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Vicky is programme director Connected Local Government, a regular host on CLGdotTV programmes and has served public sector IT for more than 25 years

@vickysargent

Deprioritising tech may be the smart route to public service transformation

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Jason Kitcat (Essex CC) Richard Farrell of Netcall and Sleuth Co-op’s Hilary Simpson discuss how local authorities might overcome challenges of legacy systems, digital skill shortages and the persistence of old-style procurement.

As Director of Corporate Development, Jason is working for change by getting his Essex colleagues to focus on citizen outcomes and experience, using the tools of service and interaction design, ethnography, data and analytics, recognising there will be many different ways forward, not all of them involving 'IT'.

Richard, whose role at low-code platform provider Netcall includes thinking about the future of IT, says he spends a lot of time ‘filtering hype’ and agrees that tech should be subservient when it comes to change. The company is still getting asked to automate bad processes, and culture remains the biggest challenge.

Skill shortages are also a problem for public service organisations that cannot offer 24-year-old coders Macbooks, pizza and ‘beer o’clock’. But there are various solutions, including growing your own; making use of the ‘missing 50%’ of the IT/digital workforce (ie women); flexible contracting via the new digital frameworks; and using low-code to deliver customised applications created by business analysts rather than coders.

Procurement comes up again as an issue: why are legacy suppliers STILL getting the contracts? Nobody ever got fired for hiring the usual suspects still applies, apparently, although there is agreement that GCloud and the other new tech frameworks are becoming real game-changers.

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