Public sector organisations across the UK are challenged by the current austerity environment, but leaders in those organisations need to see these challenges as opportunity to be more innovative, said two of the UK’s leading public sector IT figures at a recent event. Hampshire County Council CIO Jos Creese and UCLH director of ICT James Thomas each took the stage in separate session of the recent CIO Summit in London to talk about ways public sector organisations can break out of their shells and find ways to deliver new services with fewer resources.

Of course, innovation is a priority for leaders at all kinds of organisations. What makes the public sector special? According to Creese, steep budget cuts at most public sector organisations means that innovation is more important than ever. It’s tempting to cling to business as usual and simply cut services, or try to squeeze additional performance out of old systems to do more with less. But organisations that are willing to innovate have a chance to find new ways to deliver new services, even with fewer resources. Rather than just cut back, successful public sector organisations need to find ways to differentiate themselves, he said.

"Some of the most innovative use of technology is in the public sector," he said, adding that "Some traditional outsourcing models certainly aren't fit for purpose."

Thomas also stressed the need for innovation and taking chances in his session. Rather than focusing on executing enormous projects, organisations should look everywhere for opportunities to do better work. He noted that in the health care sector, putting people first and looking to patients to get directly involved in their own care offers enormous opportunities to save money and improve outcomes.

Being flexible and supporting an anywhere working philosophy can also help improve productivity and allow organisations to do new with more, he noted. Combining wider access to data with mobile working allows clinicians to make decisions in the moment, in a place where they can act on them, which can improve outcomes.

“Don't be afraid to suggest radical, different things. Don't think you're going to be laughed at. Forget technology and focus on how the business runs, then you can embed the technology in improving the business,” he said.

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