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Public Sector organisations break digital self-service delivery trends to support customers move online

The Public Sector is now showing promising signs of bucking previous trends and their ambitious targets set for digital self-service and transformation. We reveal more in the first in a series of reviews of the latest GOSS Digital Self-Service in the Public Sector Survey Report.

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Now in its 6th year, the GOSS Digital Self-Service in the Public Sector Survey Report is one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind. Shedding light on how the sector is rising to the challenge of digital transformation, we're beginning a new blog post series, focussing the three key findings revealed in the report. This blog post kicks things off by examining the current state of play for digital self-service, the future ambitions for it and the impact COVID-19 has had on the sector when it comes to delivering self service to its customers.


The current state of digital self-service

Long-time readers of this GOSS survey report will know that we always ask respondents about the number of services currently delivered, and importantly what they predict to be delivered in three years via digital self-service mechanisms. This year was no exception, with the results from both questions significantly bucking trends set from previous years' answers. The first of these two questions ask respondents about the current percentage of services they're delivering using digital self-service.

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In 2021, 37% fewer respondents say they are currently delivering 0-24% of services in this way, whilst the higher percentage brackets all received increases. To grasp why this fluctuation in current levels is significant, we need to understand the year-on-year trend gained from the previous five years of this survey.

On average, between 2016 and 2020, the majority of respondents (56%) said they were delivering 0-24% of services online. From there, as we ascend the percentage scale, the trend line curves downwards as the number of services delivered at each bracket decreases. Essentially what the average results of previous surveys demonstrate is a continuation, year-after-year of Public Sector organisations stagnating when it came to online service delivery, typically only managing to deliver up to 24% of their services online. Therefore the 37% decrease found in the 2021 results clearly shows that public sector have broken the mould when compared to the previous five years.

Overall, this is a positive result, suggesting that more Public Sector organisations have managed to deliver significantly more services online in the past 12 months, than in the previous five years. In some cases, specifically respondents who say they're currently delivering 50-74% of their services online, there has been a 23% increase against the average results. Whilst this may not seem like a drastic increase, considering previously only 8% of respondents on average were delivering this many services, an increase of this size is unexpected and the biggest single increase this question has ever received in over half a decade.

With that said, in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this sudden growth in digital self-service can be better appreciated and understood. The past 12 months has seen Public Sector organisations in a race to support their customers online during the COVID-19 pandemic and forced many of them to rapidly and radically re-think service delivery. As a result, we can understandably determine that the surge in the average trend figures can be put down to organisations needing to meet customer demand for online services caused by the pandemic.


Future delivery of digital self-service

Moving on to the second question, looking at the number of services respondents plan to deliver through digital self-service mechanisms in three years' time, respondents have once again bucked the trend defined from previous years.

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In 2021, 34% of respondents say they will have between 75-99% of their services online in three years' time. When compared against the 2016 - 2020 average trend for this question, we can see this is a 15% increase of respondents with this conviction. What's more a further 11% also believe that all 100% of their services will be delivered using digital self-service in three years' time.

Again, the growth experienced as a result of COVID-19 may also be having a knock-on effect here too. Whilst the past 12 months has certainly been tough all around, the pandemic has taught the Public Sector many lessons about the art of the possible when it comes to digital self-service delivery and the rate at which it can be achieved. The change in the average trend for the three-year digital self-service predictions may be the result of the sector growing in confidence, with expectations for the growth of future delivery changing as a result.

That said, organisations need to remain cautious about over ambitious expectations. Looking back three years and analysing the result from the 2018 survey, we can see that some of the three-year predictions made for 2021 still remain unfulfilled despite COVID-19.

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In 2018, the majority of respondents (38%) believed they would have 50-74% of services online by 2021. The reality however falls 15% short, with 23% only managing to deliver this today. However, that isn't to take away from the good work the sector has manage to accomplish in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic. The sector has managed to exceed predictions made in 2018 for both the 0-24% and 25-49% brackets today.   



Overall, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the Public Sector and digital self-service delivery has caused many innovations and shifts in organisations' approach to digital and online. However, it has been the case and evidenced by this survey report over the years that future expectations for digital self-service delivery rarely become a reality in three years. The pace of change is far slower than anticipated by many in the industry, often the result of many factors, some of which can be harder to define or control such as the organisational and cultural resistance to these seismic changes.  


On a positive note, it is encouraging to see organisations are now increasing their three-year expectations for digital self-service. The experiences of the past 12 months may be helping to change opinions on digital and consequently more organisations are become better equipped to rapidly create and deploy online customer services. What will be interesting to see in the years to come is whether the previous average trends found by this survey report return, or these results from 2021 are the beginning of a new era for digital self-service.  


You can download a copy of the GOSS Digital Self-Service Survey Report 2021 here.