Doing more with less in central government

by Louise Fellows, managing partner and O2 public sector champion – central government

How to do more with less? That seems to be the big question every organisation in every sector is trying to solve, and none more so than central government.

But it’s not as difficult as it appears and can deliver some pretty instant cost savings to the bottom line. Helping organisations deliver great services while operating within tight budgets is often just about looking at how its culture needs to adapt, so that things can be done more flexibly. Then, it’s about finding the right technology that can support that.

I was recently in a meeting where we discussed the impact of doing away with the desk phone all together. There was a gasp and look of sheer horror on their faces and a reply of “well I’m not sure that would work, people still like to have a phone on their desk.” Cultural change can be the elephant in the room and the most difficult thing to address. But in my mind it’s most definitely not, you just need to tackle it head on and support your people. All you need is those few enthusiastic early adopters and the rest will follow.

When we began to work more flexibly we, of course, saw cost savings and greater productivity (with our people working anywhere and at anytime), but also a drop in large fixed costs – in the shape of being able to close down one of our large head office car parks. Working flexibly has also had a huge positive impact on our culture too. We’re able to take control of our working lives far more than before, and have real ownership over what we deliver and how we do it.

Just this month, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock revealed that central government had reduced its estate by the equivalent of 336 football pitches, or the entire Principality of Monaco. He also announced a target for a further 75% cut in office space by 2023, and while this may seem a large target, our work with the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) shows what can be done.

Increasing the flexibility of its people has allowed the trust not only to increase the levels of care it provides in people’s home and across the community, but also reduce its physical sites from over 100 to under 70.

It’s issues like this that drive my role as one of O2’s public sector champions. It’s why I spend a lot of time talking to my clients (on the front line and in the back offices) to discover how they might want to do things differently and better. With SLaM, that meant delivering desktop services to mobile devices and then ensuring that carers and clinicians could securely access patient information from anywhere. For central government, those discussions cover how to improve the way its people collaborate internally and across different departments, and how information security is maintained, whilst also encouraging digital transformation.

But away from finding ways to deliver better services, my role with central government also encompasses helping it to increase the talent pool it can draw from. As someone who believes in giving everyone opportunities to realise their potential, I see ICT as a powerful tool for expanding the expertise available to central government away from an overly London-centric model.

Being an O2 public sector champion is all about trying to help answer the right questions in order to get the best results for our customers and the citizens they serve. And that’s why I’d be delighted to discuss this with you further, and can be contacted directly on 07912 398 323.