Today, when we speak of technology in human services, innovation needs to be at the heart of our thinking and we need to view the products and services in the market in concert with topics like leadership, culture, ecosystems and creating the right conditions (enablers) for this technology to thrive.
Much is being written about innovative technologies, such as advanced analytics, AI and blockchain. But what do these technologies mean for Human Services agencies around the globe? What challenges might agencies face in deploying these technologies—and what benefits might they expect? While those are indeed important questions, what matters more is the broader topic of managing innovation and how this technology enables the better delivery of services.
Government innovation was the focus of a recent global study by Accenture. We surveyed nearly 600 government agency leaders across 10 countries and multiple segments of public service, including employment and social services. The results affirmed that innovation is good for people and for agencies—and that employment services organizations are among the most innovative.
I look forward to sharing an in-depth review of our findings in Morocco at the 15th ISSA International Conference on Information and Communication Technology in Social Security. In the meantime, here is a preview of our insights:
- Innovation Leaders outperform. In the survey, 15 percent of employment and social services agencies emerged as “Innovation Leaders.” These organizations are clear about the purpose of innovation—delivering citizen outcomes and reducing operational expenses—and achieve those results at a higher rate than their peers. They are more successful at reaching different citizen groups/demographics (59.3 percent of leaders vs. 40.5 percent of everyone else), discontinuing services or programs that are not performing well or meeting outcomes (73.3 percent vs. 41.9 percent) and reducing human errors by customers or employees (66.7 percent vs. 41.9 percent).
- Innovation Leaders foster the right conditions. These agencies have embedded innovation within their organisational cultures and know how to nurture it within their workforce. It was interesting to discover how they diffuse innovation—with leaders more likely to task different people with overseeing different parts of the innovation process (70.4 percent vs. 43.7 percent). Further, they are more likely to use detailed, objective criteria to rank and select projects and align them back to strategic objectives (81.5 percent vs. 50 percent).
- Innovation Leaders embrace emerging technologies, design thinking and open data. Human Services Innovation Leaders are more likely to use Blockchain, Internet of Things, video analytics and biometrics/identity analysis as part of their innovation-focused projects. Additionally, they are more likely to invest in and implement user research and testing prototypes (59.3 percent vs. 30.4 percent) and to practice open data principles (77.8 percent vs. 60.1 percent)—publishing such data both for public consumption and as part of regular engagement with developers to explore for new services.
- Innovation Leaders build effective ecosystems. Human Services Innovation Leaders are more likely to target their third-party collaborations based on the type of innovation they are pursuing. They opt for both internal and external partners on innovations with their people, collaborate with startup and new digital companies on service innovations and engage suppliers/vendors when tackling policy or analysis innovation.
At ISSA and in future posts, I will take a deeper dive into how to make that happen, including exploring the three critical aspects of innovation (Leadership and Culture, Ecosystems and Technology), as well as four enablers that our study shows are critical to success (Finance, Skills, Impact Measurement and Ability to Scale).
In many ways, our global study is good news for Human Services, as it affirms that many Human Services agencies are ahead of the innovation curve. Yet there is still significant opportunity to deliver greater innovation. Are you ready to see how innovation with purpose can propel your human services agency towards the era of empowerment? Read our POV on the era of empowerment to find out more.