Where are the innovative jobs?

You might be surprised to find that working in government creates perfect conditions for innovative tech.

Let’s start with a quick fire!

What industry comes to your mind when I say “innovative”?

If you thought of FinTech or startups, you are right and in the majority! However, if you thought “public sector”, I guess you’re probably an insider.

From the vantage point I have, as both a public sector contractor and the owner of a public sector consultancy (Mindful Contract Solutions), I can say one thing for sure. The level of innovation in the public sector is very high, up there with the most disruptive entrepreneurs. Unlike the hot startups and FinTechs craving for a place in the market, the public sector doesn’t indulge in advertising its innovation. Innovation is a matter of necessity to deal with these complex and multi-faceted issues.

The scale

The scale and complexity of what the government tries to do with technology is often unique and never previously attempted. Let’s take an example of setting up a basic payroll system. A simple off-the-shelf software package configured within weeks would do the job for most medium enterprises.

“For the government though, multiple terms and conditions across the organisation, combined with central government HR and pay policies mean the calculation of a payroll is very complex. A conventional payroll system wouldn’t cut it”, says Stu Egan – one of our Oracle Payroll consultants. Whatever software package you adopt in the public sector, you need to break new ground in configuring it to meet the government’s requirements.

Consultative approach

The government takes a consultative approach with its citizens to come up with requirements. It’s only after a new idea goes from a “consultation” to “policy” that technology assessments begin (although some government organisations now take a more agile approach – including Croydon Digital Service). It’s very rare to find the perfect software fit for such requirements, and any software will have to integrate with other systems and software to meet the requirement in full. Occasionally, the public sector body will embark on creation of a bespoke software. All of this creates a fertile ground for technological innovation.

No shortcuts

It’s probably an open secret that many private sector organisations do not adequately invest in building technology for every legislative requirement. If you’re reading this from a private sector employer’s office, run a quick check: does all software, and electronic training material you have on your workstation meet accessibility requirements? Is ensuring accessibility an area of focus for your organisation?

Accessibility is at the heart of everything the government does. For one of our clients, we have a dedicated accessibility management consultant because of the volume of work involved. In the public sector there’s no avoiding the difficult bits requiring an innovative solution.

Long implementation cycles

A side effect of all the above factors is that technology services take too long to implement in the government. Incidentally, my first contract assignment within government was in a programme that had already clocked 4 years of implementation time. They estimated that the support for the core software would run out months after go-live. My client therefore abandoned this path, and instead adopted a newer Cloud-based software. When technology jumps from an ancient system to a brand new, it one creates many opportunities for innovation.

The austerity

Perhaps this is a common factor across the private and public sectors. Whilst private sector organisations have a choice to reduce output, this is not an option for public sector departments offering essential services. Any cost reduction has to manifest itself through efficiencies. The government is always looking to assess new productivity tools and trends. For example, one of our automation consultants engaged with a public sector client is assessing the use of robots as a productivity enhancer.

Security

The government is a high-profile target for hackers across the world. Vinit Goswami, our Cyber-Security procurement consultant says, “Cybercrime techniques are always evolving and defence is always catching up. For the government this means, aside from being responsive in applying fixes, they should also be prudent in taking a more conservative approach to opening up access of their IT infrastructure to third parties.” This translates into a lower appetite for outsourcing. Very innovative work can often only be performed within the public body’s premises because of security considerations.

To sum it up, if the opportunity to innovate is what you seek you in your next job, look to the public sector.

Mindful Contract Solutions is a Croydon-based tech and management consultancy. Check us out on Twitter and LinkedIn. Our email for business enquiries is info@mindfulcontract.co.uk.

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