The cutting floor

June 29, 2010

The latest announcement of cuts from the new government appeared on Kable on the 25 June 2010.  The Minister, Francis Maude, is quoted as saying that he wants departments and agencies to slash the costs of their web sites “by up to 50%”. Since “up to 50%” could mean anything between 0% and 49%, it was a strange statement, but at least it’s not more than 50%! He also desires them to move onto a common framework, which is obviously one of the greatest savings.

Francis Maude has identified that the previous government’s instruction to reduce the number of sites has had limited effect and that there are 794 still open, whilst he wants to close 422, which  I calculate would leave 372. However, the COI report quoted in the same Kable report indicates £94million has been spent in the last year on 46 sites, which is a lot of money in anyone’s book. Unsurprisingly one of the new ones is that of businesslink.gov.uk, which I imagine is hosting the notorious EU Services Directive, discussed occasionally over the last six months.

Interestingly, both the Kable and Register reports lead back to the Central Office of Information web site, where they’ve just produced a new report that ties it all together with the Public Accounts Committee recommendations that originally started the cull. The CoI site also hosts the guidance to measuring costs, usage and quality, along with usability (I pointed to these in May 2009).

For local government, rationalizing web sites and at the same time gaining better usage is also a challenge but a major issue I believe is finding a CMS supplier with a licensing model that permits multiple .gov.uk domains without multiplying the cost up in an equivalent manner, so that sharing becomes a real option. If anybody can recommend one, please let me know…

My main grievance with the CoI methodology is that whilst in areas like inclusivity and usage it’s excellent, I prefer employing feedback from all channels to refine the service, not just the delivery mechanism, in this case the web or call centre. I accept central government is different, and they need to remember that too – a lot of local government contact is face-to-face and that should be recorded with the other channels.

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April Fool

April 1, 2010

When I first read the news on Kable that Sir Peter Gershon, ex-head of the OGC and former government adviser, was now advising the Conservative Party to outsource all back office functions, I thought it was an early April Fool!

The Financial Times also seemed a bit surprised by his transfer of allegiance to the Conservative Party and their ideology, reprinting some of his old quotes, when still a “mandarin”.

Perhaps what annoys me is that he is still pushing the adage that outsourcing the back office will save money. Who is he working for now? EDS, IBM, Capita? All that happens when you transfer the back office outside local control is that the government continues to pay though the nose for the existing service and the citizen gets a raw deal as the private sector tries to make bigger profits.

OK, the services are taking time to change. The answer is not to outsource a process heavy system but to pick prime applications that are ready for improvement and look at them end-to-end, particularly from the view of the citizen, then change them to be better for the citizen, whilst reducing the density of process and resultant cost overhead. The saving can then go into the public purse not the shareholder pocket!

We’ve been kicking this one around for over ten years now. Transformational government is not about delivering electronic services, it’s about improving the whole process, the fact that web front-ends or call centres appear should only happen when the process is examined for defect or variation.

Go on Peter, pull the other one!


Analogues of service

November 5, 2009

The current edition of Government Computing magazine contains an interview with Kevin Carey of ATcare and chair of HumanITy and the RNIB.

The interview is a fascinating insight into what accessibility should be about by someone with a disability and experience of exclusion having become blind in early adulthood. Carey argues for server-based computing, perhaps what we’ll get with the “government cloud” (G-Cloud) of the future, but is currently delivered by the likes of MS Terminal Services and Citrix. Carey also pushes for greater use of SMS, which I can understand but as a delivery agent the progression of this is only stifled by the public’s frequest change of mobile phone numbers and unwillingness to provide them to goovernment agencies – perhaps they’re getting less shy?

My major agreement with Carey is on e-services and e-forms trying to replicate existing paper-based ones – the analogues of the title, and I agree with the need to simplify systems and change legislation to get over some of the current problems.

He’s also right about overloaded home pages and those with fast-moving Java applications – not very nice looking either!

If anybody has trouble getting a copy, since Kable don’t appear to do it electronically, email me and I’ll send a e-copy, if that’s not breaking too many laws?


publicexperience

April 21, 2009

Had an informative email conversation with William Heath of Kable fame (now part of the Grauniad group) the other night. He picked me up on the fact that I had no link to him (idealgovernment.com), which is now fixed.  He also ponted me to two other recent projects publicexperience.com and ctrl-shift.co.uk.

The publicexperience.com one is the ‘wouldn’t it be better if’ site, where the public are given the oppotunity of reporting a bad public service experience in that manner. The ctrl-shift.co.uk is a company specialising in customer engagement research.

Yet again, I was confirmed that I wasn’t completely off my rocker doing this research, although the metrics being investigated are looking slightly more complex than my ideal. However they are all places to watch!

A little while ago I blogged about the Read report. Well, it was released today (21 April 2009 in advance of the Budget speech) and is reported on Kable amongst others. Let’s see what happens in the Budget!

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