Hampshire County Council CIO Jos Creese believes the public sector could learn more about digital tools and social media from the private sector to improve local government services.
The founder and chair of the Local Government CIO Council was discussing the importance of stakeholder engagement with Helen Beckett, emphasising that consultation with the public was one of the most effective ways of delivering the digital services people want at the lowest price, while also challenging senior executives to have technology “embedded in their thinking”.
Creese, CIO at Hampshire since February 2001 and also profiled in a November 2011 interview, said that government organisations could learn some lessons from their private counterparts.
“I think there are many similarities in practice between the public and private sectors,” he said.
“The private sector needs to engage to ensure that its position, its products and its investment meet the changing and diverse expectations of the customer.
“We’re only different in that we’re using public money to do that. There are certain things we could learn. I think, for example, use of some of the digital tools for consultation, such as social media, are not as advanced as they are in parts of the private sector and those are certainly areas I think we can exploit further.”
In November 2012 the Government Digital Service announced its ‘digital by default’ agenda which could lead to savings of £1.2 billion by 2015, although last year some of Creese’s local government CIO colleagues warned many of the country’s most vulnerable people were digitally excluded and could be alienated by the strategy.
Creese, a regular member of the CIO 100, also challenged executive influencers at their organisation to have technology embedded in their strategy and decision-making processes.
“I think the key message is around the specific role of IT in any organisation, which is now much more than a service that should respond to specific requests for delivering projects or new infrastructure,” he said.
“It needs to be very much embedded in the thinking of senior professionals in that organisation if they are going to ensure a better alignment of IT investment with business outcomes and business objectives.
“It has to be very much a two-way street; this is not just about IT being more responsive and able to understand the needs of the business – that sort of thing goes without saying.
“It’s also about ensuring that the way in which risks and opportunities around technology are better managed in the business, so there will be areas where you won’t want to invest in certain new technologies or new ways of doing things overall because it would be corporately undesirable to that that due to high risks, costs, or indeed the fragmentation of data sets.”