Industry voice: A commoditised IT platform can provide the foundations of an effective yet cost-efficient system for regulators, writes Christian Oliver, CRM and case management lead at digital public services company, SFW
Digital transformation is on the agenda for regulators as much as any other sector of government.
The dedicated regulatory agencies, and the local government teams handling licensing and permitting, face the demands of meeting rising expectations within the confines of ever tighter budgets.
They all need to look seriously at their processes, examine their information requirements and explore how digital systems can raise their performance while improving efficiency. And they can move forward without heavy investments in bespoke systems, but with an imaginative approach to using commoditised IT platforms.
Standard software is an untapped improvement area of efficiency. It can provide the foundations of ‘regulation as a service’ – common building blocks on which regulators create services to meet the specific demands of their communities.
Identifying stakeholder needs
At SFW we looked into what regulators, their case workers and recipients of their services need from a digital transformation.
In the case of recipients, it seems ease of use is the priority. They do not want to provide information they have given before or to have to read too much, and do want a website to guide them to next steps based on their choices.
Case workers have a number of priorities in their perspectives: wanting the technology to support the work, not erect a barrier; wanting it to show their superiors they were doing their jobs effectively; providing guidance when they get stuck; and making it easy to visualise their workload. Keeping things in one place, supporting an understanding of case priorities, familiarity and providing scope for a personal touch are also important.
Risk based regulation
For central government operational and financial decision makers four issues emerge for their organisations: increasing operational efficiency, obtaining greater business insights, achieving better customer engagement and reducing risk.
The final point is particularly significant as the organisations look to take a risk based approach to regulation, finding a balance between allowing businesses to get on with things while imposing restrictions when there is a real risk to the public good.
All of this chimes with the four priorities for government in the digital age previously highlighted by analyst house, Forrester Research: transforming the customer experience; using big data for insights and innovation; a ‘mind shift’ towards the use of mobile technology; and an embrace of digital disruption. It all highlights a need for technology solutions that make this possible while simplifying operations and keeping costs under control.
Traditionally, organisations have often focused on their individual characteristics and turned to software specialists for bespoke systems. But the fact is that most of what they do reflects the processes of most other government organisations, and the solution lies not in customised software but in the configuration of a commercial off-the-shelf platform.
This is where a CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics can provide the answer. SFW has applied the software successfully with Natural Resources Wales, showing it can meet the stringent demands in streamlining the legacy IT and creating a single process for three organisations that were merged into one.
It demonstrates the capabilities of Dynamics in supporting a transformation. The platform brings a range of capabilities from the box that support the core functions of most organisations and can be configured to their own processes. These include workflow and case management – which can be configured for the specifics in a regulatory process – online self-service for recipients and the ability to work through multiple channels. It also has the potential for integration with other Microsoft services such as Office 365 and Power BI, the latter bringing the capability to run business analytics for new insights.
In addition, it provides a route into an ecosystem of developers who can build extensions and applications that can be quickly deployed on the platform. Overall it provides the flexibility to meet the demands of regulation along with the cost advantages of off-the-shelf IT.
This lays the ground for regulation as a service. Early adopters can provide the templates and lessons on which others can build, highlighting the features that are common to all, and the relative ease of configuring the platform and adding features for specific requirements.
It amounts to a creative use of a commodity CRM for providing what the recipients, case workers and senior officials need in an effective operation – and a big step for regulators.
To learn more directly from representatives of Natural Resources Wales on how SFW supported them in the streamlining their systems with Dynamics, watch the video here.