As government, society and business grapple with the impact of Covid-19, the need to deliver sustained transformation in the justice sector has never been clearer, writes Shane Mohan, National Government and Public Services Leader, Deloitte.
Change in a justice sector is hard, constituent organisations are typically steeped in years of history; they are (often for good reason) highly procedural; have operational mandates that challenge longer term strategic thinking; are subject to high levels of public scrutiny; and operate within substantive legislative and governance frameworks.
Nevertheless, most organisations across the Irish justice sector have recognised the need for change, and for a variety of reasons have embarked on significant transformation and modernisation programmes. Some of these have started by addressing organisational and governance layers. But it is critical that (a) change goes much deeper than just structure; (b) is seen as part of a continuous evolution; and (c) is coordinated with other programmes across the justice sector and broader Irish public service.
Delivering lasting change
Globally, many justice sector organisations still largely operate based on in-person interactions, manual processes, dated technology and poor quality data. These structures, systems and processes are not fit for the new service models demanded by citizens, businesses and other stakeholders.
At Deloitte, when we support our clients through transformation journeys we consider the whole organisation and how it operates, the services it delivers, the users and stakeholders, its business processes, the channels it uses (for example, face to face, online, etc.), the organisation structure, locations, its people, technology and data. It is only through addressing every one of these layers that lasting change can be delivered. This takes time, perseverance and energy from leaders and their teams. Fatigue can set in or resistance develop, but is exactly at these times leaders need to hold their nerve, be clear on the journey and see the change through.
Planning for continuous evolution
Across public services it is increasingly clear that change is now continuous, some of this is predictable as services adopt to citizen needs and preference such as digital delivery; others less so such as major economic, social and health events.
In the justice sector, specifically, there is continuous change across the criminal, civil and commercial spectrums ranging from international terrorism and organised crime; increased financial, economic and cyber-crime; and evolution in society’s expectations around equality, justice and personal freedoms.
Therefore, change may start with a large transformation programme, but it is critical that leaders understand that their organisation and the sector in which they operate will continue to face new challenges on an ongoing basis. Hence, the need to build lasting capabilities and a flexible and adaptive mind-set in leaders at all levels is critical.
Taking a sector wide view
It is increasingly clear that transformation of public services requires coordination across many agencies. Sector wide transformation, particularly in a complex stakeholder environment such as Justice, requires a systemic approach that steps beyond the boundaries of individual agencies, Departments and service providers. This covers everything from alignment on policy and purpose, a shared view of service user needs and expectations, consistent systems and processes, and appropriate sharing of data. There are many examples of where this has been done locally and internationally, but this integration must be delivered at scale.
The power of public sector organisations working collaboratively with the education sector, NGOs, industry and others to create innovative solutions at pace.
Additionally, it is not just public service bodies that have to be considered. The response to Covid-19 has shown the power of public sector organisations working collaboratively with the education sector, NGOs, industry and others to create innovative solutions at pace.
Key tips for sustained transformation
Based on a breadth of research undertaken by Deloitte, and practical experience of working with many justice sector and other public service organisations on their transformation journeys, there are a number of trends that we would highlight as being important considerations:
- Design around the user: Both within and across agencies it is critical that the service users are at the heart of transformation programme. Understanding their needs and expectations, and how and when they wish to engage is critical. Of course, in a justice setting not everything is at the user’s discretion! However, the reality is that even in a police or courts context the vast majority of interactions are where citizens are looking for advice, support and information; or to access a particular service.
- Workforce capabilities: Public service organisations today are increasingly moving from simplistic resourcing models to much more sophisticated and continuous workforce planning which identifies the skills, capabilities and capacity that the organisation needs and how, when and where that needs to be deployed to meet varying service and operational demands.
- Technology and digital infrastructure: Covid-19 has shown the importance of a digitally enabled workforce and the ability for citizens to access services through multiple online channels. Of course, this has been the trend for many years where citizens, reflecting how we operate in other areas of our lives, expect our public services to be similarly available. Interoperability across agencies and the ability to share data are other critical considerations. To meet these needs almost every justice sector organisation has had to invest heavily in its technology infrastructure.
- Data management, access, sharing and privacy: Are long standing challenges, along with the ability to turn available data into useful information to inform management decision making. Additionally, Governments are seeking to become ‘anticipatory’, building deeper capabilities in modelling and predictive analytics so that they can better prepare for everything from changing operational needs to large-scale crises, rather than just reacting to them.
- Ecosystems and alliances: Businesses, universities, research labs and other stakeholders can contribute the capacity and capability that exponentially increases government’s ability to deliver better services, respond to changing events or mitigate a crisis. Governments need to embrace this opportunity but in a transparent manner.
Covid-19 is the trigger that will fundamentally change government across the world, and force many to fundamentally reimagine how public services are delivered. It is a global pandemic layered upon years of economic, social, demographic and technological change that is accelerating all the time. These and other major issues, from Brexit to immigration and the growth of extremism, have had and will continue to have a profound impact on our justice sector and the agencies within it. However, this context provides the opportunity and momentum for sustainable, integrated change across the sector.
Shane Mohan, National Government and Public Services Leader
T: +353 1 417 2543