Public entities in digital transformation – New frontiers of cooperation
Can public entities be forerunners in implementing digital technologies and how can companies be involved in the development process?
Ultimate goal: Be great at serving your customers
The goal in using digital technologies is to serve customers more efficiently. In the case of public organizations customers being us, the people. The Finnish Ministry of Finance currently develops a platform gathering up all public digital services and best practices of implementing these solutions (beta.digisuomi.fi). The State Treasury also organized a new function, D9, dedicated to realizing the digital objective. The main driver behind utilizing digital technologies, as noted on both sites, is to serve customers better than before. For example, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela, has already announced its intention to make a large investment in automation in order to cut waiting time and improve customer experience. Many public processes carry high potential for automation and digital development. In some cases, the potential for digitalization is even higher when envisioned to be used across organizational boundaries. Collecting data in more centralized systems available for multiple uses, could greatly enhance service and optimize governmental operations.
On the other hand, the Finnish government is under pressure to reduce its general costs. The set goal is to cut costs by 10 billion euros between 2019 and 2029, of which the health- and social services reform (SOTE) is intended to cover 3 billion euros. The so called “SOTE”-reform is going to change fundamentally the structure of Finnish health services; The nation will be divided into five SOTE-districts that are allowed to provide services themselves as well as via private operators. Citizens can choose their own primary healthcare center, which increases competition between providers. On the customer’s perspective, the reform is envisioned to improve service quality and freedom of choice as well as abolish inequality between different service districts and income-groups. The government relies heavily in the assistance of digital technologies in organizing and operating SOTE. Data sharing between multiple, previously separate systems needs to be realized for the reform to function. In addition, other areas of digital service development, such as remote health services and personal health data banks, have been identified. According to Tuomas Pöysti, Undersecretary, and Project Manager to reorganizing Finnish social- and health services (SOTE), many of the new services are developed in cooperation with private operators.
As the Finnish government moves ahead with its intention to supercharge digitalization, many opportunities for business arise. Private operators can serve simply as service providers or suppliers, but also take part in more cooperative development projects. To identify these synergies, having an active dialogue between public and private sector operators is imperative. Building mutual understanding also reduces the sense of risk related to exploring new opportunities – technological or otherwise.
Unfortunately, public discussions on the subject of digitalization tend to be quite vague or have their focus on long-term broad visions. These visions need to be complemented by more specialized/operational conversations that address the points of action – challenges and capabilities – where synergies are best found. Building mutual understanding also creates an opportunity to leverage new technologies beyond their most obvious applications to maximize benefits.
The opportunity of RPA
Since its founding, Digital Workforce has actively engaged in discussions with public sector operators to understand the unique processes that take place in these organizations. The company conducted a research across Finnish public healthcare districts in 2016, that measured healthcare professionals’ use of time. The Tekes funded study indicated that doctors and nurses used on average 30 min a shift on double registrations (registering previously registered information again in a different system). Of doctors 83% reported poor communication between systems and 63% reported using over 4 hours a shift on computer based knowledge work. The findings suggested a major need for integration and automation. In the context of SOTE a savings potential of 300-400 million euros was calculated by eliminating double registration with Robotic Process Automation.
Based on the developed understanding, Digital Workforce has had the opportunity to work with Finnish public sector operators pioneering the use of RPA. Some of our public healthcare projects were discussed in our previous article.
Despite the success, many more public opportunities remain untouched. As pointed out by Leena Niemistö, 2016 business angel of the year, in many cases solutions to current problems already exist but organizational practices need to adjust to the changes brought forward by technological development. In the case of RPA being utilized by Finnish public sector, scaling up and exploring the technology as a strategical tool holds great potential.
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