How to achieve long-term digital transformation in the public sector

How to achieve long-term digital transformation in the public sector

14 minutes

08th July 2024

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Steve Prescott, Public Sector Sales Specialist, Virgin Media O2 Business


Wherever your organisation is on its digital transformation journey, let’s explore how technology can support your desired outcomes.


Why is public sector digital transformation important?

Cutting-edge technology and smooth digital experiences have become part of our everyday lives.


Whether we’re using smartphones, tablets, laptops or smartwatches, tech companies have raised the bar in terms of functionality and intuitiveness.  


We now expect these slick interactions in all areas of our lives. But 55% of our ‘Battle for talent’ survey respondents agreed that their organisation has a shortage of skills in relation to digital technology.6


Public sector digitisation will help ensure that organisations keep moving forward and doing things better than before, whether that’s improved operational efficiency or better citizen experiences.


It’s critical to remain relevant, helpful and accessible to citizens. Without a concerted effort when it comes to public sector digital transformation, organisations could easily stagnate.


It can be difficult to get right, but there are plenty of organisations out there excelling.


Falkirk Council, for example, is now providing anytime, anywhere connectivity for all the region’s schools after implementing a software-defined wide area network.


For employees to make the most of public sector technology new and old, the right training and support is crucial. 1 in 6 public sector survey respondents said their staff aren’t using their collaboration and communication tools to their full potential.5

How can public sector cloud adoption help achieve objectives?

The government strives to create the conditions to deliver good public services, which involves:


  • Leadership that enables
  • Driving consistency in public services
  • Embedding user-centred ways of working

When it comes to achieving these objectives, public sector technology has a big part to play. And a cloud-based network solution is a good place to start.

Public sector cloud solutions

A cloud solution enables employees to work securely from anywhere, on any device. People can access their all-important data and workplace tools at home, at work and on the go.


A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a popular public sector network solution. It connects you directly to the cloud from any location without having to pass through all the traditional architecture.


It’s ideal for providing hybrid working to employees as you can prioritise and redirect the relevant data. And you can provide a more seamless experience from your digital services.


SD-WAN can also help cut costs. NHS leaders we talked to revealed the following cost savings from implementing SD-WAN:3


£137,000 annual saving from switching to SD-WAN from MPLS (Multiprotocol label switching)


(Based on an NHS Trust with 47 sites, 334,000 registered patients, and average connectivity requirements)


£8,894 annual saving on security incidents


(Based on time taken to resolve four security incidents a year at an NHS Trust)

‘My managed SD-WAN costs are 40% cheaper than my old VPN costs on rental alone. It’s cost negative. I’m saving money at every single site.’


Chief Technology Officer, NHS


The importance of hybrid working in the public sector

We partnered with Censuswide to survey 1,500 public and private sector employees and identify the role of technology in the employee experience.


When asked what would make them happier at work, 50% of respondents chose ‘if their employer ensured that their technology supported remote and truly hybrid working preferences’, with 47% saying this factor would be more likely to make them stay in their current job.


Having clear hybrid working policies and being granted tech such as business laptops and mobile devices are the highest priority commitments amongst public sector candidates looking to move job.


Good public sector tech, cloud connectivity and remote working enables you to recruit from a much wider pool of talent geographically. And retain good employees too.


Read our Battle for talent report for more insight.


How can you maximise the return on public sector ICT investment?

In the current economic climate, the pressure is on to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) for information and communications technology (ICT) faster than ever before.


65% of public and private sector decision-makers surveyed said they’re expected to demonstrate results quicker or far quicker than previously.2


Invest in public sector IT solutions with easily proven ROI

Operating costs mean some organisations are looking to scale back investment. Yet our research predominantly found that organisations are focused on cost-efficiency rather than cost-reduction.


Previously, ICT investment would primarily be used to improve citizen satisfaction or employee satisfaction/retention.


Long-term cost saving is now the number one priority when evaluating ICT investment.2


Investments made today to protect and improve efficiencies will help unlock opportunities tomorrow, where public sector organisations can look to invest in other forms of transformational technology.


In May 2024, we signed a new 3-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to provide enhanced technology and telecoms solutions to support ongoing digitisation efforts within the UK Government and broader public sector.

How can tech improve public sector efficiency and productivity?

You don’t have to spend vast amounts of money to improve efficiency.


Auditing your existing estates can help you identify what is and isn’t being used.


Often making better use of the tools you already have can help improve workplace processes and create better citizen experiences. And many tech investments can help cut costs in the long-term.

How old tech can limit public sector efficiency

Legacy technology is a big issue in the public sector.


