Innovation and changeCloud ComputingBreaking down the barriers: Delivering on the promise of public sector innovation

Breaking down the barriers: Delivering on the promise of public sector innovation

The second GovTech Leaders Breakfast Club discussed how the barriers holding back the delivery of public sector innovation can be overcome.

Leaders from across the public sector joined together at the second GovTech Leaders Breakfast Club, to discuss how the public sector can deliver on the promise of public sector innovation – including the barriers that need to be overcome if the potential of tech is to be realised.

The conversation commenced with debate around how, in so many cases, the biggest challenge for govtech leaders is the constant chase for the silver bullet and how the public sector struggles to knit solutions and technology together. Siobhan Coughlan from the Local Government Association suggested that all too often a solution is created and then ways to solve problems are fitted to it, whereas it should be the other way around. Siobhan suggested that legacy systems, contract tie-ins, continuing austerity and pressure on services are the common problems the public sector needs to address and by starting to look at how to overcome these problems, only then will better partnerships and greater collaboration be achieved.

Discussion then moved on to new technology, the pros and cons of being tech pioneers and the use of cloud technology.

Sean Grimes, managing director of cloud and IT from event co-host Agilisys, added how its recent cloud survey – the results of which can be found here – highlighted how cloud thinking has moved beyond the basics of cloud migration and how cloud can enable other technologies shaping organisations, such as AI and RPA.

Around the room there was widespread agreement that cloud has the potential to drive meaningful transformation and is the underpinning force to maximise the benefits of new technologies. However, it was also suggested that work needs to be done to improve understanding – and communication around – what cloud can deliver. “There are lots of magical promises around the cloud, but these promises need to be translated into an effective end product that really makes a difference,” commented Stephen Head from the University of East London.

Sharing best practice

A key barrier to innovation that was discussed at length was the sharing of best practice. Prompted by the chair for the morning, Nadira Hussain from Socitm, attendees debated why more knowledge sharing doesn’t happen.

Alison Hughes from Wigan and Bolton Councils argued that it’s actually really difficult because of the complexities of local authorities, the lack of fitting solutions to problems and, crucially, the fact that all too often suppliers aren’t keeping pace with technological advancements. “It only takes one supplier to fall behind to hold everything up,” Alison said.

Peter Gadsdon from Brent Council suggested that culture also has a huge influence on change – a topic that was the focus of the first GovTech Leaders Breakfast Club (hyperlink to previous write up on this?). “Technology helps, but cultural change is the real starting point of transformation,” he said. “We’re lucky at Brent in that we have backing from the top that allows us to try things and accept that there will be failures. Our drone is a good example. We crashed the first one, but it didn’t stop us from trying again and now we’re reaping the rewards.”

Funding – the old CapEx versus OpEx debate – a lack of proactive decommissioning of legacy kit and difficulties of licensing were additional barriers to transformation discussed during the debate. Also of interest was the focus on senior leaders failing to move on. Cllr Timothy Barnes from Westminster City Council outlined his belief that there’s a failure of managers to say enough is enough – instead they carry on defending decisions and pushing through, when starting again is a better and cheaper option.

While plenty of barriers were identified and numerous ways to overcome them outlined – look out for an article on this in the coming weeks – discussion concluded with participants being encouraged to look at how far the public sector has moved along in 10 years. Delivering on the promise of public sector innovation is possible, especially with the latest technologies and the enabling impact of the cloud.

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