Will Spark set public sector innovation alight?

Profile picture for user Alex Osborne By Alex Osborne September 25, 2019
Alex Osborne, Senior Director at ServiceNow, discusses the opportunities presented by the government’s new innovation framework, Spark. The key to success will be tackling integration and a platform approach.

Image of a spark

The UK Government fully understands that it needs to keep pace with private sector IT innovation. That’s why in June the Government Digital Service announced its highly anticipated Technology Innovation Strategy, which sets out a new unified approach to digitisation in the public sector.

As part of the strategy, they’ve also launched Spark, a marketplace for technology innovation. Spark is a dynamic purchasing system that will allow the public sector to more easily find and buy innovative solutions using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, IoT and security, to transform services within the public sector.

Spark will help enable growth in the UK technology sector, making it easier for SMEs to access government customers and improve the ease and speed at which government can access proven new technology.

The approach embodied by Spark is a recognition of the reality of technology adoption today. Gone are the days when departments would rely on only one supplier to provide all of their IT requirements.

Rather than being locked into huge monolithic IT contracts, now the government can move faster and capitalise on the opportunities presented by new and emerging technologies which can help to deliver better services to citizens.

This best of breed approach also frees departments to pursue technology solutions that are tailored to their specific needs, instead of ‘making do’ with off the shelf solutions.

A platform approach

However, there is a challenge that’s inherent in the Spark approach: integration. How will we ensure that all of this technology works together? It’s all very well having best-of-breed tech. But if you can’t integrate these newer components with your existing systems then ultimately this drive for innovation will come to naught. What’s more, the Government shouldn’t just assume that it’ll work.

We understand this challenge more than most. Our entire business is built on the power of integration — of data, systems and services — to make work, work better. And we’re already working closely with public sector services to establish digital workflows for everything from HR to finance.

But this is why the Spark approach is so interesting to me — it really highlights the need for the platform approach. If government is going to seriously look to integrate innovative new technologies with the systems that it uses to serve citizens, it needs to consider how a platform approach can tie this all together. 

Platforms allow data to flow seamlessly from one digital experience to another and for organisations to build out services with a Lego mindset - bringing key pieces together that are tightly integrated, as and when you need them. 

We know that government is struggling to break free from its existing legacy systems, but what should be a priority is designing with a platform approach in mind from the outset. That will mean hard work cleansing and organising data, as well as rethinking traditional public sector structures...but the benefits could be huge. The reason that the largest Internet-based companies are so successful today is because they are built on platforms. 

Ultimately, if all areas of government work together and harness the best of breed technology—with an innovative platform that ties it all together, changing how people live their lives by delivering faster, more efficient services to citizens whilst empowering civil servants by banishing menial work, could really become a reality.