Voices from Accenture Public Service


In my most recent blog I talked about how human services agencies are on a journey, with some moving faster than others, through three eras of human service delivery: support, enablement and empowerment.  

The era of empowerment is the destination that human services agencies must aspire to reach. The question is, how will they get there? There are four enablers: 

  1. Insight- and intelligence-driven services 
  2. A new citizen engagement model secured by digital trust 
  3. Workforce of the future and an agile organisation 
  4. Platform delivery models with an ecosystem of players.   

In this post, I want to take a look at – insight- and intelligence-driven services – and the impact that they’ll have on shaping a very different human services experience.   

Becoming insight-driven relies on gathering and managing data in ever greater volumes and at ever higher degrees of granularity; it means building a culture of data-driven decisioning and provision of services. Data, or more specifically the insights hidden within it, fuels an organisation to become proactive, productive and effective in delivering its mission. 

In the era of empowerment, agencies will use data to create a 360-degree view of their customers, and an understanding of the interdependencies across the ecosystem. For example, someone born in a socially weaker, at-risk family might have a propensity to fall into a NEET (not in employment, education and training) segment, and later might develop some chronic health issues. So, human services agencies must look at the data and understand those patterns and then focus their resources on prevention, rather than cure. 

We’re already seeing some agencies move decisively in this direction. In Norway, the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration (NAV), has consolidated its  services (covering 2.8 million users and 60 different benefits and services) into an integrated organisation that covers the whole-of-life journey.   

Being able to empower an individual across a whole lifecycle of support means having access to more and better data about them and making sure that data becomes an integrated resource to which all services – and ecosystem partners – have appropriate access. What’s more, the culture of the organisation needs to shift to embrace analytics, and routinely apply insight to its decision-making.   

Data also fuels automation and artificial intelligence (AI). And these will become an intrinsic part of how a human services agency operates and delivers services to citizens. If that sounds too futuristic, just look at the adoption of new intelligent interfaces such as Alexa and Siri in the home. These are already providing a wide range of services that many people now take for granted every day.  

The potential to apply these natural human interfaces to routine tasks performed by people in agencies today is clear. Virtual assistants could proactively identify and administer entitlements to benefits, or they could connect citizens to new opportunities for employment or skills development tailored to individuals. Or intelligent automation could simplify customer registration and enrollment to support schemes.  

But with intelligent digital assistants taking care of many routine tasks, does that mean people within agencies become redundant? Not at all. In fact, human skills and capabilities come very much to the fore. So, agency staff will be able to apply uniquely human attributes to tasks that require high empathy and creativity. This year’s Fjord Trends emphasises that rather than smart machines replacing humans, the real power of AI and automation comes from how one augments the other to achieve outcomes that neither could reach independently.   

In order to realise the power of intelligent augmentation and to provide more empowered engagement, human service organisations will need to establish a culture that is insight-driven, embraces agility and establishes a strong foundation of digital skills.   

For more information on the Era of Empowerment view our POV at www.accenture.com/empowerment 

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