Public sector excellence? There’s an app for that

Posted on 05/02/2021 by vmwareemeasmt

Joachim Murat, Public Sector Industry Director, EMEA Civil Government, VMware 

One of the driving forces behind governments, both locally and nationally, is to provide a best in class service to citizens. For many reasons, they don’t always get it right, but the proliferation of technology is helping to address that. It is advancing the public sector at a speed never before experienced. And while there is and will continue to be challenges, if we can overcome them, the future looks promising indeed.

Good is no longer good enough

The trouble is that public sector websites, and the IT infrastructure that supports it all, have been lagging for some time now. The Coronavirus pandemic highlighted the cracks in a creaking system. With citizens increasingly tech-savvy and wanting seamless communication with their local councils and government in a simplified, more intuitive format, the public sector has to start adapting processes and infrastructure to suit end-user needs better. Good enough isn’t just good anymore.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and the public sector needs to match it stride for stride. In reality, there are some incredibly exciting projects happening throughout the public sector but one of its major challenges – far more so than in private enterprise – is the departmental silos. Teams and groups that simply don’t have a shared repository of data, and this is before we even reach a regional level. That’s a situation that needs to change.

Inevitably, the public sector is regularly stuck between achieving cost efficiency and focusing on providing real value to customer needs. IT departments in the public sector are also seeking to recoup as much return on investments at minimum cost. With differing needs required for local health and education, for example, IT departments also need to be aware of both user needs and be cost-efficient with decisions. Readying to handle a perfect storm of issues—from ongoing health and economic uncertainty to increasing natural and manmade disasters—government organisations are in technological transition. And central to this is modernising the applications to be better suited to deal with the world today.

Improving app portfolio is a top priority

In a new Forrester Consulting study, nearly seventy-six percent of government technology executives surveyed say improving their app portfolios is a top priority. This is not surprising when you also consider that nearly eight out of 10 respondents say improving apps will improve the experience of their constituents as well as stakeholders at other agencies.

As citizens, it’s a move we’ve all been exposed to – consciously or not. More and more we’re seeing innovations through connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices to public-facing apps that do everything from pay for parking to report potholes. Others councils are deploying artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies to solve the complex logistical and operational issues they face around urban planning and people movement.

The NHS has been developing a system called Technology Integrated Health Management, which aims to improve the care of individuals with dementia and help them to live more independently in their own home using networks of sensors, monitors and other devices. Elsewhere, machine learning is being trialled to improve education in the UK. In 2018 Ofsted began using automated methods to analyse historical school inspection data to help determine when a school needs to be inspected. Similarly the Department for Education is using computerised learning methods to analyse patterns of underinvestment in schools. These are just two examples of the public sector trying to be more responsive to the needs and requests of constituents.

One of our customers, the French group La Poste, has vastly diversified its services, with mobility and apps at the very heart of its diversification strategy.  From being able to provide citizens with banking and insurance services on the doorstep, more recently the business has enabled its postal workers to check the well-being of elderly people in the community as part of the Watch Over my Parents service – providing this service free during the COVID-19 lockdown. It has equipped 70,000+ employees with apps on mobile devices to facilitate these services, and through a digital workspace platform has been able to simplify the delivery and management of the apps and devices, providing easy access for postal workers, regardless of their IT literacy.

Improved apps, improved user experience

Government technology decision makers now realise that user experience is significantly driven by the quality of their software applications. The study found that almost nine out of 10 (88 percent) believe in this tight coupling of apps and overall customer experience—when customers are both constituents and employees of other agencies they serve. Private-sector CIOs have known for some time that delivering innovative experiences that delight customers are the best way to win customer loyalty, attract new customers, and thus boost revenues.

The Forrester survey reveals that nearly all CIOs and senior vice presidents across all industries tie modernising their application portfolios to improved customer experiences. Eighty-eight percent of government CIOs and senior managers surveyed agree with this linkage.

This makes a strong case that application improvement must start today where it isn’t already.

Agility to address technical debt

Of course, there are challenges with this too in the form of legacy technology, understanding and deployment – 88% of government CIOs say addressing technical debt is a moderate to extremely important roadblock to overcome. Moreover, as government organisations adopt cloud—and in some cases, multiple clouds— application environments are becoming more disparate and complex – which only serves to underline the importance of addressing the departmental silos. Government senior executives are or will soon balance an eclectic mix of public clouds, private clouds, and edge environments. This complexity is only expected to increase. In three years, 97% of government organisations expect to be managing more than three separate environments (public cloud, private clouds/data centres, and edge) and 64% of those will be managing more than six.

Senior government technology leaders know they need to move away from complex and inflexible monolithic legacy environments. One way to change this reality is through agile software development methodology, which is centred around the concept of iterative development. Requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams and the users they serve. In this way, apps are developed faster, meet users’ needs more precisely, and have fewer errors.

Turn to trusted partners

A first step is improving underlying infrastructures. Senior technology executives are turning to partners to help them identify which apps can be migrated to public or private clouds fastest, easiest, and without compromising security. With the help of trusted partners like VMware, supported with a secure digital foundation, government organisations will jumpstart the boosting of constituent experience that begins with better apps and ends in higher satisfaction.

VMware’s digital foundation platform is helping the sector to build, run, manage, connect and intrinsically secure the next generation of applications. Along with expert guidance on how to drive stronger collaboration between developers and operations teams it also informs how to architect modern app platforms that speed delivery of new services, how to access innovative cloud services from all major cloud providers, including the leading hyperscalers, and how to better align the new world of business strategies with application priorities.

The latest report from Forrester is available here. For more information on how VMware can support your journey to delivering exceptional citizen experiences, please contact us.

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