52% of healthcare organisations we surveyed have outdated software or hardware and 26% of public sector decision-makers say existing tech is hindering their organisation.5


Falkirk Council identified a potential skills gap between what school pupils could do at present and what they would need to be able to do in the future.


We helped them implement an ‘anytime, anywhere’ connectivity solution for devices in all its school buildings using SD-WAN.


After a digital maturity assessment, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust discovered existing technology was outdated, staff had poor digital skills and there were inconsistencies in how clinicians used tools and software.


We helped them deliver cloud-based SD-WAN infrastructure, the latest cybersecurity solutions and new digital hubs to improve skills for patients and the workforce.


Going forwards, machine learning and artificial intelligence are being built into software-defined networking and security solutions, providing more automation and efficiency options.

Using tools to simplify tasks

One way the public sector could benefit from tech is by implementing a unified communications approach.


Only 16% of public sector survey respondents believe employees currently use unified communications and collaboration tools to their full potential.5


Using voice calling, video conferencing, instant messaging and content sharing on a single platform can help simplify tasks and increase productivity.


In healthcare, for example, video calling enables patients to have virtual consultations without leaving their home, allowing staff to see more people while still providing high quality care.


Such technology can also help reduce commuting time, travel costs and the carbon footprint associated with work-related travel.


Technology has been integral to the progress we’ve made in transforming the way we work.


How can tech boost the public sector employee experience?

Our workplaces are more digital than ever but only 30% of employees say the experience with their organisation’s technology exceeds their expectations.4


From cloud comms to remote working, technology massively influences the way we work these days. The digital employee experience is just as important as the physical one and it’s become a key part of organisational culture.


With more of the public sector working from home, the culture of a lively office needs to be replicated through workplace technology.


Digital employee experience is key to recruitment in the public sector


Employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years in their jobs if they feel they have the technology that supports them at work.4


The employee experience is based on how employees communicate, collaborate, and connect, so it’s critical the public sector gets it right when facilitating these interactions.


Technology is now becoming central to recruitment in the public sector too, especially against the backdrop of a fierce battle for talent.


Jobs can be stressful, so employees expect tech to ‘just work’. By providing anytime, anywhere connectivity, Falkirk Council makes it easier for teachers to do their jobs efficiently and cost-effectively.  

How can public sector digital services improve the citizen experience?

Public sector digital services are essential in today’s UK.


Private companies have raised the bar on consumer experience and people are now used to getting things at the click of a button, such as Ubers or their favourite meal.


They expect and demand that the public sector keeps pace.

Adopt a citizen-led approach

The public sector is focusing more than ever on citizens’ needs and preferences by enabling more services to be digitized.


New public sector information systems enable people to apply for parking permits or pay their council tax with less hassle.

Minimise avoidable contact

Nobody enjoys waiting in endless phone queues to get hold of customer service teams who may or may not be able to help.


The good news is that digital services now include self-service portals, FAQs and chatbots enabling us to get stuff done without having to get in contact with organisations, who must ensure information is easy to find.


Artificial intelligence engines and apps are now so advanced that they have removed the need for human interaction altogether in some scenarios, except as a safety net.

Make sure tech is flexible

When implementing new information systems to benefit citizens, it’s important for organisations to consider their obligations to protect people, who often have complex needs.


Service pathways can be hard to define and must change regularly.


Public tech needs to be built using focus groups and prototypes so it meets the needs of all types of citizens and is easy to use.


We also need to provide training so that everyone can get the most from the tech. Check out our Connect More programme which aims to improve citizens’ digital skills and confidence.


Does cyber security in the public sector need improving?

Public sector organisations deal with a huge amount of our personal data, so security is of the utmost importance in retaining trust among the general public.


The increase in remote working has significantly increased the risk of data sharing.


Data breaches are at an all-time high

The Cyber security breaches survey 2024 revealed that the average total cost of the most disruptive breach or attack from the last 12 months was £10,830 for medium/large UK businesses.


And the worldwide cost of cyber-attacks is expected to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.1


These sort of attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. The criminals are relentlessly innovative.


The threat to public sector networks and our personal data is significant, so no stone should remain unturned when it comes to protection.


Why public sector networks need zero trust protection

Flexible working technology, digital delivery of services and larger, richer data sets all rely on taking a modern cyber security approach.


With scattered workforces and legacy apps, the public sector faces infrastructure challenges when switching from private networks to internet-based, public cloud solutions.


Your tech partners can help with this.


‘Cloud first' has evolved to go beyond simply dumping apps in a data centre. And there's regulation to navigate too.


The time has come for zero trust to strengthen public sector cyber security.


This means users and devices are not be trusted by default, even if they are connected to a permissioned network or have been previously verified.


