Government needs flexibility and support from providers, says Atos

Written by Rebecca Hill on 29 September 2016 in News

Providers of government services must be ready to offer departments more flexibility, even when exiting from a contract, according to a report from supplier Atos.

Both government and its providers need to embrace flexible working - Photo credit: Flickr, regine debatty

Atos’ Digital Vision for Government, published this week, sets out how digital technology is transforming public services and makes a number of recommendations for all those working in the field to consider.

The 44-page document includes the perspectives of a range of Atos staff as well as representatives from tech companies and government department.

In a statement looking at providers’ responsibilities, Helen Hall, the chief executive of Cabinet Office for Atos said that they must be ready to “do whatever it takes to make things work and go the extra mile”.

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She said that providers would need to invest more resource, field new people and inject fresh ideas into government projects, as well as being pragmatic and agile.

“Sometimes government departments need more flexibility and speed than has been predicted,” Hall wrote. “Instead of reaching for the contract, provider teams should focus on protecting the service, while at the same time being agile in design and delivery.”

Hall added that this flexibility should extend to all parts of a project or contract’s lifespan, including the end.

“In a competitive market, departments are frequently managing transitions from one model of supplier to another,” she wrote. “Providers need to take the long view. Even when exiting from a contract, they should provide the same flexibility, commitment and support they would to newer clients.”

In addition, focusing on offering a transparent contract and service would help government clients be more confident that they were getting the best deal possible – both ensuring government budgets are being used effectively and that citizens are getting a better service.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of trade body TechUK, Julian David, wrote in his own section that government has more to do to broaden out its supplier base and achieve its goal of procuring 33% of tech from small companies.

Pointing to a recent TechUK survey that showed that just 6% of civil servants felt they had access to a wide range of suppliers – a figure that fell from 15% the previous year.

David said that this could be because of a “lack of understanding of the benefits of a broad supply base” and that it was putting the government’s SME target “in jeopardy”.

He also added that the government needed to set bigger ambitions for digital transformation, and that these need buy-in from all levels of government, as well as embracing innovation, incentivising the use of disruptive tech and ensuring that all staff are equipped with the right digital skills.

Elsewhere in the document, Atos recommends making better use of smart city data to design public services, planning services from the “outside in” – starting with customer need rather than processes or system architecture – and choosing an automation-first strategy.

The idea of using robotic processes where possible has been gaining greater traction in government, with HMRC saying that automating manual processes have cut individual calls times by an average of two minutes a call, while a survey has shown that 53% of public sector senior staff say their organisation had considered automation technology in the past year.

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