The Tory take

July 5, 2009

Published by the Centre for Policy Studies is a view from a Conservative councillor on the present government’s IT policy, particularly in the arena of personal data – It’s ours. The report by Liam Maxwell is a useful read for anybody working in government IT since it may be the approach subsequent to the next election!

For me it has an awful lot of sense, as can be found in earlier posts, I was never quite happy with the ‘deep truth’  that central government wanted us to seek, I never treated it as personal imformation, just a lot of mumbo-jumbo that would never help anybody. It also identifies the limited use being made of electronic government ‘services’.

In fact in terms of evaluating IT projects, one of the issues raised, Cabinet Office has already got its own rottweiler investigating – Stephen Jenner – who I met at ECEG2009, and whose book I bought, which is largely common sense and to save you the fifteen  quid here’s an interview from the CIPFA PinPoint magazine – CipfapinpointJune09 – he’s also looking for people to do a survey for him –ABRMsurveyv1.0eceg

Importantly for this researcher Maxwell does state that “Putting the citizen, and not the government, at the centre of IT design can have startling results.” (P.14)

One place I would argue with the report is on P.16, where it states that ” information acquired for one purpose in the public sector may be used for another entirely different purpose”, if that had been the case the delivery of electronic government would have been much easier and I’d argued with a senior civil servant about that being a barrier some years ago, and nothing eased.

The same applies to Service Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing, both praised in the book and both being promoted at Cabinet Office, unfortunately the governmental monolith moves slowly and acceptance of these concepts will take time.

Having said that, I welcome a fresh political take on the frequently ignored (by politicos) area of government IT and don’t disagree with any of the conclusions, however implementing them through Whitehall may be a different matter…


Co-production – part 2

January 20, 2009

An article in the latest issue of the journal produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, the professional body for public sector finance staff, who may be described as a rather traditional group, states that:

“we need to understand public services delivery as a dynamic system where organizations, services and users interact to co-produce public services. This goes beyond its comprehension as ‘simple’ inter-organizational networks. Rather, it recognizes that service technology, service users/consumers and service organizations are all in interaction in the production of public service.”

Osborne, S. P. (2009). “Debate: Delivering public services: Are we asking the right questions?” Public Money & Management 29(1): 5-7.

Which being the case, much more agile means of developing, improving and studying service delivery mechanisms need to be used.

Who is doing what at the moment in local government? Joined-up research…

October 26, 2008

I had been in touch with Brendan McCarron of the CIPFA Performance Improvement Network in the past and it had been he that had pointed me to the paper on the Scottish Accounts Commission on gap analysis that I’ve mentioned before:

He has been working with Simon Speller, councillor and academic (who was referenced in the aforementioned report) on customer satisfaction in a series of works for the CIPFA Performance Improvement Network – Improving Customer Satisfaction.

On the 9th October I gave a short presentation in Preston on an academic view of customer satisfaction for the ESD-Toolkit group looking at Customer Insight which is related to the one on profiling. This also provided some feedback to my research – ESD-Toolkit – Customer profiling & satisfaction

On November 11th I am presenting another academic view at the EiP conference in London, the EiP Group is looking at Customer Insight, Citizen Engagement and Change In Local Government

How many more networks are there? I’ve also been involved with Socitm‘s discussions around metrics and these overlap with the ESD-Toolkit since both employ GovMetric, a couple of whose staff I had conversations with at the outset of my research.

Are we all talking to each other folks or are you relying upon me talking to you?

Old whine in new bottles

June 21, 2008

The latest copy of PINpoint, the magazine from the CIPFA Performance Improvement Network, Issue 5, June 2008, includes an interesting compilation from the blogs that are normally in the Network’s mailings but one I must have originally skirted over caught my eye. In theory it should be here but the links didn’t work for me: or

Brendan McCarron had picked up on the fact that the Cabinet Office’s Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Standard launched on 10 March 2008 was a re-working (nice, politically correct phrase) of the Treasury Board of Canada’s ‘defunct’ Service Improvment Initiative that had been run by the ICCS, which was based on work done in the City of Victoria that had similarities to the approach of SERVQUAL developed by Parasurama, Zeitelman and Berry but with the descriptions changed to protect them from litigation or payment! I don’t know about the City of Victoria link but there was a guide published by the State – Woodhouse, S.A. et al., 1993. Listening to Customers: An Introduction. Victoria B.C. Service Quality B.C. Secretariat, Government of British Columbia. – which sounds appropriate. The Canadians have also been pretty good at giving credit to Parauraman et al as can be found from the references to the Client Satisfaction Surveying: Common Measurements Tool:

As it happens the SERVQUAL work is some I have read so that I know that one of the original papers was actually –

SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality.
Parasuraman, A.; Zeithaml, Valarie A.; Berry, Leonard L. Journal of Retailing. 1988 Spr Vol 64(1) 12-40

The abstract can be found at

I wonder if Brendan was trying to catch out plagiarists?

Dan Champion had a go at the CSE web site in accessibility terms shortly after the lauch, so much for customer excellence –

Incidentally the ICCS ‘How to’ guide is available at:

My continuing gripe is taking obsolescent (1988 ) American theory and dressing it up to make it look new and then serving it up twenty years later on, particularly when some of it is no longer correct or appropriate.

I’m not saying my proposal about using customer dissatisfaction to assist in driving process improvments is entirely original and here’s another take upon it:

But it is a novel development of a parsimonious solution to managing the modern multiple service channels in government, something that SERVQUAL wasn’t – its just a little too complicated!