As a technology partner to local government, the forum was an invaluable opportunity for us to step back from the day job, to listen to what is top of mind for our customers, and see how they are developing and sharing innovative approaches to tackling issues. Opening up this level of private/public sector discussion gives a chance for providers to listen to their customers, take and adapt their ideas and play our part in innovation and problem solving.
With customers also continually bombarded by LinkedIn messages, banner ads, and even (yes!) cold calls, it also feels like a better way to help keep customers abreast of the latest developments in technology and in their supplier community. People can step back from the day job, spend focus time with peers and potential providers, then return to work with new ideas and energy.
As you might expect, there was a strong theme running throughout the conference of transformation, and the different ways in which councils are embracing the need to change.
In response to the myriad demands, local authorities are changing; structures are evolving, the shapes of teams are changing, and new sourcing and commissioning models are emerging. Several organisations shared innovative approaches to centralising case work teams, supported by subject matter expertise. Others shared plans for combining field-based teams, by helping them to carry out cross-departmental work when in the community.
There was a real acknowledgement across the audience that cultural change is crucial. Creating a culture where people are comfortable experimenting, learning and sharing — without a fear of ‘failure’ is crucial to empowering teams, and this an area where looking to private sector experience and learnings can also open new routes and ideas. There was some great discussion over dinner between suppliers and customers, comparing culture and performance management approaches. Interestingly, Microsoft was cited by several as an organisation that has and is successfully transforming their culture, and being open to sharing learnings and experiences.
A number of sessions and discussions focused on how to place the customer and their needs at the heart of change. These conversations covered topics like how data from disparate organisations and systems can be brought together to deliver a single view of the person or family, helping to provide a platform for understanding and tackling some of the most challenging issues. The discussion extended to how digital journeys, wearables and other connected devices like Alexa can help address a broad range of issues from cost and efficiency, to tackling isolation and loneliness. Again, it was great to hear from organisations who are undertaking innovative pilots — and from Amazon themselves about how they are seeing people innovative with Alexa.
It was heartening to hear so many people acknowledge that, in many cases, much of the technology that has served local government well in the past is not necessarily fit for purpose for the future and can’t adequately address the challenges. Siloed systems which block or charge for data sharing, stagnant and staid software roadmaps, uncooperative vendors, and applications that inhibit rather than encourage flexible and mobile working, were all in the firing line. There was a real sense that many customers are looking for platforms that are adaptable, facilitate secure collaboration between teams and agencies, change as the organisation transforms, and ultimately allow them to take back control.
Our belief at Hitachi Solutions is that the Microsoft cloud platform offers the best way to support each of these needs, whether it’s using Teams as a solution for MASH engagements, or Microsoft Dynamics 365 to transform the customer journey and service delivery. The majority of customers we spoke to shared this view and were looking to increase rather than decrease their Microsoft footprint, often citing the way Microsoft applications work together to benefit the user, whilst being open and interoperable with other technology.
In addition to one-to-one conversations throughout the conference, Hitachi Solutions also hosted a group discussion on the future of local government business applications, attended by fifteen leading authorities. In our next blog post we’ll summarise the key themes, messages and learnings from that discussion.