This article is featured on News In The Channel
For resellers, the public sector provides a range of opportunities – and not just with digital transformation – if they can get into the market.
The UK public sector employs about 5.8 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics – about a sixth of all people in paid work. Encompassing everything from local councils to the fire service to social care, it is a diverse sector, but all parts still require office technology, and it can be a huge opportunity for resellers, if they can get into the market.
“In recent years, the sector has experienced a significant shift to cloud-based services and the majority of resellers now have the product portfolios that public sector firms need at their disposal; whether it be telephony, contact centre or IT support or other cloud solutions,” says Dan Lloyd, channel partner manager at Cirrus.
That said, it can be difficult for resellers to sell into and engage with public sector organisations, due to the extensive list of regulatory requirements that they need to be a part of and frameworks that they must adhere to, Dan notes. “However, resellers are quickly rewarded for the time and effort invested in understanding the unique requirements,” he adds.
“Winning new business in the public sector is a competitive process due to the number of well-established vendors and resellers also available. However, innovative ideas and creative solutions that align with regulations are key to unlocking new opportunities.
“Public sector organisations must show their due diligence when spending public money. Therefore, proving their understanding and building a business case that meets compliance needs will go a long way in opening up conversations with those with purchasing power.”
Mike Barron, managing director at SYNAXON UK, agrees that resellers and MSPs do have a role to play in providing the solutions and services that the public sector needs. “We are all aware of the huge challenges that education, healthcare and local government face in delivering services and managing budgets – and that makes the digital transformation that new technologies bring – even more important,” he says.
“As we’re seeing in the commercial sector, digital transformation is driving a move towards the cloud and managed services, and digital security has become vitally important. We’d expect these themes to dominate the agenda for some time. A lot of decision-makers in the public sector do not have time to focus on the latest technology developments – and a key part of the role that partners play is being their trusted advisor on technology solutions and services.”
Rachel Rothwell, senior regional director at Zyxel UK, adds that digital transformation provides opportunities for resellers that are: “not afraid to break the mould and offer schools and colleges, hospitals and trusts and government and Blue Light organisations what they really need – good, reliable IT solutions and equipment that gets the job done and does not break the budget.
“More schools are now open to the idea of considering alternatives to their incumbent brands and will consider solutions based on their capability to deliver and provide a solid return on investment.
“We’ve been able to support partners in winning some good business in the public sector – in education especially – and we believe there are plenty of good opportunities for partners at every level. One area where we see particularly bright prospects is in remote monitoring and management of networks and security. Academies and Trusts in particular love this approach as it means they can bring all the control back to the centre and place it in the hands of a trusted, expert partner. It’s a symbiotic relationship that works well for the customer and the partner.”
Range of priorities
But there are other priorities for public sector organisations, which resellers need to understand, as Dan explains. “It seems like we have been talking about digital transformation for a decade, but there are still a lot of organisations yet to make the switch from legacy technology,” he says. “Public sector buyers are still focused on improving efficiency and providing a better quality of service to their audiences and end users.
“Citizen or customer engagement is another huge focus now. Looking specifically at local councils, members of the public want a more efficient communication method than having to visit the local office to raise a query. Buyers also want to improve the journey by utilising the power of technology and artificial intelligence (AI).
“As always, saving money is at the forefront for decision-makers. This doesn’t mean buying the cheapest solution available; it’s about getting more out of their investment, whether it’s a solution that enables self-service or answers frequently asked question. The ultimate goal is to free up valuable agent time.
“In times of economic uncertainty, all business expenses are heavily scrutinised as teams look to become more cost efficient. Only services that are considered business critical are likely to see healthy investment. What resellers need to do is deliver creative solutions that prove they can provide the value and ROI that public sector organisations are looking for.”
This focus on cost and value will inform trends in the sector going forward. “Proactive engagements that replace a passive approach will be a big focus for public sector organisations moving forward,” says Dan.
“Waiting for a citizen or customer to come with you with a problem takes a long time to resolve. However, keeping them regularly updated on popular channels, such as text, WhatsApp or AI tools, will save a great deal of time and mitigate the need for conflict resolution, therefore further reducing the burden on agents.
“As part of this, we will continue to see the shift away from legacy technology by offering greater access to digital channels that are more efficient and interactive.
“The ongoing debate around remote working means that products and solutions must provide the agility and flexibility to accommodate the needs of organisations that operate a flexible working policy.”
Dan adds that AI and automation tools such as ChatGPT will also have an increasing role in the public sector, with their ability to automate manual tasks enabling the human workforce to focus on higher value tasks and enhance the level of service delivered. “AI’s ability to understand workforce management requirements and provide a greater level of analysis that will in turn inform forward-looking business decisions will be a huge trend in the coming months.”