‘Great rethink’ drives public sector transformation

As one of the most disruptive periods in modern history causes a radical rethink in how people collaborate and interact, the public sector must embrace this new equilibrium


SPONSORED BY Opentext

Organisations are experiencing the fastest, deepest, most consequential technology disruption ever. Working from anywhere, at scale, has transformed workforce models. There has been a direct-to-consumer explosion. Social commerce is on the rise. Contactless technology is powering all manner of experiences. Supply chains are becoming more digital and regionalised. Customer expectations continue to evolve at speed. And it’s all being rapidly accelerated by a once-in-a-century pandemic.

We are the first generation of humans to truly experience two worlds: one physical and one virtual. This is rewriting the rules of how people eat, work, shop and live, and the services they expect to consume. Meanwhile, there is a clear desire to create a kinder, more socially just world and technology is the vehicle to get us there, whether it be developing vaccines, using artificial intelligence (AI) to remove biases, embedding sustainability into supply chains or promoting a deeper understanding and alignment between communities.

“It is the time for the great rethink,” says Mark J. Barrenechea, chief executive officer of OpenText, a market leader in information management software and solutions. “The fault lines of our economy and society have been exposed by the pandemic. In physics, a neutral equilibrium is a new position when disrupted. We were already seeing massive disruption through the likes of Industry 4.0, AI and huge computing power.”

“What we’re seeing now, with COVID-19, is an accelerated and interrupted equilibrium. There are very systemic, long-term structural changes happening. At the centre of the road ahead is agility, flexibility and trust. We all need to evolve and come together as a society, through a new social contract, to create a better world powered by technology.”

Though hugely disruptive, COVID is providing a golden opportunity for governments to accelerate digital transformation. In September, the UK government launched a National Data Strategy, putting data at the heart of the UK’s pandemic recovery by overhauling its usage across the public sector. The strategy includes a programme of work to transform the way data is managed, used and shared internally, and with third parties and private citizens, creating an ethical and interoperable data infrastructure.

There are very systemic, long-term structural changes happening

There is clearly a long way to go until these ambitions are realised, however. Recent data obtained by OpenText, following a freedom of information (FOI) request, revealed local authorities in the UK are yet to fully embrace digital government services. Some 31 per cent of the 263 local authorities that answered the FOI request were unable to confirm exactly how much of the information they store and manage for citizens is digitalised. While two in five said they have digitalised the majority of this information, only 11 per cent confirmed they have fully digitalised all of their citizens’ records.

“The story is similar around the world,” says Brian Chidester, head of worldwide industry strategy for the public sector at OpenText. “COVID is forcing the public sector to rethink their operations. The ability to bring more value at a lower cost is one of the primary drivers, as well as remote work and the security around that. They have to be ready for this and do it in the right way. The pandemic was bold and radical, and it changed everything. It’s going to take public organisations also being bold to rebound and advance their mission in the ways that are necessary on behalf of their citizens.”

The public sector has long been stuck in a reactive posture, trying to respond and pivot after events have happened. Powered by data, and a new impetus for digital change fuelled by the pandemic, many are now attempting to shift to a more proactive posture. Governments are among the largest creators, consumers and disseminators of data, but data is only really useful when it drives insights. Technologies like AI are fundamental to that, but it does little good to layer technology on top of a problem.

Cloud is a focal point of the great rethink and crucial to overcoming some of the legacy challenges public sector organisations face. The public sector may be late to the cloud, but with security concerns now firmly appeased, due to cloud compliant security measures and governments seeing the value in remote working during the pandemic, this is changing. Another part of the rethink is economies of scale where there’s overlap across an enterprise, which is driving vendor consolidation that allows the public sector to scale at a more feasible cost, while becoming more efficient and breaking down silos.

OpenText enables intelligent and connected enterprises by managing, leveraging, securing and gaining insight into enterprise information, both in the cloud and on-premise. It’s also the underlying foundational technology supporting any egovernment services around the world. People’s experiences with government differ depending on where they live, creating a digital equity challenge that OpenText is keen to solve.

“Technology is one of the things that can level the playing field and that’s where governments have sought to go first, creating on-demand self-service portals,” says Chidester. “From soup to nuts, OpenText provides the portfolio the public sector needs to get the job done, from collaboration to security to content management to citizen experience, intelligent automation and supply chain management. And as governments look to consolidate their solution providers, it’s one of the reasons they’re coming to us.”

“However, they mustn’t overlook culture. Some organisations had no problem shifting to remote working and that wasn’t just down to technology, but their mindset as well. When governments are doing these technology implementations or trying to layer innovation into the gaps they’ve found, they need to make sure culture and the buy-in from the enterprise is really there, otherwise it’s not going to have the effect they think it’s going to have. It’s all about people: citizens and employees, and how they can come together to make it work. That’s how to achieve the great rethink.”

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