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Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

Source: Sponsored interview

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public sector sales, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about what a day in his life looks like, and how the public sector can benefit.

For Matt Spencer, no two days are ever the same. Five months into his role as head of public sector sales at O2 Business and there are already more ongoing projects across his team than he could ever list in a short interview – all of them carried out in partnership with central and local government, police, and the NHS to develop bespoke digital solutions designed to make life easier for every single person in the country.

In fact, that’s exactly what draws Matt to the role. With a background of over 10 years working with the public sector, the O2 official revealed that what truly appeals to him about the public sector is knowing that when you address its needs and issues, you are actually addressing the needs and issues of what’s most important to you, your friends, your family, and everyone else around you.

“If you can help the government make the right decisions and buy the right solutions, as well as position themselves for the future, then you’re helping deliver those services to yourself,” he told me.

Matt’s history of close partnership working with public organisations and his deep understanding of how the government functions – which he describes as essential to the role – has led to the development of countless beneficial projects throughout his career.

At O2, for example, his team has a direct impact on the way public services are delivered – whether that’s by cutting nearly two hours of admin per shift per police officer by providing pre-loaded apps on handheld devices, thus enabling data on demand; reducing the average bed occupancy time in a hospital by up to 21%; or even supporting digital inclusion as part of Leeds City Council’s plans to become 100% digital. The latter project has encouraged a partnership so personal, in fact, that Jason Tutin, digital and learning development manager at Leeds Libraries, commented: “The best thing about working with O2 is that it doesn’t feel like we’ve been working with an organisation. It feels like we’ve been working with people.”

Much like Matt’s passion for the public sector’s community approach, O2’s ‘people-first’ culture is what attracted him to the company five months ago. “The emphasis that we put on the support for our customers is second to none,” he explained. “We are very vertically focused, so our team become experts in the areas that we serve. Understanding people who work in the sector and their objectives enables us to be far more focused in the way that we deliver the solutions that meet their needs.”

Differently from most, O2’s public-sector team has a history of marrying its world-leading telecoms offering with the right group of people tasked to manage it. “When you can bring those two together in a really powerful combination, that’s when you start to deliver really exciting things,” Matt argued.

What makes the public sector unique

Of course, working with public- and private-sector partners isn’t that different in essence: both involve establishing close relationships. But one is not entirely like the other. For example, specific procurement rulesets across government can sometimes limit engagement. “It’s only once you become a trusted supplier that a true partnership can work,” Matt said.

Similarly, the public sector can have additional challenges when it comes to digital transformation, which can cause it to lag behind the private sector in some areas, such as Internet of Things. “But we shouldn’t underestimate the skills and the passion of the people working in the public sector, because there are some really skilful, innovative thinkers,” he added. “What we should remember about the public sector is that it has to manage risk in a way that the private sector sometimes doesn’t.”

Having to manage a wealth of citizen data securely, for example, is one prominent example of unique risk in the public sector; but even more important is the fact that its officials, unlike in the private sector, are elected – and are therefore accountable to the people they serve. Every pound spent must be done so wisely and transparently, and efficiency is now the name of the game.

How technology can help

That’s where technology comes in. “If we can enable more digital working, for example, then government can deploy its workforce in a more flexible and efficient way,” explained Matt. “That efficiency and productivity piece is so important.”

Beyond just mobile working, O2 has decades of knowhow across a wide range of leading-edge tech products, covering all of the major investment target areas in the public sector right now (you only have to look at the recent GovTech Summit, which brought the UK’s political leaders to Paris in November, to see just how big of a priority the government is placing on digital innovation.)

“We have ongoing projects using big data to help government make better decisions about highways, for example,” noted Matt. “We’re talking to local governments about how they can use big data to make better choices about where and to what scale they deploy infrastructure. We’re even having conversations about how we can help councils use smart data to decide where to build shopping centres – and to understand what demographics that retail complex might have – as part of city regeneration activities.”

It doesn’t stop there: O2 and partners have been piloting technology in ambulances that can give specialist stroke clinicians video access to a patient being transported so that the diagnosis, and therefore the treatment, can be as quick as possible. It has been experimenting with the theory of constraints to help a north-east hospital decide the order in which it should move patients through the system. And it has even been working with the Royal National Institute for the Blind to develop ‘In Your Pocket,’ an intelligent mobile device specifically designed for those who are partially sighted.

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Moving forward

With no shortage of projects ahead, it’s tough to say where Matt’s job will take him over the next few months – he could be down in Surrey and Sussex visiting the police force that O2 has equipped with mobile digital tools, visiting the estate his team helped cut down to less than 70 sites across South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, or up in St Helens to see for himself how the Digital Communities project has affected and inspired residents and businesses in the area.

But one thing is for certain: Matt and his team will be ensuring the public-sector side of the business remains a priority and key focus as they expand the portfolio and product mix in order to continue to support organisations better serve their citizens.

“We want our public-sector customers and prospects to think of O2 as their go-to supplier for more than just mobile: connectivity, inclusivity, security, and smart applications can all be on their list when they talk to us,” he continued.

“And I want O2 to be part of the big changes,” he continued. “To be part of bringing 5G into the public sector. To be part of the smart city. To be part of connected vehicles. To be part of the future.”


To find out how Matt and his team can help your organisation, get in touch:
E: [email protected]


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