How to deliver better public services more efficiently
In this age of austerity, how can Skype for Business help?
By Piers Linney, Co-CEO, Outsourcery
We only had to listen to George Osborne’s recent budget statement to know that the age of austerity is far from dead. Many parts of the public sector are still facing the daily pressure of managing budgets that in some instances may have halved in the past six years.
The challenge is the same across local government, a health authority, central government department or specialist agency. All of our public services are working in a macro-economic environment that is less rosy than it once was. Many public services are also having to deal with the rising cost of caring for an ageing population or the impact of new migration flows, plus addressing changing public expectations about how their services should be delivered and new services developed.
Many public sector leaders know that they must transform the way their organisation works to meet these challenges. My sense is that many in the public sector are increasingly passionate about looking to technology for innovative solutions to help reduce costs, effectively manage their assets and improve staff productivity. If you get this right and deliver real change, then you can free up the organisation to focus on its main purpose – improving public service outcomes for the citizens you serve.
Improved communications are at the forefront of this transformation, creating and supporting mobile workforces, increasing cross agency collaboration and changing the face of citizen engagement. Skype for Business from Outsourcery offers the full spectrum of communication tools needed to drive reform and deliver efficiencies. It enables organisations to replace their existing telephone systems by combining voice, video, desktop sharing, conferencing, instant messaging and user presence in one user interface, which is accessible from any device, anytime, anywhere. In essence you can work anywhere and achieve more.
So what are the main areas where it can make a difference?
Reduce property Costs – a growing number of public sector organisations have introduced mobile and remote working to reduce property overheads. However, to fully realise the benefits of this model, it is vital that employees have the tools to do their job wherever they choose to work. Skype for Business gives users access to their communication tools without having to physically be in the office, helping councils to rationalise their property estate, release capital and reduce operational and facility costs.
Greater collaboration – The question most public sector leaders have about collaboration is not “why should” but “how can” we collaborate. Skype for Business equips staff with the tools they need to work together across departmental and organisational borders in real time. It also plays a significant role in enabling the implementation of shared services amongst public sector bodies in a locality and better engagement with citizens (who are using the consumer version of Skype), to enable even greater levels of collaboration.
Supporting your workforce - Introducing Skype for Business alongside a flexible working policy helps to drive productivity by supporting staff to work and communicate effectively. Whether in the office, at home or in the community, they have the communication tools to be more accessible to citizens and to focus on delivering positive outcomes for the community.
Improve Citizen Engagement – Improving communication and collaboration will have a positive impact on citizens. User presence enables staff to see who is available to help with a citizen enquiry and get in touch with them quickly using instant messaging, helping queries to be resolved efficiently. Skype for Business can also be implemented as a contact centre solution, including features such as call recording, enabling you to evaluate citizen needs and improve customer service. Connecting to citizens through Skype also offers another way for local authorities to engage with the less accessible parts of the community, in a way that mirrors the way they communicate socially.
One of the best opportunities I’ve seen for inter-agency engagement again comes from the NHS. The Carter Report found that one in ten beds was taken by someone who was medically fit to be released. Bed blocking is estimated to cost £900 million per year across the NHS and impacts both on patient well-being and hospital trusts’ earning and spending capacity. Whether it is finding the consultant to sign-off the patient discharge, or agreeing with the right contact in the Local Authority’s Adult Care team the transfer of the patient to their next place of care, instant collaboration is at the heart of delivering the transformation needed. Unified Communications facilitates multi-channel communication by identifying the right contact who is available to engage right now.
I’ve only really scratched the service of the benefits that can be delivered – but perhaps the most important aspect is the potential speed of delivery. Unlike many public sector IT projects – we have seen examples of where Skype for Business can be deployed in not years or months – but weeks. With the confidence that comes with a Microsoft technology and Outsourcery’s track record of delivering almost 100,000 seats across organisations large and small.
I’m proud to be part of a team that is working closely with a growing range of organisations across the public sector to unlock value and deliver real opportunity – right now.
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