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18th of November 2018

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UK public sector stuck in business process dark ages, report finds

Failure to adopt business process management (BPM) technology is causing bottlenecks in UK public sector organisations’ workflow according to new research. Just 30 per cent of public sector bodies have implemented any kind of automation technology, with just 7 per cent using menu-driven automation. Those who fail to automate standard, rules-based tasks risk missing out on productivity gains and the associated cost and efficiency benefits that will benefit the wider public.

The Breaking Through Bottlenecks report finds that nearly nine in ten (89 per cent) IT decision makers say that efficiency savings are a key driver, so it is surprising to see such a lack of automation.

Only a third (34 per cent) say they find it easy to search and retrieve information across their systems, while 40 per cent are not using workflow methods “often enough” to ensure effective and auditable business processes, and 11 per cent are not using workflow methods at all.

The report also uncovers that IT leaders are only involved in procurement decisions at 56 per cent of UK public sector organisations, implying that data-led cultures are yet to take hold in the public sector.

The public sector needs to address this issue and adopt business process management as part of its digital transformation journey.

Compliance is a big driver of public sector digital transformation

The Breaking Through Bottlenecks report also finds that nearly nine in ten (89 per cent) have made either “good” or “modest” progress in their business transformation, which also leaves more than one in ten (11 per cent) that have made little or no progress.

Despite perceived progress in digital transformation, public sector bodies are highly dependent on traditional methods for managing data. For example, nearly eight out of ten (78 per cent) public sector bodies say they rely on emails to transfer documents.

The implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 may prove to be the shot in the arm the public sector needed to focus on business process management. Eight in ten (81 per cent) IT decision makers are either “extremely” or “very” aware of how the principles of GDPR impacts their organisation, with more than half (51 per cent) citing GDPR compliance as a key driver of business transformation at their public sector body.

GDPR rules now require organisations to be able to retrieve information on request within 30 days. Given public sector bodies capture and store data in diverse formats - from internal emails, written notes and recorded phone calls – this could prove a challenge when required to produce information.

Seven in ten (69 per cent) public sector organisations receive up to 50 freedom of information (FOI) requests per month, with the majority of requests handled by email (57 per cent). BPM vastly simplifies data compliance, document management and retrieval.

Another challenge is Brexit, which further indicates how behind the public sector is. While nearly six in ten (58 per cent) report that their department will have to re-engineer its business processes due to Brexit, 43 per cent are yet to even get started.

Reduce bottlenecks with enterprise BPM

It is apparent that, despite efforts to transform digitally, many public sector organisations still lag way behind other sectors in the way they manage data and documents. Just four in ten (40 per cent) public sector bodies currently use cloud-based systems and, while more than half (57 per cent) use between one and ten tools to manage their data, more than a quarter (27 per cent) use between 11 and 50, and 7 per cent even use more than 200 tools. It’s all very complicated!

Considering that almost a third of respondents report that bottlenecks are the most significant constraint to smooth workflow management, it is key to reduce any complexity with simple workflows. Bottlenecks often occur when there are repetitive, ‘rules-based’ tasks in a process, such as data entry or form processing. They are labour-intensive, can take time and are exposed to the potential for human error.

This is where enterprise-level business process management systems can improve efficiency significantly, and other sectors such as financial services and insurance organisations have been big adopters of BPM technology. The public sector could benefit the private sector’s experience.

BPM is based on three fundamental principles:

Orchestration: Ensuring content - such as forms, documents, videos etc. – and data are in the right place at the right timeIntegration: Seamlessly pass content and data between business functions irrespective of what IT systems are in placeAutomation: Reducing human intervention in multiple, repetitive tasks

Bottlenecks can affect everything from human resources (HR) through to supplier engagements and procurement. The public sector is under constant pressure to meet ever-expanding service requirements while coping with long-term budget constraints.

Public sector organisations that have adopted automated processes have seen a range of benefits despite tough budgetary parameters.  These include cost and time efficiency benefits, improved security and compliance, better standardisation and collaboration across shared networks, and reduced paperwork.

The Breaking Through Bottlenecks report finds that key drivers of digital transformation for public sector IT decision makers are improved efficiency (89 per cent), better service delivery (81 per cent) and cost reduction (76 per cent), all of which can be achieved with BPM technology.

The report also reveals that 37 per cent of public sector bodies are either highly or moderately dependent on external consultants to bring efficiencies into their organisation. This implies that although the need is there a lack of awareness or other constraints – cultural, technical or financial – that may be holding back the adoption of BPM.

Other Alfresco studies in 2018 have indicated that 83 per cent of Government IT decision makers expect their organisation to be disrupted by digital transformation compared to just 17 per cent who see themselves as “disruptors”. This underlines how far behind the curve the UK public sector is.

But the opportunity is there to adopt BPM, with the driving incentives of operational and compliance efficiencies that it brings. Are you ready to explore BPM?

Jean van Vuuren, Regional Vice President, UKI, Middle East, South Africa, Alfresco Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock

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