Insight in place

July 1, 2010

I’m not quite sure where ‘customer insight’ fits into the new governments thinking, along with many other matters, but they seem to have taken a shine to Total Place, especially for the potential to save money. So, when a new publication pops out from the CLG, the Local Government Delivery Council and the IDeA it’s worth an investigation.

The twenty page publication entitled “Customer insight: through a Total Place lens” looks at some of the Total Place pilots and examines how they have employed customer insight. Personally I think ‘customer insight’ is an overplayed concept from marketing, that along with the term ‘customer’ for our citizens should be binned, with all that other neo-liberal NPM jargon! However, I believe we do need to know what our citizens want, expect and deserve and this does not require the semi-mystical ‘customer insight’.

In contrast, Total Place, with its focus on destroying silos cannot be a bad thing! I also believe that Local Information Systems may have their place in identifying the real communities that politics can’t.

The first thing that leaped out to me from the report was the costs of service delivery (Tameside’s) being used on page 7, where we have £1.34 for telephone, which is rather different to the £3.21 figure in Socitm’s Better Connected 2010. Similar contrasts occurred over the other channels.  I’ve discussed these before and suspect that whilst we can’t agree these, we should stop using them, particularly when there will be massive variations across services. Whilst we consider the drive to the web we should also consider another Insight from Socitm, where the web take-up service indicates two out of three visits to council web sites are simply for information finding purposes – this to me indicates the importance of making sure that information is clear, accessible and available and that the web is less about service delivery.

Isn’t the lesson from Total Place is that we should work with other public services to gain insight to our citizens and communities and to stop replication of each other’s work? Let’s have one shared insight.

Building the better web site

June 23, 2010

Not overly keen on performance measures, per se, but as a sometime contributor and member of GovLoop, I was intrigued by a recent submission on that very matter. It’s a presentation by Laura Wesley that I found quite interesting, especially since she appears to have  built up the concept with a deal of co-production.

I believe the presentation and theory worthy of wider discussion. It’s a topic that’s been frequently discussed on the IDeA Communities of Practice and other forums but seems to have dried up a bit recently…

Although the GovLoop site is mainly for US public workers they are very welcoming of those from the UK, so give it a visit you may find it interesting.

Social mediating

March 21, 2010

Whilst the local authority where I reside (City of York) has just published the reults of a survey of residents stating that 17% would find out council information through social media, another report has been issued by NESTA, The Lab and I&DeA promoting their use.

The new report, “Local by Social – How local authorities can use social media to achieve more for less“, is written by Andy Gibson and is a sort of follow-up to another report Social by Social, but this time focused upon local authorities. In reality, from a lot of the examples he provides, it’s actually as much about Web 1.0 as it is about Web 2.0.

Andy proposes the way around the digital exclusion factor of social media is for others to do it for those excluded, an idealistic dream reminiscent of those distant days when many people didn’t have a home telephone and bad news (and sometimes good) was delivered by telegram, and the lucky neighbour or business might prevailed upon in time of emergency for the use of the telephone!

He’s also misled, in these times of increasing austerity, if he thinks councils have the resources to experiment with social media. This maybe so in a lucky few, but many are looking for savings, and luxury items are a target. His argument that better service and savings will be presented is unlikely to be proved, if it was ever viable.

The report also focuses on London and big urgan authorities. On the occasions it does get out to the sticks by describing activities on Lichfield’s web site, he’s describing something that many web masters and mistresses have been doing for some time, which is signposting local services. This is also only information provision, and not really service delivery.

An admirable attempt by someone on the outside, to teach local authorities something they are already attempting to do, against formidable cultural, financial  and political barriers.

NESTA have also been optimistic and contrary in the recent past, when driving their Reboot Britain campaign.

Co-production again

December 20, 2009

Christmas greetings and thanks go out to Adrian Barker at the IDeA who, in his blog, pointed out the existence of “The Challenge of Co-production” from David Boyle and Michael Harris published by NESTA, in cooperation with The Lab and nef.

Co-production is no stranger to this blog with some nine mentions of it in the recent past and two particular posts about it from January 2009, the first of which was entitled Co-production.

It’s some 25 pages of tight small print but is  a useful introduction to what might be done, without offering any solutions, but it does clearly point out some of the existing issues:

P.6 – “The ‘choice’ agenda has been at the heart of policy towards public services for most of the past three decades, but there is increasing doubt about whether it has succeeded in delivering what people actually want.”

P.7 – “The increasing use of consumer language has encouraged people to behave towards public services as they would towards any commercial supplier. Equally, by focusing entirely on people’s needs – rather than what they can contribute – services have tended to dissempower their users and have  done little to prevent needs arising in the first place.

P.8 – Reproduces definition of co-production from: Parks, R. B., Baker, P.C., Kiser, L., Oakerson, R., Ostrom, E.,Ostrom, V., Percy, S.L.,Vandivort, M.B., Whitaker, G.P., Wilson, R., (1981). “CONSUMERS AS COPRODUCERS OF PUBLIC SERVICES: SOME ECONOMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS.” Policy Studies Journal 9(7): 1001-1011. which states – “process through which inputs used to produce a good or service are contributed by individuals who are not ‘in’ the same organisation.”

In general a useful addition to the literature on co-production.

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!

NI14 – the latest!

May 21, 2009

The IDeA have published a four page NI14 update IDeA May 2009 on their Community of Practice web site on the one around National Indicator 14.

The reason for the publication is that the closing date for submission from councils was 30th April 2009 and 350 have apparently submitted. As they are kind enough to highlight the Audit Commission has advised that NI14 is a non-comparable indicator i.e. not a TARGET.

They also state that “The IDeA will continue to gather evidence of both improvements to customer experience and efficiency savings resulting from NI14 data being used as a lever for service improvement and capacity building.”

I’m also examining the use that’s being made of NI14 in my own survey, but also looking at other options.

Why don’t you listen? You might learn something!

March 4, 2009

Hot off the e-press comes a report from the Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) entitled “Information needs”.  This may have some guidance for those in the public sector, in particularly chapter 9, which highlights the public confusion about roles and tasks, and may encorage us in signposting services when considering the different modes or channels of delivery.

There’s also a new document from the Department of Health which may be worth sharing across the public sector. The title is: “Listening, Responding, Improving – A guide to better customer care”. They’ve published a quick guide, along with the main document, which might save some eye strain. As with the outcomes of my research, much of it would be ‘common sense’, in the way that we need to actively listen to the public’s comments around services and, importantly, actively respond, either by changing them accordingly or explaining why they are the way they are! It is all about moving the culture from one of counting complaints to responding to feedback and treating it with value.