Digital First for Defence requires collaboration: Blog from Stuart Jones, our Customer Service Director

Digital First is a concept that has been gathering momentum across government for a number of years. The idea is to provide a digital option as the first option for customers seeking to process a transaction. Whether that be getting your car taxed, applying for a passport, submitting your tax return or making a complaint about a service. Increasingly, we see that digital is the primary option when dealing with government services.

Digital offers a number of benefits, including reduction in transaction costs through automation, reduction in customer effort, improvements in convenience and availability for customers and improvements in how data is used and managed. Another benefit is for people working as customer services professionals, who are increasingly assisted by digital systems, and who find they can focus on engaging in a more meaningful way with customers.

As ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) has taken hold over recent years we find that the level of innovation in digital customer services has sky rocketed. However, this growth of innovative digital customer service products working across the internet, or in the ‘cloud’ brings a new set of challenges for government, and government suppliers like us. Firstly, and especially within Defence, cyber security is increasingly important. This is not just about data security, although delivering against the requirements of GDPR is a major area of focus in its own right, but is broadly about how resilient our technology systems are to external influence. Now, the second level of challenge is managing those risks within an increasingly nebulous network of systems that operate across the internet and potentially link back to existing systems on secure networks.

For millennia Defence has driven innovation across broader industry, developing incredible capabilities ‘behind the wire’, which then permeates to product development outside of the wire. However, with recent developments in SaaS, we now find ourselves in the polar opposite situation. Namely, trying to take advantage of external innovation but struggling to enable that innovation ‘behind the wire’ where it can benefit Defence.

Sensitive government customer services, such as those in Defence, have become bogged down an innovation sink hole. With SaaS providers having no interest in developing ‘on premises’ digital customer service solutions behind the wire. The model simply doesn’t work that way. This means that Defence, and therefore their industry partners, are not able to take advantage of weaving together SaaS products with existing technological infrastructure due to the need to operate secure networks with unique security accreditations (behind the wire).

But, and it’s a big BUT, just because SaaS operates in the cloud doesn’t mean the cloud can’t be brought up to the necessary security requirements to make Defence work feasible.

My call is for SaaS providers to start thinking more about the potential to operate in the secure government space by seeking to ensure their cloud infrastructure meets Defence level security requirements. Gaining this level of accreditation is possible, and opens up avenues to new business, while potentially offering greater cyber and data security to existing clients.

Clearly this needs to be a collaborative effort, between Defence (and Government), industry partners seeking to deliver cost innovation and the SaaS providers who hold the key to that innovation. Overcoming this current limitation is the only way I can see that Defence can truly get on board with Digital First and deliver true cost innovation in customer services.