The road ahead for PSN transformation
Part of the PSN outlook for 2014 involves well known milestones for the programme.
Most of central and local government should have moved onto the Public Services Network from GSi/GCSX connections by mid-2014.
Police will also join the PSN community in the latter part of the year with the shift of core policing networks and services onto PSN by October.
It is widely recognised that customer compliance has been a challenge in the transition to PSN, but we should see more incentive and assistance to achieve this in 2014.
Another milestone concerns the PSN frameworks, through which around £300m of business has so far been transacted.
These are due to be replaced by at least two new frameworks covering a wide range of telecoms services and also contact centres by the end of the year.
We’re starting to see more PSN certified services appearing in the fast growing Government Cloudstore.
This trend will continue and the fit between G-Cloud and the new telecoms frameworks will become clearer.
With PSN connection becoming business as usual for many though, the more interesting aspect of 2014 will be how it can be exploited to transform public service delivery and efficiency.
If the milestones mentioned mark the general direction of travel for 2014, then it’s this transformation potential that will determine the volume of travellers and their speed of progress.
In 2013 early movers consolidated their networks and reaped some significant connectivity savings.
The Unicorn project has already seen BT consolidate 40 networks into one, connected to PSN, for at least 20 public services in the South East, saving around £5.25m.
PSN also gained the secure overlay capability that the more secure IL3 connections for Police and large parts of Central Government demand.
As a result, councils now have the chance to create a step increase in savings by focusing not just on the cost of networks, but also on the much broader sustainable value that an increasing range of PSN services can enable - powering public services and improving both efficiency and outcomes.
So with PSN connections established for the majority of the public sector, what are the trends we should accelerate to help realise public service reform?
Here’s four for 2014:
1. End-to-end integration.
For the most part public services aren’t like discrete products. Provision may be initiated through user contact, whether that’s a call to the council, a referral, a doctor’s appointment, an email, web enquiry or even a Twitter posting about floods or potholes.
And meeting the user’s needs may also involve a combination of services delivered by different organisations, not all of them necessarily in the public sector.
Optimising service delivery within one organisation, from user contact through essential business processes and internal systems to the resources required is challenging enough.
Making it work across a large ecosystem of previously unconnected partners is much tougher.
Digital service delivery needs to start with integrated contact management from social media to web, mobile, phone and assisted digital, driving down transactional cost and improving user satisfaction.
Getting service delivery right first time and fulfilling enquiries or transactions fast and efficiently means integrating this into critical business processes and systems, from benefits to care records to HR, payroll and finance.
People within the organisation and partners across sectors need to be able to collaborate effectively, sharing relevant information in a way that’s agile and appropriately secure.
These applications and systems should increasingly be common and shared across organisations, delivered ‘as a service’.
PSN will provide the conduit for this, but technology is only part of the answer.
Culture and process change are also critical. Standardisation and availability of business process and shared services plus developments in automation and analytics will bring improved end-to-end delivery efficiency closer in 2014.
CIOs able to harness this transformational potential will be better able to support sustainable change and reform well beyond the ICT budget envelope.
By linking networks, PSN will improve access to vast resources of data.
But we still need to extract useful nuggets of information from this growing reservoir, get it to the right people at the right time and do things better as a result.
This is probably the greatest ICT challenge facing organisations in both public and private sectors.
It is important because distilling relevant, timely information on anything from traffic volumes, citizen preferences or service usage patterns to health trends can enable, for example, improved evidence based policy and decision making, fraud detection, crime prevention or proactive care intervention.
Automation, analytics and visualisation will be important to extract insight from complexity.
So too will be intelligent information networking to push actionable insights out to those who need and can use these to deliver better services, cut cost, avoid provision gaps and improve outcomes as a result.
3. New ways of working
In any front line service provision role, home-based mobile working is becoming operationally necessary.
Policies, management culture and technology must support this trend.
Much has been made of BYOD in 2013, but this is just one element. Personal devices have an important role in the flexible workstyle mix, but not for accessing sensitive or personal data, given the risk of loss or compromise.
Managed devices are often more appropriate, particularly where PSN access is needed.
There’s plenty of good advice on agile working and effective collaboration already available to learn from.
Other critical bits of the mobility jigsaw to develop in 2014 are identity federation, authentication, building and network sharing and the ability to exploit a spectrum of connections from cellular to wifi to fixed, with the appropriate level of security and performance.
4. Market development
For PSN to work we need users connected, suppliers with the right capabilities to power public services and an effective marketplace to bring them all together.
With PSN transition maturing in 2014, a large base of connected users will be in place, so to deliver sustainable cost savings above the network layer, we need the landscape of PSN services to become richer and broader.
The development of an open and effective marketplace will take another step forwards with new procurement frameworks for telecoms services.
Coupled with the ongoing growth of G-Cloud, these will provide an accessible route for innovative PSN compliant services to be bought and sold.
We’ve yet to see the shape and terms of new framework procurements, the extent to which they’ll be adopted and the commercial merits of each, but those suppliers of all sizes committed the new government ICT marketplace will be clearly visible through the breadth and depth of their accreditation, compliance and framework presence.
Jason Hall is PSN Director at BT
Neil Mellor is business development for PSN at BT
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