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How life in local gov could have been different with automation

  • Ciara MacCooey
  • Jun 21, 2020

At work this month I've spent a lot of time focusing on thinking about the future of human+ whilst also reflecting on our year of trading. I started human+ with our CEO David Biden in March 2019 with the support of Notbinary & The Panoply and our vision was to humanise the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) experience. 

I'm pleased to say we've had an incredible first year and are still on track to grow our business by 100% in this next financial year despite the current Covid-19 situation.

When I started this blog I thought I would complete a review of all the great things human+  achieved over the last year. But with a recession on the horizon I can't help but reflect on one of my key motivations for building this business which is to help organisations deliver standout public services.

My motivation for this venture was driven from my operational experience, having worked in a local authority for eight years, before leaving I was responsible for Housing Benefit, Council Tax, Contact Centre, Facilities, Print & Post Room, Registrars and some adult social care functions managing circa 150 staff and budgets in excess of £100m.  

having worked in a local authority for eight years, managing circa 150 staff and budgets in excess of £100m

The biggest learning for me was the management of the Housing Benefit team, which I took over just after the 2008 recession and just as the Welfare reforms were being introduced.

had this technology been at my disposal back then that I could have radically transformed the way in which this service was delivered, truly creating a service focussed on user needs.

I inherited a team that had already been reduced in size but still highly dependent on expensive agency resources. As a direct result of the recession, during my tenure the workload for this team increased by approx 50% with a further increase of 35% as a result of  'welfare reform' changes. In true government form some funding was made available to implement the Welfare changes but this didn't even touch the sides. 

As a very conscientious manager who was constrained by budgets, I obviously did all the things that you would expect:

  • Conducted a lean review of all the processes within the department 

  • Implemented technology to automate tasks where possible, however as anyone working in this space will be aware there are only a few technology providers for Housing Benefit therefore most of the technological solutions were upgrades or additions to these archaic applications which in reality didn't deliver the expected benefits. 

  • Engaged an 'off site' processing company to help create operational resilience, whilst this did help to a degree, this also created its own set of issues and challenges increasing the management overhead.

 While these measures did help they never really got to the heart of the issues which were numerous and to summarise a few: 

  • High levels of processing resulting in over/underpayments for customers and also impacting on the housing benefit subsidy claim from the DWP 

  • Lack of engagement with claimants, we were dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society and my staff were hidden behind mountains of paperwork 

  • Due to the high volumes of demand sometimes claimants were not receiving their funds in a timely manner 

  • Lack of operational resilience during periods of particular high demand. 

customer centric
customer centric

Back in 2018 when I saw a demo of RPA and read about the benefits if offered, I knew this was the space I wanted to be in. It immediately brought me back to my housing benefit days and I could see that had this technology been at my disposal back then that I could have radically transformed the way in which this service was delivered, truly creating a service focussed on user needs.

Removing the mundane repetitive tasks, improving the quality of processing but more importantly freeing up my team to focus on the claimants (humans) at the heart of this service we were trying to deliver. And it is this experience that has propelled me forward  and fostered my passion to help similar organisations through human+ ranging  from housing associations and hospitals to universities and wealth management organisations.  The sectors might be different but the challenges are the same. 

Whilst Covid-19 has derailed and halted some organisations in their tracks, in a bizarre turn of events it has particularly disrupted most public services forcing them to radically rethink how their services are delivered digitally and RPA is coming to the fore in assisting these organisations. 

Read how we've helped The Royal Borough of Kingston accelerate delivery of accurate patient care.

Ciara MacCooey

Ciara is our COO and has a natural ability to engage with stakeholders at all levels bringing transformational results.