User-centred approaches to e-government

October 25, 2009

A new document out from the OECD “Rethinking e-Government Services: User-centred Approaches” (240 pages) demonstrates how long its taken to turn the e-government aircraft carrier around to facing the citizen! Along with the recently published Cabinet Office guidance on Channel Strategy it would appear a new world has dawned upon the apparatchiks.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a subscriber, just take out the 7-day trial subscription and you have access!

The first chapter is entitled “A Paradigm Shift Towards Citizen Centricity” and what is states is that the message from the OECD leaders was that “the focus in public service delivery should be on user needs, demands, and satisfaction – not on the tools and service delivery channels governments have been focusing on since the mid-1990’s.” If we want a date for when the aircraft carrier started turning, this pronouncement was apparently made to the OECD Network of Senior OECD E-Government Officials 6-7 March 2008. My detailed research wants to get to the why’s and wherefore’s of the initial route and then the change twelve years later, but for the moment I’m just celebrating the move!

The chapter also asks whether “a user-centric approach forces governments to rethink whether a transformational” perspective on public service development and delivery is still the right one.” Importantly for the UK we have had the shift from e-government to t-government and presumably this  statement leverages both towards the door?

The fourth chapter is entitled “Monitoring and Evaluation User Take-up” , which lists the UK as having a national measurement framework, which may be a white lie, since what the document ultimately states is that “traditional metrics such as counting website hits and page impressions are not sufficient and often provide a very narrow and simplistic view of user take-up. Monitoring and analysing patterns of use, traffic volumes, user likes and dislikes, user satisfaction and attitudes towards information and data use, seasonal variation, audience breakdown, e-mails and feedback, and the use of search terms are all important elements in understanding how users consume electronic services.”  Unfortunately (for me), it doesn’t pick out the most advantageous metric(s) nor suggest that channel management requires all channels to be similarly measured but the next chapter does state that “countries have moved towards rethinking not just their Internet-based service delivery, but their service delivery in general without regard to delivery channel – to meet the users with services on their terms.” unfortunately, no examples are provided of the latter.

Strangely, I missed any mention of Web 2.0 or Government 2.0. whilst Andrea and others feel it’s still a hot topic?


Channel Strategy

September 13, 2009

Thanks to Adrian Barker at the IDeA for pointing, on their Community of Practice, to the new Channel Strategy Guidance from the Cabinet Office and Contact Council. It comes in two parts, the creator is Sarah Fogden and contact is Bob Kamall , our old NI14 friends at the Cabinet Office.

It’s a vast improvment from the stuff we’re used to but there’s nothing original that hasn’t come out of Canada years ago!

The wording of the document struggles with that rather anachronistic dichotomy between the “taxpayer” and the “public”, that frequently appears in Republican tracts from the USA, which worries me a little. However, at least they’ve finally accepted the need for channel strategies!

As a result, we are faced with statements such as: “citizens sometimes have low expectations of online services provided by government” (p.6), with no evidence, where I might suggest that the private sector encourages high expectations of public sectior services but a gap occurs when less than perfect delivery happens , which needs to be repaired gracefully for channel shift to stand any chance of occurring.

Having stated that, there is a section on “Digital Inclusion”, almost as an annex, referring back to the Public Accounts Committee in 2007/8 demanding such a thing, but I would have rather they’d thought have that from their own free will, but perhaps a stick in needed for the less willing.

Another bizarre reference occurs on page 11 where they state: “We would like to thank the following organisations for providing case studies of successful channel management:”, which is followed by a blank space?

On page 13 is a rather depleted diagram, which looks like an empty version of my own model (below), without the performance layer and feedback loops necessary to generate any improvment – Model conceptual framework

In its favour the critical success factors on page 20 are welcome, particularly number 4, which states “Delivery chains must be viewed as end to end processes”. However another “off the wall” statement appears on page 24 where its is stated that “your channel strategy will need to demonstrate  new ways of delivering services”, when I would ask is that really what a channel strategy is about? Perhaps it needs to allow for future channels to appear over the horizon, as they might do rather rapidly these days, but not actually demonstrate new ways?

Other than that,  I don’t think there’s anything that hasn’t been mentioned on this site, plus quite a bit that has been and is missing! The “Top Ten ideas” on on page 40 do evidence how the Cabinet Office imagination has moved on in the last few years, perhaps its the influence of all those local authorities listed in the acknowledgements?

What might interest some of my colleagues is the long paragraph on page 8:

“A particular focus of the [Contact] Council thus has far been the creation of a robust Performance Management Framework (PMF) for the telephone channel of public service delivery. The PMF offers contributors a means of not only tracking their own contact centres’ performance but also of comparing and benchmarking that performance with others running comparable operations. Further details of the PMF can be found on the Cabinet Office website.The Council is now extending the PMF approach to other channels, with work in progress on a web PMF and scope for developing a similar performance tool for face to face service delivery. The Council’s aim is to build a comprehensive channels performance data “dashboard” to aid departments and other public sector organisations to create and implement effective channel strategies.

In creating this dashboard, combined with the channel strategy guidance published here, the Council aims to provide a vision for an efficient, effective and customer-centric channel strategy, along with the tools and the data to implement one.”

Anyway, we’re getting there; the 21st century, that is!