Every request to access data needs to be authenticated dynamically.

Should you consider a managed service provider (MSP)?

Public sector managed services can take away the heavy lifting and complexity from organisations, while also enabling them to manage the parts of the service they want to.


It's not about removing the need for internal staff or taking away control. It's about looking at the bigger picture and asking, what can you gain by partnering with a specialist?

The benefits of public sector managed services

In our world of public sector networking and connectivity solutions, a managed service is much more powerful than traditional outsourcing. Done right, it should feel like a real partnership.


You get all of the expertise of the MSP team, combined with all the expertise of your team.


And because your teams are no longer having to spend a big chunk of their day unravelling complexity and doing repetitive, time-consuming tasks, they can get on with more meaningful work.

Considerations when choosing an MSP in the public sector

Focus on the outcomes you want to achieve rather than just the technology.


A good MSP should work closely with you to help define how to get to those outcomes.


You need a credible partner to support design implementation and ongoing service for the duration of your contract.


Look at the organisations they're already working with. Do those organisations share your values?


Does the MSP have a strong heritage with the products and services that you need?


Also, look at their future plans, their roadmap, how they approach service delivery and improvement, areas of investment and partnerships.


Does it look like they're aligned with your own vision?


How can tech partners help improve public sector sustainability?

The public sector has long been committed to environmental, social and governance (ESG) projects.


So what does a successful pathway look like for ESG in the public sector?


One thing’s for sure: it isn’t about reinventing the wheel.


It’s about putting sustainability at the heart of your whole strategy. Relying on partnerships to help you boost your ESG work to make a meaningful difference.


And equipping your organisation with the tools to measure your progress in a transparent and robust way.


To succeed, organisations should focus on making specific and considered changes to their ways of working. That way, we can maintain momentum in a long-term way.


Unlocking greater impact with tech initiatives

There are rich opportunities already available to help increase public sector sustainability.


For example, our Carbon Calculator can help you estimate and limit the carbon footprint of working with us and our technology.


It can help you be better equipped to implement the tech in a way that limits the amount of carbon you produce and get to net zero faster.


Similarly, with our Mobile Recycling Scheme, you can extend the life of your old or unwanted devices by trading them in for cash to help bring tech waste down.


With our zero landfill policy, you can rest assured that the vast majority of phones will be reused, repaired or recycled for parts.


Check out our sustainability hub to learn more about boosting ESG in the public sector.

How can we support corporate social responsibility in the public sector?

We work closely with the public sector and third-sector organisations to provide a range of initiatives that support our customers’ communities.


Our long-standing partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has resulted in many initiatives designed to help tackle digital exclusion across the region.


Greater Manchester was where we launched our Connect More digital skills programme which has since grown to seven other locations across the UK.


The programme is delivered by our staff volunteers who share their time to provide digital skills training to those in need.


The aim is to give everyone the confidence they need so that no one is excluded from our increasingly digital society.

‘We want our people to be empowered by the opportunity digital brings, whatever their age, location or situation. Social value commitments such as those made by Virgin Media O2 Business are integral to helping us achieve the ambitions set in our Digital Blueprint.’


Councillor Andrew Western, GMCA Lead for Digital, Work and Skill


We also offered a social value proposal as part of our mobile contract with Lancashire County Council, with measurable benefits for those in the community who are most in need.


So far, this has resulted in:


  • 1,200 free SIMs provided for local people who are digitally excluded
  • £20,000 in apprenticeship funding to train local people
  • Beach clean-up in St Anne’s

Another example of how we can help is with our Tech Donation Programme, run in partnership with Hubbub and Community Calling.


When you buy eligible products from us, we donate smartphones and mobile data to digitally excluded people in your local community, on your behalf. Paving the way for opportunities and experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have had.


Check out our public sector social value hub to learn more about increasing corporate social responsibility in the public sector.

Why choose us as your public sector tech partner?

Take a look at our public sector digital solutions to learn more about how we can help your organisation boost efficiency, improve sustainability and enhance staff and citizen experiences.

  1. Express VPN
  2. Virgin Media O2 Business Tech Untapped report
  3. Figures are derived from interviews with five current NHS employees in October/November 2023. Whilst names and specific NHS trusts are anonymous, the role profiles included Chief Technology Officer, Head of Digital Service Delivery, Head of IT Infrastructure & Architecture, Technical Architect, and Head of Information & Business Intelligence. Figures are an average from the interview responses (where interviewees provided figures). Savings figures are indicative only and may vary based on context.
  4. Qualtrics research
  5. Virgin Media O2 Business Public sector tech untapped report
  6. Virgin Media O2 Business Battle for Talent report

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