Industry voice: It is possible to take a cost-effective approach to digital transformation by utilising a commodity platform, writes Microsoft's UK director for Dynamics Public Sector, Paul McPherson
Public sector organisations are coming around in large numbers to the need for radical transformation, based on digital technology, in how they carry out their business. The squeeze on public finances and the increasing demand for many services has stoked up the perspective that this is no longer an aspiration but a necessity.
But they also need to a look for a cost-effective approach. Transformation does not occur without an investment, and there is a danger that a plan that involves heavy spending on a myriad of systems will push the return on investment into the distance – and undermine the rationale of the effort.
It is a challenging scenario, but a large part of the solution can be found in relaxing the traditional preference for ‘best of breed’ business applications in favour of pushing the boundaries of a commodity digital platform. These have become more sophisticated in recent years, with ‘fit for purpose’ capabilities that are close to those offered by the specialist applications. The gap has narrowed to a point where, for most purposes, the platform can match the best of breed in meeting service demands.
The potential has been increased with the introduction of Dynamics 365, a cloud based intelligent business application platform that builds upon the capabilities of Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX ERP.
Its features include role based applications for customer service, field service, operations, project service automation, finance and, in collaboration with Adobe, marketing. They come with simplified navigation and can be configured to support a wide range of processes.
These include: estate and facilities management, bringing together the relevant records and processes to support in-house and contractor teams; inspection and repairs, with the capability for record the need for a task and the workflow process to notify the people responsible, check on progress and confirm when it has been fulfilled; and the ability to manage HR functions, taking in recruitment processes, holiday bookings, expenses claims and managing professional development.
There is also an app designer function, making it possible to create custom business applications with their own site maps and dashboards. Entities can be added or removed as required, and an app can be validated to check if any of the required components have been missed.
The capabilities are increased by the easy integration with Office 365, the Microsoft productivity suite which now includes a range of tools to support collaborative working, and the Azure cloud platform, which enables developers to create a multitude of web, mobile and internet of things applications. Their functions can be linked to Dynamics 365 to give an organisation a seamless control capability and enable it to align its processes to deliver those services – common in the public sector – that require close collaboration between different teams.
This is easier within a common platform than when pulling together an array of specialist systems.
As expected with a cloud application, it gives the customer the opportunity to pay only for the functions that they need – for example, in using only the business applications they want to use – adding more in the future if desired.
Workloads in common
All this makes it possible to ‘mine the licence’ of Dynamics 365 for a cost-effective approach to digital transformation. Public authorities can find it especially valuable in managing ‘workloads in common’, the different service streams that follow similar patterns in how they are managed and delivered.
Case management, one of the prime features of Dynamics 365, provides a strong example. There are several service streams within a local authority that revolve a case management function, including standard customer service in the contact centre, planning applications, booking systems, the delivery of social services, and responding to reports of environmental problems.
The platform can take on all of these processes, which could amount to scores within an organisation, automating the processes and providing a reliable channel for their management – and much more cost-effectively than if they are spread among several specialist applications.
It provides a highly effective tool to help an organisation 'do more with less', reducing the cost to serve through more efficient processes while maintaining high standards in the quality of services. It also provides an improved, more streamlined experience for the customer and the employee.
In the long term there is another big saving. No digital transformation will be definitive; technology will change, aspirations in service delivery will follow, and organisations will have to upgrade their systems to meet new demands. Dynamics 365 provides a platform for doing this without incurring new rounds of heavy costs.
The fact that it sits in the cloud, and can be easily configured for many processes, removes the need for a periodic refresh of legacy systems. Microsoft has the capabilities to take it forward, enabling the platform and the user’s capabilities to evolve over time – without the expense of a major migration.
Technology has moved on greatly, even within the past five years, to the extent where it is now possible to do much more within a single digital platform, and within one licence. Public authorities need to look closely at the potential of Dynamics 365 to assess how it can support their transformation programmes at a cost that places the return on investment in the foreseeable future.
It makes that radical change more achievable.
More details can be found in the white paper, 'Mining Value in the Licence’, which can be downloaded via the form below: