17th July 2019
Councils and the cloud: improving citizen services through technology
By Deane Greenouff, Managing Director, Regulatory Services, Civica
The growing demands on local authorities to offer personalised, speedy and convenient services to citizens are well-documented. Pressures such as constrained budgets, increased security and compliance issues, and complex IT environments are all adding to the task at hand. Therefore as the number of citizens increase and the demand for better, smarter services grows, local councils are increasingly taking a technology-led approach to remain competitive.
The pace of innovation in public services is increasing rapidly, bringing exciting possibilities for citizens. But without a cloud approach, it will not be possible to tap into the enormous potential of emerging technology across areas such as digital engagement, artificial intelligence and automation.
Last year’s Local Government Cloud Adoption report from Eduserv and Socitm found that over 60% of councils have adopted cloud in some form to improve organisational IT services. Cloud technology and adoption is growing rapidly, with most experts predicting that 50% of the UK enterprise software market will be cloud-hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) within two years - double today’s figure.
With cloud underpinning deeper business intelligence, improved service outcomes and being more secure and greener than ever before, we take a look at how some councils are already starting to reap the benefits.
Making processes and service delivery better.
Cloud software is helping local authorities to drive better experiences and deliver more convenient services for citizens than ever before. Take Peterborough City Council for example. The council has recently moved to Civica’s Cx Regulatory Services software to help streamline processes across the organisation and improve service delivery with a single platform to support multiple users. Automation within the software helps ease the burden of high volumes of applications during peak periods, which means employees can spend less time on routine tasks and be more efficient with their work.
Similarly, since Durham County Council moved to Cx Licensing, the Council has been able to improve real-time service delivery while also tailoring communications to citizens based on their personal needs. Via the cloud, the Council is encouraging citizen self-service, such as managing licence applications online. This will have a two-pronged benefit of providing more convenience for users as well as increasing the efficiency of internal processes – with the ultimate aim of creating time and cost savings for Durham County Council.
Managing income more efficiently
England’s largest geographical county, North Yorkshire County Council was struggling to process and manage payments manually ahead of implementing the cloud-hosted payment solution, CivicaPay. Being a primarily rural area, it wasn’t always easy for North Yorkshire residents to visit the local council building to pay bills or follow up on their current payments, but thanks to the solution, customers can now do all these things online. The service is also integrated with PayPal, PayPoint, Apple Pay and Google Pay, providing a greater range of options to local residents when it comes to things like council tax and licenses. The council now has £5.5 million running through the system, and this figure is growing on an annual basis.
Using a cloud-based service has meant that the council can collect income faster, manage payments through an online system rather than manually, process it quickly and ultimately improve overall cashflow. Added to that, immediately following the implementation of the system, the Council identified some quick ways that it could improve card payments, generating a £60,000 annual saving.
Beyond technology, cloud is a culture change
The ability to adapt to sudden change is crucial in today’s digital world. Adopting cloud solutions will require a certain amount of flexibility and adaptability on the part of local authorities, so both employees and citizens can drive true value from the technology. For many organisations, this is an opportunity for reworking processes and reframing approaches to work.
This should be looked upon as a unique chance for organisations to create a culture shift, focused on driving continuous innovation and an ever-stronger dedication to citizen service. As Peterborough, Durham and North Yorkshire Councils demonstrate, the cloud has real potential to further enable a truly dynamic, flexible culture within local authorities, which can only lead to more success and improved citizen satisfaction.
Finding the best partners for your cloud journey
While we’ve highlighted some great success stories, many local authorities are still not ready to migrate everything to the cloud but can, at the very least, be focused on starting to build a vision for their digital transformation journey.
With so many public and private sector organisations looking for ways to reduce costs while continuing to drive innovation, the cloud is a cost-efficient investment. Councils, such as North Yorkshire County Council, are already able to reinvest savings back into the organisation with the aim of continuing to build a more connected and effectively run community for its residents.
The cloud’s reliability, scalability and efficiency means organisations can consistently meet their customer needs without driving up costs. When replacing an on-premise solution, the benefits of the cloud for improving citizen outcomes are indisputable. But without the technical expertise in place, local authorities should look to a trusted partner to support them along their cloud journey, to navigate the complex cloud landscape and ensure that they really drive true value from the implementation.
With so many public service organisations now unable to afford the cost of old technology, aligned with higher security and compliance standards and keeping pace with customer expectations, embracing cloud technologies is the only rational choice; providing the scalability critical to growing and evolving organisations.