Why is online collaboration still important to the public sector?

Posted by Niall Sullivan

31-Jul-2017 08:00:00

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With progress on digital government reported to be ‘painfully slow’, it appears there is still much more work to be done in order for the public sector to fully embrace digital transformation.

This is despite the fact that at Government Computing 2017 in April, there was a clear appetite amongst senior digital local and central government leaders to embrace new digital technologies, so they can reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

Being able to collaborate effectively can help play a key role in achieving this. This blog post will outline some of the reasons why online collaboration is so important to the public sector.

Cost savings

As many of you will know, the need to make cost savings isn’t a new idea.

That’s why the government has actively canvassed public sector workers over the past couple of years to find new ways of doing more while saving public money. In August 2015, the then Chancellor George Osbourne launched the ‘Public Sector Efficiency Challenge.’

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The feedback makes interesting reading:

  • Collaboration and making services work better together - Sharing resources and aligning processes between services to save money. The MOD and a number of local councils are already using online collaboration to achieve this.
  • Going digital – Abolishing paper processes through using digitised services. By storing and collaborating on documents using an online platform instead.
  • Reducing government travel – By working in a smarter way. For example, by using video conferencing. Collaborate anytime, anywhere rather than having to travel to the office for a meeting.
  • Data sharing – Improve data sharing with stakeholders and help to improve public services by creating an extranet.

These are just some of the ways in which the public sector can make realistic cost savings.

Increased security

Increased security

The NHS security breach that took place earlier this year is a sharp reminder of how important using secure systems is in the public sector.

UK businesses also see importance of security, with 74% of UK businesses say that cyber security is a high priority for their senior management.

For a long time, email was the standard way of sharing and collaborating on documents.

This is no longer the case. Because of firewall restrictions restricting the size of files that can be sent, there being no way to track changes to documents and the various security risks involved, online collaboration tools are becoming much sought after.

But how do these platforms offer increased security? Most will be hosted in the cloud, so will have a number of stringent procedures in place such as:

  • ISO 27001 processes that are inspected on an annual basis by an auditor from a UKAS accredited organisation.
  • Annual IT Health Check by a CHECK accredited testing partner.
  • Independent, 3rd party testing of their cyber security processes via the UK Goverment's Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation
  • Continuously monitored service availability by an independent third-party service and published in the public domain.
  • Security approval from local authorities and government departments.

Ensuring that these are in place should give you peace of mind about their security credentials.

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Adaptable for different purposes

We’ve already discussed the need to cut costs in this blog post. One factor that is continuing to drive up costs is the use of separate systems for each individual business function.

For example, you might currently be using separate tools for project management, procurement and consultations. Wouldn’t it be great to do all of these in one place?

Guess what? You can! Online collaboration software has very few limits to what you can achieve. Yes you can use it to simply share files, (it has certainly worked well for Local Partnerships amongst others) but there is so much more that you can do:

  • Project management - Use tasks lists to keep on top of project progress and collaborate on documentation all in one place.
  • Procurement - Share buying information securely with other public bodies to plan purchases.
  • Shared services – Collaborate on shared service delivery with Government departments, police forces and NHS trusts.
  • Organisational intranets – Transform intranets from electronic noticeboards to interactive spaces that keep staff updated and stimulate innovation.

If you’re not sure what to look for in an online collaboration tool, you can download our guide which has all of the information that you need:

Choosing the right online collaboration tool

Topics: public sector, collaboration tools, business file sharing, project management, project extranets, online collaboration