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Flexing the inflexible in the public sector

‎06-09-2014 06:49 PM - edited ‎09-30-2015 07:04 AM

By:  Mario Devargas, Solution Executive, Hewlett Packard Company


patrol car - compressed.jpgRelationships between the business and information technology worlds have changed significantly in recent years. By now they should be joined at the hip. Everyone accepts that there is a clear dependency on technology in most organisations – but has the IT department adapted their delivery to meet business expectations such as efficiency and profit?  Whether you answer in the positive or not to these questions, it is essential that CIOs drive their technology and business colleagues together through the hurdles and blockers ahead of them to deliver the best possible outcome in the use of technology. 


This is particularly important in traditional Public Sector organisations.  Here CIOs needs to be much  more than a pure IT professional – they need to be:

  • politically astute (to handle the differing party-political stand-points encountered on the journey),
  • sensitive to the values of public service (to ensure that any technological service is aligned ultimately to improving public services),
  • empathetically shrewd in handling traditionalist behaviours (promoting organizational transitions sensitively to the “this-has-never-been-done-here-before” brigade)
  • most of all, they must be a true Public Sector technology advocate (to ensure that vision can be pragmatically translated into realistic transformational delivery).  

To provide the principles of public service, it is essential that the “services” being delivered are truly in the public interest (e.g. safeguarding, protection, etc.).  Consequently, to provide good public service, the tools and processes used by public servants must be robust and ensure effective delivery. 


Traditional Public Sector organisations have been around for generations, with stable processes and procedures that deliver much needed services. The challenge now is that the public’s expectations have evolved – not only for the service itself, but also its transparency and speed.


Clearly, the use of the latest and greatest mobile technology will improve transparency and obviously speed thing up - agility has come of age.  As consumers, we are using smart technology in our daily lives, so why not apply this to public service?


To deliver the benefits of this agility in public sector organisations,  the CIO needs to understand how it:

  • impacts the political agenda (e.g. the delivery of public services through flexible mechanisms will improve citizen engagement in the political process)
  • improves citizen access (e.g.  the ability for citizens to contact their local public service department easily, quickly and whenever they need it – and more so the ability for the public service department to respond swiftly)
  • changes the internal culture  (by demonstrating the value of agility to the day-to-day work process)
  • demonstrates the value of agility to the “bottom-line” (by marketing the savings, thereby freeing up funds to improve the public service front-line). 

As an example, let’s look at law enforcement.  Getting the right tool in the hands of the police officer/staff is an essential step towards improving efficiency. In the UK, the agenda is to move more staff to the front line.  Delivering effective decision making information is vital to facilitate this. 


The more relevant data police officers/staff have at their fingertips, the faster they can respond to incidents and be prepared to handle the action at the scene.  Mobile devices provide the freedom to quickly and easily access information in real-time on foot or in a vehicle.  Officers can check records in seconds, including car registration, antecedents, identities of suspects, collect crime data, auto-fill forms, etc.  Mobile devices can keep officers fully informed and up to date, maximizing time on the beat and enhancing efficiency.  In the near future, expect wearable mobile devices to provide immediate information on-line about the community the officer is patrolling. These mobile devices will integrate up-to-date intelligence (recent crime data for the locality) with community needs (social events happening in the vicinity) to ensure that the officer can anticipate or react accordingly to the situation on the street they are patrolling.


In addition to the traditional corporate IT tools, some police departments are adopting consumer technologies into their force.  This does not mean the full “bring your own device (BYOD)” type of devices (which is a step too far within such a secure environment), but rather a limited version which has access to only certain appropriate applications.


The use of social media is a much more powerful way of dealing with the public and to make them aware of lurking dangers (the amount of information that criminals put on Facebook and other social sites is growing!).  Social media is an extension of the sphere that the police have to patrol. Communities are not limited to physical locations - they can be wider.  A crime that takes place in your neighborhood can originate overseas. The presence of social media in everyday life is increasingly ubiquitous, and with it the need to ensure it is used to help with public safety needs.  Examples of this can include engagement with community issues or social media monitoring for events and reacting accordingly to them.


Consequently, the challenge here is how pragmatic you are in delivering agile technologies that enable – not disable.  You don’t want the police huddled over a tablet and in a bubble; you want your local police officers to interact with the community’s needs, understand them and be part of the community.  Good, effective technologies will provide that added dimension to public protection.


This simple example of agile/mobile devices in the hands of the police is just the tip of the iceberg in transforming public services via effective agile technology deployment.


Related links: 

About the Author


Mario Devargas.jpgMario Devargas, Solution Executive, Hewlett Packard Company

Mario is fifty+ year-old Spaniard with English undertones – living in Preston, North West England.  He has worked in the Information Technology field for over 30 years, most recently in the Public Sector as IT Director for a Northern UK Metropolitan Council and as CIO for the second largest Police Force in the UK.  As a Senior Executive he majors on advising organisations on Corporate IS Strategy, Collaborative Shared IS services and building and leading high-performing IS teams.

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on ‎06-11-2014 03:10 PM

An excellent article with a clear understanding of the needs of community policing.


The Policia Local de Valencia are streets ahead in this repect and would probably be more receptive to your ideas.

on ‎06-18-2014 07:48 AM

Thank you for your note.

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