Accelerating digital government programmes in 2021

3rd March 2021

Senior Government Consultant, Richard Press, discusses how government are accelerating digital transformation in line with GDS standards, when time and budget are tighter than ever.

As we look forward to a brighter spring and summer, the challenges faced by central and local government IT departments remain the same, ‘How do we do more with less?’ The government's cost of the response to COVID-19 was £210bn to 07 Aug alone*, and will be felt for many years to come, whilst our exit of the European Union will necessitate new digital services or changes to existing services. So how does a government and its supporting partners deliver high-quality services quickly, while working with a limited budget?

At Civica, we’ve worked with a number government departments and agencies on this topic such as the development of criminal records checks with AccessNI. Larger departments typically have a mature ecosystem, shared libraries and patterns of working. However, their teams are already stretched, busy with current programmes and business as usual activities. When there is a need for a quick tactical response, often there isn't sufficient capacity to implement it without negatively affecting existing workloads.

Smaller agencies, who have not consolidated disparate systems, find themselves with various legacy technical solutions which struggle to communicate, increased maintenance overheads, and without a common architecture to work from.

Tackling technical debt

Our latest research with techUK found that around 40% of citizens are still not confident in Government’s ability to deploy emerging technology. So, how can organisations address these problems without also creating additional technical debt?

For some, building on a product is the right approach. Out of the box, you get a suite of proven base functionality with the promise of enhancement through configuration or customisation. However, avoid bending products in ways it was never built for. Push it too far, and you’ll hamper your ability to adapt to future needs and vastly increase maintenance costs.

Suppose your needs are a good fit with the product and roadmap, and you can work within those constraints and ignore any surplus functionality? In this case, required enhancements can be achieved through configuration rather than customisation, and likely provide a time and cost advantage over a bespoke build.

Fast-tracked through accelerators

What about those who don't meet these criteria? Those who value the option of being able to fully adapt the service at some point in the future to meet a known or unknown need? For example, we’re currently awaiting the results of the new GOV.UK Accounts initiative, allowing users to provide their details once, and then consent to that data being shared with other services. Any new GDS service should be aware of this and provide scope for future integration. What about those who want to maximise operational efficiency through a completely tailored solution, and those where the licence cost of a product would be prohibitive? In short, those whose needs just aren't a good product fit? To help these organisations, we invested in creating bespoke accelerators, providing the foundation and fast start advantage of a product combined with the flexibility for customisation, integration and expansion of a bespoke solution.

Accelerators have underpinned several bespoke digital services in Northern Ireland, including at the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) Northern Ireland. The body wished to digitise its driver licence application and update service. We worked collaboratively with the DVA through a discovery process to identify users' needs before rapidly deploying a solution delivery team to implement the service using our proven digital service accelerator. In just three months, we delivered an outcome that reduced the average processing time for eligible driving licence renewals by 65% while improving the customer satisfaction rating to an impressive 98%.

The Digital Transformation Service (DTS) in Northern Ireland appointed Civica to design and build a Citizen Portal solution to support a ’Tell me once’ approach to services and verification. By using our accelerator, we were able to efficiently provide an entry-point to over 100 digital services. Government departments can publish services via an online service catalogue and citizens are authenticated via a central identity hub. We further reduced costs by hosting within the GOV.UK Platform as a Service, and using GOV.UK Notify to send notifications and alerts. Further integration and future proofing was achieved via numerous APIs to NICS Secure Messaging, Digital NI API Gateway and others.

If a bespoke build is right for you, then you can save cost and deliver value earlier, by using one of Civica’s Digital Transformation accelerators.

Here's looking forward to many more high-quality digital services this year.