Why bother?

December 29, 2008

I had started academic research before the Millennium examining the challenges to District Councils in England, this had confirmed my suspicions that a lack of integration, citizen-focus and partnership working were drawbacks, perhaps as a result of the centrally-imposed targets and laterly  the Priority Service Outcomes that were to be detailed following 2001.

Even more contradictory was the lack of consideration for the Community Planning aspect of the Modernising Government agenda. I had discussed a joint piece of work with a regional university around examining citizens’ views of service delivery arrangements in parallel with views on meeting the electronic targets being attempted, but unfortunately pressures to meet the targets didn’t leave enough time to carry out the research further.

Following the target deadline I breathed a sigh of relief and was left attempting to embed the learning of the last few years with providing services in the manner wanted by the citizen. At this point I attempted again to consider the research and contacted a university that had a history of work in local government, digital inclusion and electronic voting, De Montfort, with a research proposal, which was accepted! Unfortunately or fortunately I was then seriously ill but the period of rest and recuperation gave me time to focus on reading and the the reading distracted me from the gravity of my situation.

The reading indicated that very little academic work had still been done on e-government and that studies by the likes of Gartner Research had revealed some quite complex systems for measuring electronic service delivery that were probably only fit for national governments. What was also revealed was a long running debate as to whether government was dealing with customers or citizens, with most of the votes in favour of calling the people a government deals with citizens, this included the Government of Canada supporting the move. Another long running piece of work review ended up around assessing customer satisfaction, which along with measuring the gap between expectation and delivery, has seen a great number of papers published but no great conclusions made.

The recent favourite approach in business is to employ customer engagement measurement rather than customer relationship management and this I conclude is a viable approach, which is that by pushing for and collating feedback from all customers, which, in the context of government, I prefer to call citizens, across all channels, we can try  to improve issues in end-to-end services by correcting them using the feedback.

We still have a long way to go in channel management and  I think citizen engagement management is a move in the right direction, it will also assist in both avoiding digital exclusion issues along with creating quality services, It was also the approach I took when I created the blog http://greatemancipator.com, in order to discuss these issues and promote them amongst practitioners. Academic research tends to be focused on learn-ed conferences, very wordy and expensive journals, so my approach of sticking the outcomes under the nose of anyone interested and asking for their participation seemed a sensible approach.

In the New Year I intend to have another survey along with starting a series of interviews with particularly appropriate individuals. Any volunteers or suggestions?

Season’s greetings and a prosperous new year to everyone!


Researching local government, Web 2.0 and Service-oriented architecture

September 2, 2008

Adrian Barker of the IDeA posted the following on his blog on the 30th August 2008

“Practical, up-to-date research?

Read a fascinating article [1] today which uses a mixture of statistical techniques and semi-structured interviews to show that inspection on its own has no impact on performance, that a strategy of innovation does, and that supportive inspection can enhance an innovative strategy.

Good as this is, it was published in 2008, the article was submitted in May 2006, based on fieldwork in 2002-3.  I don’t blame the researchers: that’s the way the system works, but there must be innovative ways to combine current practitioner insights with academic rigour to produce practically useful research with rapid turnaround.  Sounds like a job for LARCI.

[1] Rhys Andrews, George Boyne, Jennifer Law and Richard Walker, ‘Organizational Strategy, External Regulation and Public Service Performance’, Public Administration, Vol. 86, No. 1, 2008 (185-203).


I actually got to it later at:


In response I posted the following on 1st September 2008:


Interesting post and I’ll read the paper once I’m at home – work system doesn’t like cookies and Interscience forces one!

As a current practioner/researcher (as you know) there are reasons for this that LARCI won’t influence:

My current research questionnaire (13 questions) has managed around 31 responses – hardly statistically significant but my supervisors consider that good for local government! In fact when I circulated the link to the questionnaire at a meeting the President of Socitm stated that he didn’t respond to academic research because ‘once they’d got you they never let you alone’. So researchers find getting feedback out of government like getting s**t out of a rocking horse! So not a popular topic.

Papers take some time to turn around with peer-review unless you are lucky! If a reviewer reccomends major changes it can take ages and then has to go through the process again! Luck has a lot to answer for. I submitted a paper at the start of this year April and the conference is in September – that’s pretty fast! I’m currently drafting abstracts for 12 months ahead – you also need to be psychic!

I know people get bothered by undergraduate or MBA researchers but the only way to train people is to let them loose! I am provisionally presenting work through ESD-toolkit and EIP to get it out to the practitioners along with the blog – any other suggestions? I’m not sure the CO, DCLG or AC want to know the truth otherwise they might assist but I’m always impressed by Audit Scotland and CIPFA who circulate some good stuff!”

Research was never easy but practical research in the government community is a cross only a few demented people seem to chose!

Dave Briggs circulated the following:

“Just a quick note to inform you all about an event I’m running with Peterborough City Council for local government types to find out about what’s going on in the sector with social media, web 2.0 and whatnot.

More info at http://davepress.net/2008/09/01/readwritegov/ with booking at http://readwritegov.eventbrite.com/

To which I reponded:

“Thanks Dave, I’ll circulate to colleagues – is it in competition with the Socitm event? 😉
By the way, I was reading up on the history of SOA (service oriented architecture), which was posited by a Gartner consultant (Yefim Natis in 1996) and there is a recent Gartner paper suggesting that Web 2.0 is distracting from SOA, which should be the real concern. Its one of those front versus back office dialogues. This is in the general business sector.

For the public sector, to confuse metters, I’m trying to develop a Citizen Oriented Architecture which is a mix of front office and performance tools that could then meet with the back-office SOA.

Any views on SOA versus Web 2.0?”

And I’ll ask here, too – any views on SOA versus Web 2.0 – is it the cart before the horse or what? Of course one does need to have done one’s system/process stuff before implementing SOA but scraping, blogging and mashups are very front-end tools!