Sunday Business Post – Public Sector ICT Special Report

Quinton O’Reilly, writing in the Sunday Business Post on May 19th 2019 interviewed Peter Rose, TEKenable CTO, for a special report which is reproduced below (click here for the SBP online article).

The software company has enjoyed big success in creating efficiencies and savings with electoral registers, as it helps public sector bodies on their digital transformation journeys, writes Quinton O’Reilly.

Take a moment to think about the public sector, and chances are you may associate it with a reluctance to change, or underfunded for example.

That does a disservice to where the sector actually is: it is quite progressive, and in some cases leapfrogging the private sector, says Peter Rose,
chief executive of TEKenable.

My eyes have been opened in the past few years,” he said. “Being innovative in the public sector is not a new thing but being innovative with technology and really reaching out . . . that’s new and exciting and there’s a lot of money, effort and inspiration going into it and it’s bearing fruit.

Rose is in a good position to comment on the sector considering that TEKenable has worked with the likes of Dublin City Council and Mayo County Council. Aiding them in their digital transformation journeys – delivering major efficiencies and cost savings – it looks to change processes and take advantage of business applications such as cloud services.

TEKenable developed an electoral portal for Dublin City Council, allowing individuals in the four Dublin districts to go online and register to vote or make amendments such as a change of address. This was done by implementing a hybrid version of Azure, integrating directly into its older legacy systems in the back end, and measures were taken to ensure security was high so bad actors couldn’t tamper with the system.

They may seem like small changes, says Rose, but the efficiencies and benefits it creates are greater than the sum of its parts.

[It had to update] a classic paper-based process, which is somewhat overwhelming for all local authorities at this time of year where they get lots of applications in to join the register,” he explained.

The Dublin district alone gets 25,000 new people entitled to vote every year, so they’ve got quite an overwhelming paper process that’s typically condensed into a short period of time around the local authority elections.”

Last year, the referendum on the Eighth Amendment meant people had to work around the clock to clear the backlog and get people registered on time so they could issue polling cards.

While they succeeded, thanks to good management skills and the resources they had, the effort required to meet the demand meant that more efficient methods for both authorities and citizens were welcomed.

By just taking that electoral portal and making the whole thing an e-citizen engagement process, they’ve made it a lot simpler for the general public to engage with the electoral process,” said Rose.

It also vastly reduced the amount of effort and complexity involved in the business process behind the scenes for the local authorities.

They’re really saving enormous amounts of time. In one week alone, they received 9,000 applications to join the register and they are paper-based, they all have to be keyed into a system, they all have to be approved. The documentation that comes with them all has to be assessed and checked.

It’s taking a long time to do each individual application . . . so they need a large staff to do it, with a large associated cost, both financial and personal, and with a relatively poor service for the applicants for the electoral register.”

After putting this process online and allowing people to upload documentation electronically, the process is much smoother. Now if you attempt to register, you will get a response within 24 hours to say you’ve been put on the register or, if there’s an issue, how to resolve it. It removes the process of re-keying information as it’s all flowing into the back end of the management system.

[We’re] creating efficiencies and savings while also improving the experience of the system that serves the public sector,” he said.

Part of the philosophy that TEKenable follows is to take an augmented workforce approach: let computer systems deal with the straightforward processes while humans deal with exceptional cases

The electronic platform we put it on for them was one that meant we could deliver value significantly quicker than if we had built a bespoke application with a lower risk of issues in terms of the bedding in of the software.

We’re taking processes that aren’t as effective as they could be and typically putting them online, using modern technologies to do that. We
are improving the processes and improving the experience both for the public sector organisations and the citizen that’s engaging with them in
the process

Part of the philosophy TEKenable follows is to take an augmented workforce approach: let computer systems deal with the straightforward processes while humans deal with exceptional cases.

That’s how you get the best of any company, be it public, private or in-between, says Rose. It also helped Mayo County Council develop a new HR recruitment portal using Low-Code/No-Code – a process which allows businesses to build apps without having to write code – through Microsoft Dynamics.

It’s an example of taking a process that was labour intensive, paper-based, not terribly efficient, but executed hundreds and hundreds of times every month and putting it on an electronic platform so it’s manageable, trackable, audible, highly transparent and easy to operate,” said Rose.

I wouldn’t say there’s less testing required, but the chance of you finding a problem and going in a loop to fix it is much lower.”

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