Public authorities need to bring together technology, people and processes to deliver services effectively in a harsh financial climate, writes David Hirst, public sector lead for Microsoft Dynamics AX
‘Doing more with less’ may have become a cliché, but it is still the most powerful driver in the way public authorities approach their business. The financial outlook remains harsh, citizen demands are as intense as ever, and leaders know that they have to push through radical changes for their organisations to fulfil their purpose.
Some have begun their transformations, others are still planning, but they all need to recognise it is crucial to bring together the three elements of technology, people and processes. Technology has to be used to its best effect; people have to be deployed to match their skills, at the right time and in the right place; and processes have to be streamlined, automated and personalised to ensure tasks are carried out effectively without unnecessary delay.
They amount to a triumvirate for transformation, and should be closely aligned in planning for change.
It will make little difference if any of the three are applied in isolation; if you have only two of the three the transformation will not work. But technology is the big enabler that allows organisations to get much more from their people and processes.
In the short to medium term, the technology priorities for public authorities derive from the need to make the most effective use of public money and are focused on operational needs. They have to be able to share information easily; to be agile in their use of data; to ensure systems are interoperable; to make their systems more intuitive to use; and to support the mobile working that contributes so much to efficiency and productivity.
But looking further forward they also need the scope for modernisation and personalisation, to adapt their processes to challenges that are not yet clear. This creates more complex demands, with four prime elements that they need to extract from their IT assets.
First is the ability to take information to make smart decisions and change the way they do things. The ability to do this at speed has become more important as changing demands place pressure on organisations to adapt to new ways of working.
Second is how to use the IT systems to make business processes more agile and responsive to change. Replacing the traditional structures is an important first step, but it is unlikely to provide a permanent solution and there has to be scope for the processes to change – and it needs the support of the technology to do so.
Third is to provide the scope to scale up. Once a new process is in place, there has to be potential to add extra capacity and for new elements to be added to the system.
Fourth is the ability to learn lessons from the private sector, replicate elements that can provide similar benefits, and adapt others for public services. In the past there has been a sense of public and private sectors having sharply different priorities, but there is a growing recognition that, while they are not identical, there are parallel issues that could involve similar solutions.
There is also the more basic demand of ensuring that the data associated with different processes is held in a standard format. This makes it possible to produce the ‘one version of truth’ needed to ensure the different processes can be aligned and make the whole organisation more efficient – and this becomes easier if those processes are managed through a single solution, rather than a series of systems that require managers to pull together data in disparate formats.
ERP as the core
For many organisations, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system provides a core function in the triumvirate. Microsoft's ERP solution, Microsoft Dynamics AX meets the demands outlined above, making it possible to deploy people effectively and redesign processes to meet intensifying demands.
It brings a number of distinct advantages from running in the cloud, which makes it scalable to meet increased demand, and agile for continuous improvements in its functions. It can be accessed on mobile tablet devices – running on Windows, Android or iOS – which provides further scope for operational and internal efficiencies.
Familiarity as part of the Microsoft family is important, as users can quickly become comfortable with its look and feel. And there is a major advantage in the ability to integrate with other Microsoft solutions, notably the range of functions in Office 365 and the analytics capabilities in Power BI. Combining Dynamics AX with these tools can take an organisation towards extracting the full value from the solutions, and enable better decision-making without moving between systems.
Capacity and agility
This integration is the prime factor in making it possible to strengthen the triumvirate: it gives the technology the capacity and agility to maximise the productivity of people and processes, and to support the organisation in achieving a successful transformation.
It should be at the centre of public sector leaders’ thinking. We are very demanding as consumers of public services, expecting them to provide the same experience as top end commercial entities, and will not be satisfied unless they transform themselves to meet our demands.
People, process and technology will the prime factors in making this possible, and Microsoft Dynamics AX can be a crucial component in bringing them together successfully.
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