Reducing technical debt to drive the transformation agenda in the public sector
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Reduce your technical debt to drive the transformation agenda in the public sector

from  August 26, 2021 | 4 min read

Legacy systems cause a lot of problems for the organizations that depend on them. Aside from increased costs of maintenance, the burden of system administration placed on users, and the time lost through inefficiency, one of the biggest costs associated with legacy systems comes in the form of technical debt.

Technical debt is a concept from the world of software development. It’s the cost associated with the effort, resources, money, and time taken to rework a solution that isn’t designed to do a particular job, or by choosing a cheaper and more limited solution, instead of making a bigger upfront investment, or embarking on a project that would satisfy all of your requirements, but take longer to complete.

This doesn’t just mean you’re stuck using systems that aren’t fit for purpose. It means that making your processes and operations fit for purpose will take longer, and accessing new technological capabilities will likely cost you more.

Technical debt in the public sector – still putting the breaks on digital transformation

A particular concern in the public sector is the need to modernize critical applications and workflows to deal with rising demands, downward cost pressures, changing working patterns and COVID-related disruptions.

Unfortunately, according to a recent report from TechMarketReview, the public sector still has a lot of work to do to fix the basics. Legacy IT is still putting the breaks on digital transformation. And understanding the extent to which technical debt is holding you back is critical to understanding how you can drive your organization forward. Particularly given the complexity being added by new technologies and the need to create working models that leverage them without compromising cost control.

And it’s not just a hypothetical issue

Last year, GDS interim director Alison Pritchard said that her agency was already working closely with the Treasury to reduce technical debt via spending review. Said Pritchard, “… what we can’t afford is for legacy not to be addressed.”

The question of technical debt is already understood by the central government as a key area for remediation. Both to reduce costs, and to allow organizations to make better use of their data.

Paying down technical debt – how it’s done

In theory, the exercise of paying down technical debt is very simple. It requires targeting legacy systems for retirement and replacement. Usually, the biggest offenders are likely to be found in your organization’s back office. Many systems that are a source of great frustration and demoralization to your people in areas like finance and HR haven’t been replaced or significantly upgraded in decades. They’re doing a “good enough” job, and they aren’t glamorous enough to be the subject of press releases or career-making initiatives.

But neglecting them can leave your operations dangerously brittle and disjointed – with a huge amount of valuable data inaccessible to the rest of the organization for analysis that could lead to insights that significantly boost efficiency and service delivery effectiveness.

It’s incumbent on you to set clear strategic technological goals when it comes to every part of your organization’s performance. Whether that’s in terms of the targets set for service delivery and customer satisfaction, or the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of back-office systems and processes. And the effect that they have on your peoples’ satisfaction and wellbeing.

Overcoming legacy requires partnership

But this isn’t something even the most dynamic public sector leader will be able to succeed in alone. As identified by TechMarketReview, technology vendors and suppliers will have a key role in helping organizations reduce tech debt and approaching the subject of modernization and transformation efficiently.

How Unit4 can help – introducing ERPx

Unit4 have been creating software for the public sector for four decades. We’re a preferred partner for ERP for local authorities across the UK, helping well over 100 councils to create better ways of working.

Our latest innovation comes in the form of ERPx. ERPx is a next-generation system that presents an alternative to the monolithic static operating platform of the past. Instead of dictating the way your people work, it presents an agile and modular ecosystem of microservices that allows you to build and achieve your digital transformation agenda. Giving you the ability to do work more efficiently, collaboratively, productively, and with flexibility and agility.

ERPx brings together tools for your finance, procurement, project management, HR, and FP&A teams into a unified cloud-native platform that shares data between these departments in real time. Creating a powerful, people-centric approach to managing your operations, and giving everyone in your organization the insight they need to be effective and engaged. And equipping you with the resilience to respond to change – whatever form it takes.

Want to know more?

At Unit4 we always have an eye on the public sector’s future. To learn more about what we see changing for your organization over the next few years check out our interactive ebook on public sector digitization here.

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