures as part of an all-encompassing IT transformation will come out on top. So long as their approach is based on the needs of people, and not based on their own, sometimes dated, processes and assumptions. Cloud-based ERP, unlike the legacy software prevalent throughout the public sector supports the delivery of digital services and improved citizen satisfaction, while cutting costs if managed correctly.

2. Reorganization and change platforms

Leaders in public sector organizations are under increasing pressure to hold down costs while improving the quality of service they offer to the public. Like their counterparts in the private sector, top-level managers must lead change intelligently through implementing the right technology, hiring the right talent and training workers in the right processes.

That's a difficult hat trick to pull off without a comprehensive platform that handles all at once. A single source of truth for the organization streamlines the transition to a leaner, more responsive public service group. This includes mobile-ready applications running in the cloud to bring together remote workers, even in organizations where teams are spread across time zones or continents.

Many of the changes are more fundamental than just moving posts or departments from one manager to another. They are a direct consequence of the trend away from the Public Sector providing services, to a model which places a much greater emphasis on commissioning those services on behalf of the local population, either by purchasing from other Government bodies who have a greater degree of specialization in that area, or by outsourcing to the private sector, or increasingly by involving charities and other not for profit organizations in areas such as the delivery of social care.

Government oversight and services organizations can't afford to fall behind as trans-national corporations speed up their transactions and original business models disrupt sedentary industries. In fact, the public sector needs technological solutions that keep them one step ahead of these changes if they are not to lose the trust of the people they serve.

3. Shared services in the back office

Recent studies have shown how shared services have improved productivity at public sector organizations. In the shared services model, public service organizations, departments or agencies outsource standard back-office processes like HR and payroll to a single provider that they share. The model improves service quality and gives workers more time to work directly with citizens, but at a lower distributed cost for all parties.

At organizations struggling to adapt to the new speed of transactions in the world, discussion of a shared services design can act as a catalyst for business process change.

The primary benefit is that this approach forces the organization to adopt new ways of working – there simply isn’t the option to carry on doing it the way it’s always been done before. This can mark a transition away from outdated, bureaucratic processes that no longer serve the constituencies who support the organization. It also future-proofs the organization as the provider takes responsibility for investing in financial technology that is certain to change dramatically in the years ahead.

4. Stronger data security

From outsourced project forecasting to donor financial reporting, highly sensitive financial data and personally identifiable information (PII) must be shared across wider networks and mobile devices simply due to the nature of public funding.

At the same time, there has been a heightened awareness of security breaches at high profile organizations. Along with that has come the heightened expectation of vigilance by leaders in the public sector for protecting private information from hackers and malicious actors on the Internet. Data encryption has to do double duty in keeping the most critical data secure while still making it easy for public data to be accessible by everyone who needs to know.

Financial automation software has stepped up to fill the security gap, meeting the tighter restrictions mandated by EU law and by security commissions around the world.

What citizens want today

It all adds up to greater effectiveness in serving the public and better performance without the need for additional funding. The 21st century has been characterized by immense changes to society and cultural norms due to technological leaps and sudden demographic shifts. Now governments, NGOs and other organizations in the public sector have to step up to the digital economy expectations of citizens. Through more significant citizen-led organizational and process changes, agencies can improve the quality of front-facing services and back-end administrative procedures. This will help them build trust and deliver fluid services in spite of budgets for the long term, even supporting future infrastructure projects.