Rainmaker Solutions chief executive, Jan Joubert, argues that to truly thrive in the uncertain post EU-Exit world, government departments need to be brave and put adaptable, iterative digital solutions in place.

This article featured in Government Computing on 11 January 2018

As we head towards 29 March 2019, every CEO and Director General is grappling with how to deliver the best possible exit, against complex uncertainties. There are significant opportunities to be had, however, if we use this time to make smarter, more forward-thinking decisions about technology.

The UK, and particularly Government, has already made great strides in this area and seen the savings and increased skills this brings. The Government Digital Service remains a world leader in designing services that citizens can use seamlessly, from the comfort of their own homes. But when it comes to the technology that government itself uses, there are still huge improvements to be made.

In designing the post-EU exit world, it is ever more critical that CEOs and Director Generals recognise that now is the time to drive the technology decisions that will reduce cost and deliver the skills our people need to thrive post 2019.

Departments need to think differently. They need to see through and ditch long-term legacy contracts that fail to keep pace with technology developments. They need to consider alternatives to archaic target operating models that are out-of-date as soon as they are implemented. They need to look at the technology available in the private sector and implement it using more innovative, cost-effective SMEs, who can help to bring new skills into departments and help them better deliver to the citizens they serve.

Post-EU exit

There is still huge uncertainty about how much access we will have to EU networks, databases and information systems from 1 April 2019, and yet, almost every day, we are discovering just how much we rely on this infrastructure, across every area of government.

The solutions are complex, and every CEO and DG is focused on how we maintain stability. However, rather than simply replicating this infrastructure, the UK has the chance to overhaul its processes and redesign far superior ones. The more obsessed CEOs and DGs become with this, driving their teams to run user research into the existing processes, the more informed their decisions will be on how long to negotiate continued access, and when to replicate or redesign solutions.

The cost of technology

These technology decisions have the ability to transform public sector budgets in the post-EU Exit world. CEOs and DGs are subject to constant budgetary pressure, and fully aware of how much is allocated to meet significant IT and technology costs. The enormity of these costs is often due to outdated contractual arrangements, maintaining legacy technology and accessing skills that we don’t have in-house.

Yet smarter, more forward-thinking decisions about how it is supplied, resourced and delivered could see this reduce dramatically. Our experience has shown that within 18 months it’s possible to reduce IT spend by 40%. Freeing up budgets for other equally critical areas and the new ones that will no doubt emerge.

Growing the skills of our people

The unfortunate reality is that many people struggle to keep up with the pace of change that technology brings, both inside and outside of departments. Even when departments benefit from an inspirational, forward thinking CTOs or CDOs who are ready to take their departments on a journey to transform its technology, CEOs and DGs will still, rightly, question whether their people have the capabilities to deliver and use it.

Very few however really understand the digital and technology skills of their people, and therefore how to design internal digital services that will help them gain the skills they need for the future. By applying the same focus internally that we apply to citizen digital services, we can unleash untold potential.

Assessing the digital inclusion of our own people greatly improves a department’s ability to optimise technology for the future, allowing us to stop wasting money on ineffective technology, managed by external providers, because we think our people aren’t capable of understanding and implementing it.

Evolving for the future

Beyond all else, to truly thrive in the uncertain post EU-Exit world, departments need to have adaptable, iterative solutions in place. We cannot keep designing large-scale solutions that will not be fit for tomorrow. Instead, we need technology that will continue to evolve as new needs emerge.

The delivery of better services for your people and the public, at lower cost, is firmly within your reach. Use the time between now and March 2019 to take those brave decisions.

Jan Joubert is chief executive of Rainmaker Solutions

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