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Public Sector Needs 80-20 Digital Thinking

Article date: Fri, 16 Sep 2011 14:41 GMT

The public sector must utilise '80-20' thinking in its digital agenda if it is to modernise and remain viable. This is the view of a panel of public sector experts gathered at a round table debate held by hosting specialist UKFast to discuss the lessons that can be learned from the commercial businesses.

"IT is an enabler if we use it for improvements, not to try to develop something that will address everyone's needs at once but recognising that we can reach 80% of our audience using IT. This then frees up the resources and time needed to reach the 20% who do not have internet access, who are often the most vulnerable," says Jon Toothill, client service director at Lightbox Education.

Tim Bevington, head of corporate communications at Cheshire Fire and Rescue continued: "Looking at it from a user's perspective accessibility has always been an issue for the public sector. In the fire service we are now trying embrace the latest technology but we need to be aware that not everyone has access to the latest technology."

"The private sector has definitely got there first when it comes to IT," says Toothill. "They have been focused on showing a return on investment so the drivers have been there longer and it shows. The public sector is so much further behind the private but is starting to catch up by acknowledging the 80-20 possibilities."

Round table chair Jonathan Bowers of UKFast agreed with the panel that an 80-20 rule would "speed up the delivery of digital projects that have historically tried to please everyone at once."

Adopting a business-minded approach to IT will rescue the 'out-of-touch' reputation of public sector IT. Using the internet as a central point of communication with the public could propel the sector forward.

The panel agreed that an essential area of private sector IT that the public sector should be embracing wholeheartedly is social media. David Carter, Head of Manchester Digital Development Agency explained how sites such as Twitter can be the key to communicating with the public; they had started with a small team of social marketers who then became an integral part of the clean up after the Manchester riots.

He said: "Having the right team with the right skills is the key. Our team were up all night tweeting to keep everyone up to date about the situation in the town centre and were instrumental in the aftermath of the riots."

Bevington continued: "Social media is the perfect way for the public sector to engage with the public. Rather than holding a meeting in a draughty community centre where only one or two people attend, a successful campaign can reach hundreds of people at once. It is an area of great potential for the public sector."

Public sector organisations can also learn from practices of commercial websites. John McGorman, programme delivery manager at Customer First for Birmingham City Council told the panel what he hopes to see from organisations like his in the future.

He said: "We need to enable people to monitor the progress of the services that they request from us. So rather than them calling us up for waste collection, for example, and wondering when the collection truck will arrive, we should adopt a similar approach to Amazon.

"We need a system in place that tracks the progress of the request and keeps the customer up-to-date as to when the truck will arrive and such. For me it is one of the biggest lessons we can learn from the private sector in putting the customer first."


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