Our world and the way we conduct work is changing faster than ever. Intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and advanced analytics are disrupting the way decisions are made, employees and citizens interact, and information, materials and resources flow. The impact is profound – two eye-catching stats I’ve recently seen include that nearly half of business leaders think traditional job descriptions are obsolete and 54% of employers believe that getting human-machine collaboration right is critical to achieving their goals.

This shift in the ways of working and the consequential rethinking of capabilities is how I define the future of work. Consider the example of a regional airline which introduced fast airport clearance using facial recognition. With the introduction of the technology, the airline will reduce its reliance on frontline staff to perform manual check-ins. However, this does not mean the frontline staff are obsolete and no longer relevant. Through role reconfiguration, these frontline staff can be reskilled to assist with enrolment, ensuring the traveller’s experience will be seamless from the time they enrol on the mobile app until the time they clear the security checkpoint. This example illustrates that the future of work requires employers to understand the difference between the new demands arising from automation, then use that understanding to create new roles rather than displacing roles. This is also echoed by nearly two-thirds of surveyed executives saying that intelligent technologies will drive job growth in their companies in the next three years and the increasing number of “truly human automation” examples such as this in the UK.

From working with many public service agencies I came to realise that there are three key goals agencies need to achieve to meet this evolving landscape: become more Relevant, more Intelligent and Future-Ready.

  1. Become more relevant

A recent survey of 5,000 citizens in five countries including Singapore, revealed that 71% of citizens want their governments to collaborate with global enterprises to drive innovation. This is part of the broader ecosystem that the government agencies can join forces with to help solve the big issues they face – from improving social cohesiveness, to improving domestic competitiveness, to keeping their citizens safe.

Taking action has traditionally been hindered by the inability to share information. Now, emerging technologies for sharing data securely, including blockchain, are helping tear down silos and create integrated, 360-degree responses around the needs of businesses and citizens. Of course, along with the enhanced power to share information comes a greater responsibility to do so ethically, ensuring a balance between the gains of greater data sharing and the potentially negative repercussions. Some forward-looking agencies are rebooting to be even more relevant by orchestrating the ecosystem, by shaping conduct through outreach and education, and through consultative policy making.

  1. Become more intelligent

Taking decisions based on intuition or even historical data is no longer fit for purpose because of the complexity of challenges facing the public service. The abundance of data, and advanced analytics methods like machine learning, means that agencies have an opportunity to move towards a tiered decision-making approach such as risk tiering businesses for enforcement of corporate compliance. A more intelligent agency can use data and analytics to be more anticipatory in delivery of services, to be more calibrated in its actions and to improve its situational awareness. Some 56% of public service officials believe new technologies and sources of workplace data can be used to achieve previously hidden or unobtainable value. Certainly, more can be done in this aspect leveraging on the exponentially exploding volumes of data that are transacted each day.

  1. Prepare to be future ready

And the third major trend is the move towards working with the wider community to focus on prevention, rather than providing the cure. It’s there to see in the context of one major acute hospital in Singapore’s vision of the “Wards without Walls”, which places a stress on the transitions of care from hospital to home. Also in the community-based initiatives of the “Prisons without Guards, Prisons without Walls” which stresses rehabilitation and reintegration. It’s clear that such changes to ways of working mean a big change in mindsets and skills requiring extensive new-skilling at scale. It also demands developing greater agility to adapt to ecosystem shifts by rapidly and flexibly calibrating functions to deliver services to the citizens. This is what it takes for an agency to be future ready.

These three trends have arrived and have begun to reshape governments’ approach to the future of work. In response, I believe that agencies will need to develop nine key capabilities that are very different from the past – we’ll take a closer look at those capabilities as part of this blog series. These range from adaptive and consultative policymaking, to ecosystem orchestration and enhanced situational awareness, to new skilling at scale – all nine are now must-haves for public sector agencies. Through this shift, agencies can become more relevant, intelligent and future ready.


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