The future lies in low code: How local government is weathering the storm
Mark Gannon, Director of Client Solutions at Netcall discusses
The cost of living crisis continues to have a major impact on the country, propelled by an annual inflation rate of 11.1% and amid large budget cuts. Citizens across the UK are feeling the freeze of inflation and are demanding more than ever from local councils. As a result, local councils are finding it tricky to cope with the impact of this on the wider community, such as building homes, supporting businesses, creating jobs, and investing in new infrastructure.
Amid this, cost reductions are a priority across the board, however, local councils must also prioritise safeguarding and supporting communities. The digital transformation of process can reduce operational costs and streamline efficiencies, however the move to digitally transform must be adopted quickly to support and connect with their communities. Additionally, these efforts must be supported by a more impartial dispersal of devolved powers and a more sustainable funding model that provides more security.
Modernising the local council
The public sector has endured a rough ride in recent times. Councils, particularly, have been dealing with austerity measures since the 2008 financial crash, leading to a reduction in staff numbers across the board and reduced budgets. Unfortunately, they’ve had to support their communities through a pandemic and another financial crisis.
Whilst the national government has committed to giving local areas more power to ‘drive local growth and tackle local challenges’, and has finally published the local government finance settlement for 2023-24, it has not provided a secure path to funding to support councils as they take on expanded roles and responsibilities. Instead, it’s often more responsibilities but no more funding to deliver on them.
Without adequate funds, councils simply can’t fulfil their duties or provide the services that many citizens depend on them for. For years, we have seen councils try to incrementally cut from their budgets, but salami slicing budgets is no longer tenable; councils need to look at new models of delivery.
Inevitably, we’re going to begin to see councils retrench on some of their services, to core delivery.
But the worst thing councils can do right now is stop investing in digital transformation to save money. Advanced technological solutions, like low-code, robotic process automation, digitised customer experience solutions, artificial intelligence and machine learning – when used strategically – have the power to transform the modern council. Are these cure-all solutions? No. But they provide councils with a way to future-proof themselves and ensure their long-term sustainability.
How can councils weather the storm?
Whilst the current skies are stormy, it does present opportunities. When coupled with senior sponsorship and a strategic vision, automation helps council workers deliver better services. However, to really see the benefits of digital transformation, councils need to be diligent during the procurement process, and – once adopted – their solutions need to be integrated across all processes.
Citizen requests are processed faster and, overall, efficiency and productivity increase. This helps drop overburdened employees and saves costs for financially impacted councils. Employees are able to fill their time with more value-adding work instead of a mundane admin task, making their work more fulfilling and impactful. This increases the likelihood of retaining workers.
A platform that provides flexibility with a comprehensive advanced suite of technologies will enable councils to leverage their existing, in-house skills to digitise, with swift time to value. Low-code, for example, allows councils to develop solutions quicker by enabling digital technologists, not just developers, to engage in application development.
A low-code application platform enabled Tewkesbury Borough Council to boost its service income, as well as 35% revenue growth from garden waste services, across three years. As the fastest growing district outside of London, Tewkesbury has seen a surge in demand, which could only be serviced with the right tools. The change has spurred significant financial savings, more time for the organisation and better citizen experience.
Councils should seek solutions with innovation-promoting licenses that empower them to build as much as they want without paying extra every time they want to build a new application.
Cumbria Council, with a limited budget, small team of four and low-code technology, was able to deliver huge financial and resource savings. Realising the need for organisation-wide participation, the Digital Team fostered support for digitisation and developed a vision, which led to the creation of 16 solutions in only 12 months.
Their low-code application platform enabled them to achieve all of their digital transformation targets, create 75% more time savings for blue-badge customers, give 28 weeks per year in efficiencies back to the management team, and develop a track and trace system in as little as 10 days.
Collaborative user features can also save councils time and money when it comes to development by enabling them to tailor solutions built by other councils to meet their individual needs. They can share any applications they make from scratch with other users, encouraging digitisation of the entire local government sector.
The expense of historical legacy
Legacy applications are the elephant in the room. They require large investments and expensive integrations, if they are available at all. Due to the expense of these costs and lack of functionality and sustainability, many organisations struggle with further investment to draw value from these legacy structures. Through the process of RPA, low-code solutions, siloed legacy applications can be connected to allow the free flow of data. This precludes unnecessary double-work and allows swifter resolution times by offering the right information when needed and distinguishing areas of problem.
By combining these solutions into their existing infrastructure, councils can better support modern digital applications and processes required to provide for their citizens and sustain their sustainability into the future. Without having a large expense to replace existing systems. Investing in a comprehensive low-code application platform now saves councils money in the long run.
On average, councils run over 800 services, playing a crucial part in their communities. There’s a lot at risk for the citizens they serve, and councils have a chance to safeguard these services if they look for digital tools that give them control, procuring for the digital age, not the analogue one.
Mark Gannon is Director of Client Solutions at Netcall.
Netcall is a leading provider of low-code and customer engagement solutions.
A UK company quoted on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. By enabling customer-facing and IT talent to collaborate, Netcall takes the pain out of big change projects, helping businesses dramatically improve the customer experience, while lowering costs.
Over 600 organisations in financial services, insurance, local government and healthcare use the Netcall Liberty platform to make life easier for the people they serve. Netcall aims to help organisations radically improve customer experience through collaborative CX.
For additional information on Netcall view their Company Profile