Designing IT service support for digital first councils

COVID-related restrictions mean there’s a need to invest in technologies that will help digitally-driven councils gain efficiencies and improve staff experience, says Mark Scott.

In recent years there has been a growing enthusiasm for the idea of digitally-led councils, and there's no doubt that this accelerated rapidly throughout 2020 due to the pandemic. The change to home working coupled with a need for council employees to continue providing exceptional services remotely, has placed pressure on IT support services for public sector organisations, but how much pressure?

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of Cantium found that 70 per cent of IT professionals in the public sector reported an increase in IT support tickets and requests since the restrictions to daily life came into place mid-March this year.

Investing in self-service for the public sector

This increased workload along with new challenges brings with it a demand for bigger investment in public sector IT. While this rise in investment has been promoted by the pandemic, it will continue long after it is over. Working habits have changed and there is no ‘going back to normal' for a lot of organisations. Employees now expect more than a requirement to attend everything in person, and the demand for a permanent switch to flexible working is higher than ever. Plus, council employees now working from home still need IT support to be able carry out their roles, even when support staff are miles away.

In light of this, there is a need to invest in technologies that will help digitally-driven councils gain efficiencies. However, these technologies must also improve the experience for staff and free them up to focus their time where it matters most - on delivering services for citizens. I believe that self-service technology can play a huge part in this.

Cultural and channel shift to self-serve

With home working and an increase in demand for IT support services, there comes the need to shift to self-serve models that address the needs of a more mobile workforce. Self-serve is not new to the public sector, but IT support staff within councils will need to consider how they create an experience for employees that empowers them with knowledge and solutions. Part of this will be investment in technologies that support channel shift and enable accurate, convenient and faster IT support interaction. Staff that can self-serve are empowered, and IT support teams can better manage their workload.

Bear in mind that financial investment alone won't do the trick. Councils must also invest in a cultural change within the organisation - getting all stakeholders on board from the beginning will go a long way towards helping IT support investment pay off.

Digital inside and out

There is no denying that the pace of digital change in the public sector has been rapid this year. Thanks in part to strong collaboration between public and private sector organisations, public services that would normally take a long time to be deployed are now implemented sometimes in days. The same can happen for internal processes and IT support too.

Within councils, we're seeing a strong uptake in remote working, largely due to their employees' vital role in continuing to deliver essential services to citizens. The increase in support requests seen over the last six-months shows there has been a disruption to the working lives of civil servants and employees, leading to a need for investment and support for IT services. It not only enables a positive and productive experiences for employees, but ultimately means a better experience for the citizens they serve. The domino effect of investing in the right tech cannot be understated. By doing so, councils can become truly ‘digital first' and ready to thrive in a tech-enabled society.

Mark Scott is CEO at Cantium Business Solutions


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