Better served?

March 1, 2011

There is a new Socitm publication entitled “Better served: customer access, efficiency and channel shift”, launched on 15 February 2011, which is currently being promoted as the answer to the longer-term savings being expected, as a piece in e-Gov monitor declares.

Whilst I don’t have a problem with the concepts in the document, as both Vicky Sargent and Martin Greenwood know, I do have an issue with the savings and how they can be clawed back!

Putting the citizens’ top tasks online is one thing but getting the services to oil their machinery to provide the end-to-end efficiency is still another. Despite the ever increasing pressures on services, getting the majority of turkeys en-masse to vote for Christmas is idealistic!

I admit that’s an oversimplification and that the ideal way, as endorsed by Socitm is to use the type of Citizen Engagement System that has been promoted on here for a number of years and use the issues presented by citizens to oil the works. Once the processes of the ‘top tasks’ are improved, they can be best presented over the appropriate channels (not necessarily the web one) and slowly the savings will accumulate – but to where?

The problem with the costing model is that it’s not always viewed end-to end.  Many government software suppliers charge the earth for web interfaces, one example is where Oracle count the citizen as a user! By the time we have the cost of the servers, web servers, de-militarised zone etc etc., which all has to be paid for, the costs start to accumulate! If it’s a simple transaction with limited identification required it may be argued that’s not an issue, however, it still depends how far into your network that requires access.

Let’s stop oversimplifying the savings. I’ve just put in one standard application that requires EIGHT servers! It will have a web front end requiring three of them. Self-service will reduce some staffing costs but not to the level of pennies!