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FIVE LESSONS FOR UK GOVERNMENT TECH, ACCORDING TO OPENCAST SOFTWARE

Government technology specialists share their insights into how the government can build on its approach to tech post Covid-19

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year had an enormous impact on the need for government support and systems. By the end of May 2020, UK government departments had delivered 69 new digital services, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which had needed to be implemented at unprecedented speed.

Despite the government delivering on these projects, there are still lessons to be learned in order to improve future government systems and the technology they rely on.

In line with this, Opencast, the independent enterprise technology consultancy that has supported the government on key projects, has today released a new paper, Lessons from the Storm, which includes insights from a range of industry experts, including TechUK and NHSBSAto help inform future government technology projects by highlighting five key lessons from the pandemic response.

 

Tom Lawson, CEO of Opencast, comments:

“Opencast has worked at the sharp end of the digital response to the pandemic, helping government agencies and other suppliers to deliver new services and support. These government platforms have enabled key services to deliver vital support for citizens, businesses and the economy.

“While there have also been some well-publicised problems, it is rare that the technology is solely to blame. Support at the scale and speed we’ve seen in this crisis would have been impossible without it.

 

As such, the key lessons for govtech from the pandemic are:

  1. Need for speed

Urgency was the key driver behind the rapid response by government to the pandemic. Tight deadlines relied on an agile approach to deliver a minimal viable product as quickly as possible. Looking ahead, government should ensure that agile thinking and behaviour translate as standard, coupled with a continuous sense of urgency from the centre.

 

  1. Remote is no obstacle

Remote working was no obstacle to delivering high-quality government technology in 2020. It sometimes helped deliver change faster, driving productivity and drawing on bigger talent pools. Rather than revert to office-based arrangements, government should allow remote working by default.

 

  1. A single delivery platform

HMRC’s multi-channel digital tax platform (MDTP) – a cloud platform for deploying public-facing applications at scale – has helped teams to build enterprise components and avoid wasting money building the same solution in multiple places. This has resulted in faster and more resilient pandemic services. so this approach could be applied to other services – and could help with future unexpected events or crises.

 

  1. Better collaboration

Greater collaboration across teams was key to ensuring work was done fast and efficiently during the 2020 pandemic response. Partnerships between suppliers, aligned to a shared outcome, avoided conflict and unnecessary internal competition. Projects that failed to bring teams together in the right way worked less well. The greater collaboration seen during the pandemic should continue with government technology projects moving forward.

 

  1. Break down silos

The need for departments to work together during 2020 helped to break down long-standing silos between departments, particularly on technology. These efforts should continue, ensuring that services focus more on the needs of citizens than on departmental politics.

 

Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, president of techUK, commented:

“Adoption of tech has been so fast by everybody across the country. Our opportunity is to take advantage of this willingness to adopt technology and create digital-first services, whilst also being mindful not to leave behind those who are unable to access technology on the fringes.”

 

Tom Lawson, CEO of Opencast, continues:

“We don’t claim to know all of the answers moving forward. But our knowledge and experience of UK government technology puts us in a good position to ask some important questions.”

“Ultimately, we want to help government and tech suppliers across the country learn from this crisis, and inform practice in delivering future government digital projects so that they all eventually become faster, stronger, safer and better.”

 

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FINANCIAL SERVICES MUST FIX THEIR MISSED OPPORTUNITY AS CONSUMERS DEMAND MORE ENGAGING DIGITAL EXPERIENCES

  • Less than one-third (30%) of consumers believe the Financial Services firms they interact with now deliver a better digital experience than before the pandemic
  • Over half (51%) of consumers are prepared to switch to a competitor if their digital experience does not live up to their expectations

Time is finally up for Financial Services firms failing to create the engaging digital experiences that consumers have been crying out for. Almost half of UK consumers (45%) prefer to engage with banks via apps rather than in person with members of staff, while two-fifths (39%) believe their smartphone is more important than their wallet in powering financial transactions (rising to 51% amongst 18-35 year olds).

These are the stark findings from a new study from VMware of more than 2,000 UK consumers, exposing the extent to which the digital-first, customer-obsessed mantra that was ushered in by the FinTechs and Challenger Banks, has transformed the customer battleground.

However, while most industries underwent a seismic digital switch as a result of the pandemic, the Financial Services industry has not matched the level of innovation. Less than one-third (30%) of consumers believe the Financial Services firms they interact with now deliver an improved digital experience compared to before the pandemic.

In a market beset with challenger brands looking for ways to uproot the incumbent providers, this research should serve as a wake-up call to Financial Services firms looking at ways to install brand loyalty. Over half (51%) of consumers would switch to a competitor if their digital experience doesn’t live up to expectations – just 10% would remain loyal.

