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Councils across the UK are under increasing pressure to reduce business costs, whilst improving customer experience and customer satisfaction. Digital change is widely seen by the sector as the main way to deliver better services and make better use of public funds.
However, despite enormous developments in new technologies and approaches available to councils, many digital change efforts have been slow-paced and often unsuccessful. A combination of budget constraints, unresponsive long-term public sector contracts, no clear strategy, lack of agility and in some cases a shortage of skills are the most common reasons why.
Intergence, an IT Infrastructure and Digital Change consultancy recently conducted a webinar, introducing 7 practical strategies to address these challenges, including some real examples to demonstrate how digital change can help councils successfully reduce costs and increase the quality of services they provide. The webinar also involved John Higgins, head of IT and resiliency at Tendring District Council, who shared the council’s approach to digital change, including guiding principles, success stories and the challenges they faced.
Tendring District Council’s digital journey
John opened the presentation by describing Tendring District Councils digital journey. “The main goal of the digital transformation was to improve value for money and deliver efficiency savings”. Like many councils, Tendring was struggling from years of underinvestment yet still required to deliver vital services.
“The first step of our journey focused on rationalising, modernising and consolidating our IT Infrastructure. This has been crucial to providing business continuity throughout the pandemic”. John also spoke about the work being done to re-engineer back-office processes “to realise the true benefits of self-serve” and emphasised that successful digital transformation is about changing culture. “With the help of Intergence, we now have the knowledge, skills and capabilities to embrace digital service improvement on a continuous and sustainable basis”.
John summarised by saying that although the programme had successfully achieved an ROI “the council will continue its focus on using technology and data to streamline services, promoting a one council view and making doing business with the council easier and more enjoyable”.
7 practical digital strategies
Kyle Rokkas, Intergence, opened the presentation by emphasising the importance of building a solid foundation. “When embarking on digital change, one of the first things to consider is your IT Infrastructure”. He referenced the work Intergence have done in partnership with Tendring to modernise the council’s Wide Area and Local Area networks: “This provided the foundation for digital change”.
Kyle then discussed why councils should adopt a cloud-first approach but cautioned “no one size fits all. The approach to cloud migration should be both consultative and pragmatic and more often a hybrid approach will be the most beneficial”.
He then went on to talk about the work Intergence are doing with Granicus GovService to help councils, such as Tendring, think self-serve and shifting manual, standardised processes to online and automated. “Accessing services such as bin collections, garden waste, licensing, council tax and housing via web-based forms significantly reduce the cost per transaction from £5 to 5p”. However, despite increasing adoption of online services, Kyle warned that “automating core processes isn’t just about channel shift or switching things online to make it easier for officers to do their jobs”. He continued “more emphasis must be given to what customers actually want from a council and to transforming the entire customer journey end-to-end”.
One area Kyle highlighted that councils could improve is the online journey experience and the quality of information they provide. “Compared to the retail sector the usability and information provided by many council websites is poor, resulting in customer dissatisfaction as well as failed demand”. He advised that councils should re-imagine customer journeys and start playing catch up with the public, especially around the use of SMART mobile technology.
Another common problem Kyle highlighted is not having data in one place. “Some councils have 300 to 400 software applications across 200 plus services. Councils need to get on the front foot by integrating their data to deliver better quality services and address needs faster rather than rely on customers getting in touch”. He demonstrated how Stratiam, Intergence’s in-house built data visualisation and transformation platform, is helping clients with their data integration problems. For example, Stratiam integrates with Granicus GovService’s self-service system, to provide councils with powerful insights that pinpoint and predict service issues, speeds up the analysis of Net Promoter Scores, improves data accuracy and reduces lost revenue opportunities. “Stratiam also prevents 1000’s of security breaches every week for our clients by automatically gathering logs and alerting staff of potential issues before escalating” added Kyle.
Kyle completed his walkthrough of Intergence’s 7 practical digital strategies by emphasising the importance of having high quality, customer-focused IT support services, that consistently improve the performance of IT systems, whilst keeping your business safe, secure and compliant. “A good managed IT service will not only bring new skills, capabilities and processes but will allow you to focus on delivering value without worrying about IT”.
Konrad Thomasson, Intergence, concluded the webinar by presenting a range of benefits available to councils, based upon successful implementations of these 7 digital strategies for both public and private sector clients.
He spoke about how IT foundations hinged on software-driven networks combined with migrating services to the cloud have helped clients significantly reduce IT operating costs as a result of less computation, servers, hardware, storage, power and maintenance. Also, clients who improve the online journey experience including the quality of communication have seen “increases in customer satisfaction as well as a reduction in avoidable contact” and he referenced how Tendring’s mobile leisure and tourism app “has boosted revenues from increased awareness about local events”.
Konrad also put into focus the huge opportunities for efficiency savings and referenced a travel and transport client, where Intergence digitised the entire freight handling process end-to-end saving 350 hrs of non-value-added time a week by eliminating manual tasks, paperwork, rework and errors.
“Councils can also really benefit from Stratiam” concluded Konrad. “Stratiam’s predictive monitoring and alert capability has seen our clients experience a 40% reduction in IT service issues – it prevents security breaches from happening”.
Konrad closed the webinar, reaffirming the compelling reasons why councils should accelerate digital change. “The future of our localities is uncertain at best. At worst we are facing reduced services, redundancies and even bankruptcy.
Councils who can adapt and evolve to this rapidly changing climate will continue to support the needs of their residents, communities and businesses. Fast-tracking digital change is the key to survival”.