Adjusting to the 'new normal'
GOSS CEO, Rob McCarthy reviews the past 18 months in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how GOSS is adjusting to the 'new normal'.
"May you live in interesting times." Though often misrepresented as a Chinese curse, this phrase has been bandied about quite a bit in the last year or so. I don't think anyone will look back on this previous period with any fondness or favour but one thing that often accompanies great disruption is an explosion of innovation. Often innovation and change can only happen at the pace people are able to absorb it. A global pandemic doesn't wait for people, it demands change. The way we work, the way we live and the way we interact all get transformed whether we are ready for it or not.
For GOSS the sudden migration to fully remote working was pretty straightforward (our war gaming contingency planning actually had a pandemic scenario). So the day after shutting the office, we were very quickly able to continue to develop our products and services from home but most importantly we were able to focus on helping our clients. The assistance we have been providing has been varied and seems to have followed the waves of the pandemic. This is also how we have seen our clients react to the challenge that had been placed before them.
Riding the pandemic waves with our client community
The first wave was probably the biggest shock, ensure every service was ready for 10x the traffic, since this would be the only way our clients could interact with their residents and customers. Once again we can be grateful for our contingency planning, we were already 100% cloud delivered with no single points of failure, so could quickly and easily flex our infrastructure to cope. All our clients reported huge surges in online activity wiping away any doubts that people would be hesitant about going online if they needed to.
The second wave was an explosion of new content, in how to cope with the changes people were experiencing, new policies or just directing the traffic to the appropriate service. Managing the sign posting of content for someone who has been used to transacting all of their life face-to-face or via a telephone can often be a bit of a challenge. So it's always crucial to be able to manage the content on your site and the information architecture, as well as the backing services. People hitting the phones because they can't find a service? A few edits later and the problem is solved. Brand new service springing into life to handle an emergency situation? No problem, lets display a banner for a few days or run a homepage feature along with a social media campaign until the emergency passes. We often saw whole new microsites or sections of website spun up to deal with fast changing circumstances. These tight feedback loops and autonomy to act are crucial in rapidly moving circumstances.
As it became clear that the pandemic wasn't just a week or so of lockdown, but was likely to effect the whole year and beyond, the third wave became about setting up new services that would be needed to cope. This was beyond information or simple signposting, it was about collecting information, making decisions and delivering help and assistance. We are amazingly proud of how our client base responded to these challenges. From spinning up Track and Trace recording with reporting, business continuity grants, or to more mundane and obscure things such as queue management and slot bookings when you need to turn up in person or access your local tip. We even had clients setting up services for their neighbours who didn't have a Digital Platform on which they could rely. It also drove demands within GOSS, how could we ship improvements to our products faster, how could we shorten the time from idea to pushing a service live? Could we fully automate entire service using no code whatsoever? The investment in case management really came into it's own at this time.
Eventually the emergencies started to slow down, maybe a chance to take a breath and even possibly get a bit of time off from the fire fighting. Systems that were quickly put in place in a rush could now be finessed, perhaps automating some of the manual systems. How could we optimise flows and remove some of the manual effort required in services or deeper integrate into back-end services to be able to cope with the increased online levels? Routines, APIs and more became the order of the day.
An ambitious digital post-COVID-19 world
Now it feels like we are finally adjusting to the new normal. So for GOSS it's become an even busier time. The projects that were delivered so quickly during the pandemic seem to have really made an impact in their respective organisations, many of the teams there are getting more funding, more resources and far more ambitious aspirations. The drive now is not looking at how, but why would you not, deliver it online via the platform. So many new business cases being written or old business cases being updated for extra funding and greater ambitions. We are also seeing many wholesale moves away from overblown and under utilised CRM's such as Dynamics or the final replacements of legacy applications like Lagan.
It's also become clear that many other organisations have had it slightly more difficult, as there is also a sudden surge of people reaching out to GOSS as their current software held them back or wasn't flexible or joined up enough to meet their needs over the past year. A dilemma for the marketplace we also discovered in our recent Digital Self-Service in the Public Sector survey. We are seeing lots of interest in forms, workflows and full platform offerings as the complexity of managing so many systems become too burdensome. It's interesting to see what resonates, for example many people are surprised by the capability of our GDPR handling which is becoming more crucial as organisations start to understand the implications. The freedom we give to our APIs and data to slice and dice as they see fit. The capability of the platform to allow client and server authentication for other systems providing a truly unique one-stop-shop. The quality and extensiveness of our documentation, enabling self-service not just as a product but as a philosophy for autonomy. So we will continue to grow and push the sharing of forms, endpoints and workflows that people create, trying to make them easy to share and find.
As peoples' aspirations grow for online delivery our excitement over what is possible only continues, the last 18 months have shown us there are a lot of resourceful and creative people within our community, so I am excited to see what's possible in the next 18 months.