Leading software specialist, NDL, which currently supplies integration technology to a third of local authorities is calling on Government to provide central guidelines which prioritises integration as the key to unlocking the efficiency and cost savings long-promised by channel shift (CRM & Web) and shared services.
The call, which comes as a result of findings revealed by the company’s annual Integration and Efficiency Report, has already won the backing of public services improvement partnership, iNetwork and Public Sector Networks, the online community dedicated to boosting the use of technology in improving public sector delivery.
The report was compiled following interviews with senior IT professionals at two thirds of UK local authorities and examines the extent to which local authorities use technology to aid information management by effective back-office integration, self-service portals and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. It is the eighth year the report has been published.
This year’s report, the first since the full impact of the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) has been felt by councils, revealed that 92% of respondents believed integration was the best way to boost the effectiveness of CRM. A similarly high percentage (84%) felt lack of integration was a barrier to realising the full potential of self-service channels such as websites, kiosks and automated phone systems.
Both CRM and self-service channels, such as transactional websites, were widely introduced by councils in response to Government guidance in the mid-noughties, with the aim of increasing efficiency and reducing the ‘cost-per-contact’ with customers. However, five years on and the report shows that 50% of councils are still rekeying at least 40% of the data which is entered into CRM, while almost 50% are rekeying at least 75% of data received via e-forms.
NDL’s Declan Grogan commented: “Rekeying is an incredibly resource intensive process which makes errors endemic; it can’t possibly be justified as being a good use of an employee’s time. What these figures show in a broader sense is that integration is still the missing piece of the efficiency jigsaw. The huge investment made in CRM and other self-service channels won’t be unlocked until the councils actually prioritise effective integration. In fact, at the moment these measures, which were introduced to improve efficiency, are adding another layer of administration.”
The report also shows that more than 80% of respondents said they are ‘likely’ to spend money on some integration in the next 12 months – a figure mirrored in NDL’s 2010 and 2011 reports. When questioned about the NHS’ integration-led ‘connect all’ strategy, which supersedes the ‘replace all’ ethos of Connecting for Health, three quarters of respondents believed that a similar policy should be adopted by local government. However when asked to list their top priorities for the coming year they failed to actually identify back-office integration.
Declan commented: “Taken together the report show that there is a real understanding of the benefits integration can bring and how it can unlock the significant investment councils made in CRM and self-service channels. However, it is also clear that progress is painfully slow and councils are failing to prioritise integration. The approach seems to be very piecemeal with no common structure or frame work such as ‘connect all’ to work to.
“With the 2010 CSR really beginning to bite and more cuts on the horizon, there is a new urgency to prioritise integration and this is why we are calling on Government to introduce some leadership and targets in this area. Government doesn’t need to tell councils how to do it, just provide a clear framework of what is expected of them and when as they did with the IEG strategy.
Phil Swan, Director of iNetwork, commented: “In his letter to councils following the last CSR, Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said the emphasis must be on creativity and innovation however local government, which has always shown considerable local innovation, seems to be being asked to shoulder the burden on behalf of the public sector as a whole.”
“The government’s expectation is that private organisations, individuals and voluntary and community organisations will fill the service provision gap, but with increasing service fragmentation we need a seismic shift in thinking on how we join up information in a multi-agency context. The DCLG is well aware of this from the work they are leading on Troubled Families, work which involves co-ordinating information from multiple council departments, as well as educational establishments, the police and health services. They also know it isn’t going to happen by magic this needs a lot of work and thinking through at a time when funding cuts are hammering capacity and resources. The department could do so much more. It needs to roll up its sleeves and help tackle this issue head on in a more holistic manner.”
“This isn’t a technology issue. It’s a people and funding issue. The technology to affect these changes has been in place for a number of years, and there are any number of examples which show that, when implemented well, this technology delivers results and unlocks the significant investment that has been made in self-service channels and CRM. We have a real window of opportunity to join up services, for better local integration and for simplification and alignment of activities across government.”
“Done effectively the government could have a much more beneficial impact on the quality of service citizens receive it would means that those who want to self-serve can while those who need personalised support receive it in a joined up way without having to give different agencies the same information again and again.””
Mr Grogan concluded: “We are delighted that iNetwork has lent their support to our campaign and we are determined to build on this momentum by building a broad coalition of interested parties. I would like to personally invite any organisations or individuals interested in finding out more or lending their support to please get in touch.”
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In nearly a third of UK local government organisations, NHS Trusts and housing associations, NDL’s tried and trusted integration and mobile working solutions are playing a major role in the delivery of transformational public services.
NDL’s integration technology provides real time, bi-directional data flow to the vast majority of back-office applications, enhancing the service that public service organisations can deliver. NDL’s line-of-business mobile application platform allows public service organisations to realise the significant cost and time benefits mobile working can bring.