A lesson in efficiency

August 5, 2010

In the Municipal Journal of 22 July 2010 is a piece by Paul Bradbury of Civica entitled “budgets & efficiency – there is thinking outside of the box”. The piece draws upon public finance body CIPFA‘s survey of finance directors in April. As one can probably intuit the survey was sponsored by Civica.

Surprise, surprise that two of the bullet-pointed ‘strategic responses’ identified both by the survey and Civica were “extending outsourcing as part of a pragmatic service delivery mix, and using managed IT and related business services”, along with “re-engineering entire frontline to back-office processes at the corporate departmental level”.

No argument with the second one but advise doing it BEFORE outsourcing, otherwise you are giving away ALL the profit, however the first one should be a dead duck in the water from experiences of ten years of e-government! Strategically having ones IT managed, if one has a suitable contract in place is one thing, but you can just look back at the cases where it has been brought back in-house, or would have been if the financial penalties hadn’t been so large.

With G-Cloud looming the possibilities for managed IT are formidable, but does this require outsourcing, I don’t think so.


Cultural shift

March 25, 2010

In this blog I haven’t tended to agree with Ben Page, the Chief Executive of Ipsos MORI. I am now going to make an exception!

In the Municipal Journal of 18 March 2010* he contributes to the Soapbox column, as he has in the past, with a piece largely on council communications and the financial cuts.  In response to politicians sating that they are going to get more online to save costs, he picks up some key points including:

  • the fact that citizens are more interested in service information than performance information
  • that a number will continue to rely on printed material for sometime
  • information is unlikely to empower anyone apart from the small minority already engaged

He concludes by stating that “A cultural shift in the relationship between service users and public services is required. Don’t expect dramatic changes in awareness and attitudes in the next five years.”

My own academic research supports that and indicates that one way forward is implementing the “Citizen Engagement System” and actively employing the feedback at a service and political level to regain trust from the public. Even using such a mechanism, it will take time, since recommendations will have to be seen to be being carried out.

This is also reflected on page 45 of the new (launched 25th March 2010) Total Place report where it considers what a successful procurement system would look like:

“Local services geared towards meeting the needs and demands of service users and citizens – structuring services to meet those needs through engaging them in service design and monitoring of performance and working across service silos to focus on the outcomes for the person rather than the individual services they receive.”

So I may not be far from the truth, after all!

* To those without a paper copy I apologise – the content of MJ is frequently reproduced on http://www.localgov.co.uk but at a later date!

Making contact with NI 14

February 24, 2009

The electronic version of the Municipal Journal we will be streaming a live debate on NI14 this Thursday (26th February 2009) at 12:00 noon. If you tune in you can ask questions to the panel via an interactive service. You may have to register (free) on the site if you haven’t already.


Further to that,  Ruination Day, as it was named by Gillian Welch, approaches!  The 14th day of April will soon be here, the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Titanic striking the iceberg and probably many other things (well, there’s a one in 365 and a bit chances).

The 14th day of April is the date I chose in 2008 to launch my questionnaire around e-government metrics, along with first publicising the blog I named the Great E-mancipator, another Abe Lincoln link. The blog has had a steaday stream of visitors since, the questionnaire received sufficient responses to make it worthwhile, so many thanks to those who have contributed to this piece of action research.

This year I’m repeating part of the survey to discover any developments in the past twelve months, along with a slight extension to pick up any vibes around recording satisfaction, dissatisfaction or engagement. Although, as the literature advises I’m keeping the number of questions within reason i.e. less than fifteen “real” questions, but ethical research requires I add five more!

The recording of “avoidable contact”, if properly done, could have benefits, in that users might reconsider their systems from the point of view of the citizen interaction, but what if the citizen is largely avoiding contact due to poor channel implementation? How will we ever find out? My view of measurement has come about by looking at the options reviewed in the literature, and in the private sector, and seeing engagement proposed. We can measure the amount of contact over the channels and see which ones are being used and, possibly importantly, when. We can encourage feedback across all the channels from both citizens and staff, to highlight issues with the employment of those channels for service delivery and how the service is delivered. We can used this combined information to improve service delivery, along with channel usage. It goes a little further than systems thinking and “Gemba“, it reaches out to the citizens, and, rather than employing sophisticated forumulae as proposed by Parasuraman and particularly those who have followed him most recently, it keeps it simple and monitors developments over time.

Are there any suggestions out there? What questions would you ask about NI14? What measures can you imagine being used to improve service delivery across the range of current and future channels?