The areas of investment that will best serve both traditional and challenger firms alike are clear. While there remains an insatiable appetite for better digital services in Financial Services, the absolute priority for three-quarters (74%) of customers when choosing a new provider is security. This unsurprisingly is played back when customers reveal what more they want from their digital interactions, which include:

  • a high level of security and protection of their data (70%)
  • simple and effective applications (47%)
  • and ease of use across all their devices (40%)

The Financial Services firms that will thrive in this new customer battleground will ultimately be those that can establish themselves as a trusted, digital partner. It will also prove a key success factor in the roll out of more innovative products and “smart” services. For instance, while today, if customers had money to invest, just 12% would allow an app to make the investment decisions over an individual that works for the bank, It is those firms that can put trust and transparency front and centre of their offering, that will have the opportunity to capture this lucrative opportunity.

 

Matthew O’Neill, Industry Managing Director, Advanced Technology Group, VMware said: “After the unprecedented but overdue ‘digital switch’ of last year, consumers are rightly demanding more from an industry where the battle for the best customer experience means success or failure to businesses in the Financial Services sector. In this new battleground, the most successful firms will be the ones that are becoming digital at the core – where they can adapt and innovate faster to create better user experiences, without compromising security, in the process. Those firms who have a digital-first posture, have everything to play for with today’s consumers and not just those that are growing up digitally native.”

 

Methodology

This research was conducted by an online survey, commissioned by VMware, of 4,102 EMEA consumers across 3 countries – UK (2,069), France (1,028), Germany (1,005). In this online survey, consumers were asked to rate their digital experiences across five sectors – Retail, Healthcare, Financial Services, Education and Government (local and national). YouGov conducted the survey in November 2020.

 

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VIRGIN MONEY EXPANDS PARTNERSHIP WITH FINTECH LIFE MOMENTS

Virgin Money is expanding its partnership with FinTech data expert company, Life Moments, to focus on the development of the sustainability elements of the Virgin Money offer to its business banking customers.

 

The agreement is the latest partnership from Virgin Money as it continues to develop its working capital health proposition, which will be launched in the Autumn.  This will transform the Bank’s existing business current account and forms part of its commitment relating to the recent £35m award from the Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) Capability and Innovation Fund.

 

Life Moments is a leading provider of platforms and tools to improve customer experience and generate data insight. The company has worked with the Bank since early 2020, developing and launching Virgin Money’s Home Buying Coach app, designed to simplify the home purchase process and help first time buyers on to the property ladder. The company will now work on digitising and capturing customer responses to an ESG benchmarking tool, developed by the Bank in conjunction with Future-Fit Business, as well as integrating the results and data into the Bank’s new Business Current Account Wellness Tracker, providing tailored digital coaching for businesses.

 

Virgin Money, which joined the Future-Fit Development Council last year, is the first company in the financial services industry to use the Future-Fit Benchmark for commercial banking. The tool, which can be used by any business of any size, whether they are a Virgin Money customer or not, has a user-friendly set of questions to help a company understand its current position, via both an ESG score and guidance on the steps that could be taken to create a more sustainable model.

 

The agreement is also expected to contribute towards Virgin Money’s recently launched ESG commitments and aspirations, including at least halving its carbon emissions across everything it finances by 2030. Within business banking, and part of its BCR commitments, it will increase lending by an extra £2.2Bn by the end 2025 (£0.5Bn by end of 2022), with more than £100M of new lending going to clients pursuing environmental, social and governance aims.

 

Gavin Opperman, Group Business Director at Virgin Money, said: “Sustainability is a key element of our new working capital health proposition. Life Moments has brought exciting innovation into our mortgage business, so it was a natural progression to invite them to collaborate on enhancing our Benchmarking Tool and support our ambition to help our customers on all aspects of their ESG journey. We have created a strong base but there is more to do, which is why this partnership with Life Moments is so important the development of our new business current account.”

 

Ben Leonard, CEO and Co-founder of Life Moments, said: We are delighted to have the opportunity to extend our partnership with Virgin Money and apply digital coaching to business banking. We see many similarities between the support & nurturing we have developed with Virgin Money for first time buyers and how to help small business owners so are confident this will enhance the business banking proposition. Being able to apply our platform technology to helping businesses embed sustainability is extremely exciting for us and aligns perfectly with our profit & purpose mission.”

 

Graeme Sands, Corporate and Mid-Market Director at Virgin Money, said: “All businesses, whatever their size or industry, should be thinking about their approach to sustainability, ensuring that any future growth strategy takes into consideration the ESG impact of their operations. This isn’t an easy task, but those that do so often find new opportunities and we are committed to working with our customers and partners, like Life Moments, to provide the support and insight that allows them to work towards becoming a more sustainable business.”

 

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