Navigating the public sector’s “new normal” with a digital-first approach

Since the UK outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, work within the public sector has changed significantly. From the introduction of contact tracing and workplace social distancing, to fully remote and home working - frontline staff have faced unique and difficult challenges across the board. Here’s how Robotic Process Automation (RPA), mobile app, and eForm technologies can help bolster your digital transformation projects – and assist in your navigation of “new normal” day-to-day operations, as influenced by COVID-19.

How has COVID-19 impacted work in the public sector?

As in many other industries, countless workers within the public sector were forced into a brand-new way of working. Many had to be vigilant about social distancing and PPE when delivering essential services, while others were asked to work remotely for extended periods – a factor that greatly impaired the use of equipment, facilities and working spaces of many frontline workers.

As well as the challenges of remote working and social distancing, the direct effects of the pandemic were also felt across the breadth of the sector, as many public organisations were faced with an influx of new and complex work to manage - on top of business-as-usual operations. From the care of COVID-19 patients and the administration of vaccinations within the NHS, to the operation of testing sites and collection of data by local governments – workloads grew in size, while resources became even more restricted.

In response, the sector began to shape a new working normal. With many elements of COVID-19 conditions here to stay, and an unpredictable working landscape ahead, many organisations within the public sector have accelerated their digital transformations in order to remain adaptable. Becoming a catalyst for fast-paced and widescale change, COVID-19 fuelled innovation and collaboration within the sector at an unprecedented rate.

Here’s how three innovative technologies continue to support and bolster the UK public sector in its COVID-19 response, management, and recovery.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software which emulates human interaction within an application environment. It can be applied to a wide variety of virtual processes, facilitating the automation of tasks by a single bot, or team of digital workers. Able to work seamlessly with multiple touchpoints and existing infrastructure, RPA has been proven a real asset to the public sector throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Increased efficiency

Many of the requirements on public sector organisations throughout the pandemic have been time sensitive, requiring fast action and implementation to cope with the various demands of COVID-19. Whether that be the introduction of new data capture programmes – such as the National Immunisation & Vaccination System (NIVS) – or the need to migrate from legacy systems that hindered the accelerated delivery of services, RPA can deliver time savings of great magnitude for an overall faster response.

Relieving of resources

Another way in which RPA has assisted the public sector throughout the pandemic, is with its ability to save a wide range of resources. Automation can provide frontline workers with more time for the work that matters, with the reduction or removal of human interaction within repetitive processes – such as data rekeying across multiple systems. Bots can also work round the clock, allowing organisations to cope with demands growing 24/7.

Removed user error

Dealing with the effects of a pandemic can be demanding both in workload and mental capacity. In times of crisis, it’s not uncommon to make a mistake – and though human error is sometimes unavoidable during manual processes, automation can remove this risk completely. Operating strictly in line with programmed logic, automation ensures accurate delivery first time, leading to faster completion without added corrective administration exercises later down the line. 

Mobile apps

Mobile applications are software built specifically for use with mobile devices – such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Also known as mobile apps, they’re extremely popular in our everyday lives – but can also be used to streamline public sector operations. Mobile working and the implementation of applications can accelerate processes by improving data capture capabilities exponentially – but here’s how they can benefit your organisation within the new normal landscape specifically.

Remote communication with back-office systems

Mobile apps can be particularly useful for workers who need to capture data away from base. Applications built within NDL’s mobile app platform can serve as a modern front-end interface, seamlessly integrated with existing back-office systems – and even other processes, such as RPA. They can be used anywhere, even saving data inputted without network access for automatic upload once connection is restored. Not only is this benefit ideal for remote working, but also for those tasked with delivery of services within the wider community – such as COVID-19 council officers or vaccination administrators.

Extended data capture functionalities

Often revolutionising data capture across public sector processes, mobile apps can offer access to the collection of additional file formats. For example, apps developed within NDL’s mobile application platform can feature photo and video upload functions, as well as GPS and map interfaces, and editing and annotation features. This is useful within a range of new normal settings, such as remote patient PROMs assessments or COVID-19 enforcement inspections.

Faster processes & mobilisation

The implementation of mobile apps can greatly impact the efficiency of a task. Depending on functionality, they can completely remove administrative and rekeying elements, amalgamate the use of multiple systems, or provide a single point of contact for an otherwise convoluted process. As mobile apps can be used anywhere, they often greatly increase the rate at which data is captured – allowing for better distribution of time resources for frontline staff.


Electronic forms – also known as web forms or eForms – typically facilitate the collection of information through a browser-based application. Accessed online, they allow users to input data as guided by a structured user interface. Forms built within NDL’s eForm platform can be linked directly into back-office systems, allowing them to hold a firm place in the new normal landscape.

Data accuracy & optimisation

As an eForm guides the user through the data collection process with a series of fields and input methods, data is collected in a clean and congruent manner. This leads to the upkeep of accurate data sets, allowing for effective analysis and reporting. This is particularly useful when collecting important information at scale, such as with COVID-19 vaccination eConsent forms, for example.

Improved response rates

eForms can bolster the volume of data successfully captured throughout a process, thanks to their convenient, familiar, and agile nature. Accessible from any device with browser access – and commonly used throughout everyday life, eForms can reach larger audiences than projects reliant on paper-based data collection. Throughout the pandemic, members of the NDL Community have been able to utilise eForms in a number of innovative ways – from COVID test and vaccination bookings, to staff PPE order forms.

Security and compliance

Depending on the nature of an eForm, it can significantly reduce the risk of data loss and GDPR infringement – especially when compared to a manual or paper-based process. eForms built within NDL’s eForm platform are highly encrypted, allowing them to obtain sensitive or personal details at far lower risk. This particular advantage has enabled essential data capture to continue within public services, despite restrictions on physical contact within the general population.

Accelerating digital transformation to meet demand

Over the past year, the NDL Community has delivered countless digital transformation projects in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. You can read more about some of these use cases below, or find even more innovative case studies over on our Success Stories page. To learn more about digital transformations in healthcare, local government, housing, policing, and education sectors, don’t forget to register for one of our upcoming events – and don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team.