Using Technology for Civil Service Reform, Efficiency and Transformational Government
Public Sector Technology has helped in many areas, but more work could be done to deliver better services that enhance service delivery and, ultimately, improve lives.
Since its establishment in 2010, the government’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) has done much to deliver efficiencies, unlock savings and restructure central government processes on behalf of the UK taxpayer. With its avowed aim of reducing waste and improving accountability in procurement, projects, estates management and – crucially – ICT spending, the efficiency and reform agenda has helped to save £14.2 billion in 2013-14 alone, against a 2009 to 2010 baseline. This is the equivalent of £850 for each working household in the UK and, according to the government, enough to fund over half a million nurses or pay for more than three million primary school places.
Digital public services have been at the heart of stimulating growth and developing the next wave of competences. As more transactional services move online, the government is transforming the way it interacts with citizens while also making savings to the tune of over £200 million. Alongside the digital transformation, mission IT systems, infrastructure and back office services have also been subject to overhaul. These areas are in very different stages of development and, crucially, require organisations and governance structures both within and across departments to evolve too. The Major Projects Authority is building project management capabilities while the Government Property Unit is revolutionising the use of property to create a more agile work culture, with modern environments and mobile, flexible working standards. The civil service has also made progress on establishing a cross-Whitehall HR function which is delivering significant improvements in the way the civil service manages, attracts and retains commercial skills and talent.
Despite these milestones, there is still more work to be done. In December 2014, the government set out plans to make a further £10 billion of efficiency savings between 2017 and 2018 and an additional £15 to £20 billion for 2019 to 2020. Technology – and digital transformation – have big contributions to make. Just last month, only days after being re-elected into government, Matthew Hancock who took up post as Cabinet Office minister in charge of ERG stated that “we must go further and faster on civil service reform […] it can help us deliver for working people in all their ambitions: from getting a job, to acquiring new skills, to building a business, to enjoying security in retirement. I want to see a civil service where people feel in control of their destiny, have permission to innovate and are trusted and can trust others.”
Reform is linked to ever-increasing expectations about what government could achieve – both from those end-users who consume services as well as those who have the vital job of designing and delivering simpler, faster and more responsive services. Avoiding duplication and overcoming siloed bureaucracy will be critical in years to come in order to cultivate an environment in which civil servants can realise their full potential and be innovative, efficient, challenging and disruptive. Technology will need to do more and deliver better services to enhance service delivery and, ultimately, improve lives.
Whitehall Media’s premier annual 6th Central Government Business & Technology conference (30 September 2015, Hotel Russell in London) discusses how the government can unlock more savings, deliver better services and harness new opportunities for business.
Readers of this article can secure a complimentary pass to attend this event. Please visit www.whitehallmedia.co.uk and register using the code DPGuardian. Those who may wish to speak or contribute to the events in any way can reach out to the programme writer at rrehman [at] whitehallmedia [dot] co [dot] uk.
Here are some highlights from the 2014 event.