Evaluation of Digital Strategy for Borough Council

2089 words (8 pages) Essay

8th Feb 2020 Social Policy Reference this

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Introduction

In assignment one the current position of Solihull MBC was presented and this report will discuss the position and the barriers found and also discuss the importance and consequences of not implementing changes.

The digital ambitions of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council are set out in its Digital Strategy whereby a digital transformation programme has been started to transform services both internally and externally, the vision is to engage in a digital way for businesses, residents, visitors and staff. Appropriate processes will be designed so they can be delivered digitally. Customers will be encouraged to create online accounts with the Council. Critical systems will be identified and will integrate with the corporate customer relationship management system. 

The findings from assignment one include

Lack of funding available to the Council, the UK economy and how this has an impact as being tax funded it depends on a well performing UK economy and funding from the Government.

Information governance and security worries

Collaboration of data across partners to support communities and individuals

Poor integrated legacy systems throughout the Council that mean more staff time is spent to access and deal with customers.

Staff training to implement and use systems.

The Council needs to consider these barriers when setting out its approach to delivering the digital strategy which will contribute to delivering value and managing demand. They need to utilise technology to enable customers to be more self reliant and redesign services to improve the customer experience and save money.

Discussion   analysis of the situation and recommended improvements and impacts said improvements will have from the business and/or customer/employee perspective

The current situation at Solihull MBC like many other local authorities is the reduction in funding available and the economic downturn has a direct effect on Council services as more residents face redundancy or reduction in working hours which can lead to rent and council tax arrears as they would have less disposable income, this all adds pressure on the Council not only in collection of income but also on the demand for help and advice. The Council needs to invest in a digital transformation programme to utilise technology as this will improve the customer experience and save money as less staff will be required to deal with customer enquiries.

As reported on the local government website Central Government funding has been cut by 40 per cent over the period of this parliament and according to the Institute of Fiscal studies this will continue until 2020. To overcome this challenge the Council must transform the way they deliver services by redesigning and reorganizing. An important part of this is using technological innovations to offer better management of demand, more reliable and efficient ways of delivering routine transactions and a greater use of shared data. The aim for the Council is to improve outcomes for customers and realise financial savings. 

With the budget cuts Councils are looking for new innovative ways to deliver services to improve quality at reduce costs, Forest Hill District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council saved £300.000 annually through better use of geographical data for reporting streetcare issues more effectively and Surry Council Council piloted the early stages of technology to track potholes using motion sensors on mobile phones.

It was also identified that a barrier is that not one system has a single view of the customer and so customers may have to give their details several times or have several login’s to accommodate the different silo legacy systems that exist throughout the Council. By joining up systems in the different parts of the Council will enhance the customer experience, and free up staff to focus on helping customers with more complex needs. Knowing what customers are contacting the Council about will help towards reducing demand and these analytics will identify what services are creating the most contact and so can be analysed to find the root cause of reoccurring issues.

The Council must look at its staff as they need to transform by thinking and acting differently, digital is no longer an enhancement or something that supports a traditional method of doing things. It transforms, it innovates, it displaces and it transforms (Aronson, P).

The council must acknowledge that not all staff and customers will have the skills and confidence to use the new technology, digital skills will need to be identified and developed, as more straightforward customer enquiries are moved to the digital channel customer services need to be aware that there staff will only be dealing with the more complex difficult enquires and likely to be less staff and these will need to be multi skilled, problem solvers with excellent soft personable skills.

As digital technologies become and increasing part of everyones daily lives it is essential that the Council exploit the potential, but there must be an awareness of staff and customers who are unable or unwilling to use the technology.

The impact of demographic changes also has to be considered, Solihull has an aging population compared to other local authorities which will have a financial impact to offer the older adults help and support. There is a minority of people who cannot or do not wish to embrace technology and digital access to services. The Council cannot ignore or neglect these customers included in the vision is an assisted digital approach for those who self serve is not an option. An ONS survey published in February 2014, found that 6.7 million adults (13 per cent of the UK), over half were disabled, had never used the internet.

Conclusion Summary of how the business situation will change with the implementation of recommendations and what impacts this will have on the organisation

As reported in the (Council Plan) effective financial planning is a key strength in Solihull by rising to the challenges presented by steep reductions in government funding with sustained and growing demand for our services. This has been done by managing demand, reducing costs and harnessing the potential of technology to improve systems and processes to enable customers to be more self reliant and redesign services in ways that improve customer experience and save money.

Due to the changes in customers needs and expectations this gives Solihull a significant demand pressure which is driven by changes to lifestyles, demographics and the growth of new technologies as well as the year on year reduction in funding, the Council needs to use cost benefit analysis to determine the most appropriate solutions this may be developing in house solutions or buy in solutions

To deliver a digital transformation programme funding needs to be allocated either from using capital funding or by bidding for government grants that are made available for digital innovation projects, this would require a business case being done. To identify the requirements of the suitable technology will require the Council investing in resources that includes funding not only for the right technology but also for the right people and the right training for staff.

(A singleton, civica) suggests that local authorities should start to look at IT suppliers as partners to work with in collaboration to deliver the vision and aims for the future, technology partners could support with strategies to generate income. They could work to devise innovative technology to increase the councils income without the need to reduce staff.

The digital transformation programme must include integrating key systems as this will improve performance and productivity by reducing the risk of errors and staff time spent logging into different systems and re-keying information. This would encourage customers to self-serve by logging their own requests but also it would keep them informed of its progress.

The integration of social media channels such as facebook, twitter and live chat should be considered as this is currently managed outside of the corporate customer relationship management system and so more resources needed to deal with these enquires. 

When new back office systems are procured the digital capabilities should include the potential to integrate now or in the future with the corporate customer relationship management system to avoid outdated silo systems staying as a barrier.

Digital transformation must start with the Chief Executive as there needs to be a culture and appetite for the new ways of working and embed being a digital organization.

To keep momentum going as the council are very often bad at making digital things happen as they are very risk adverse, they should make a few small quick wins, rather than trying to do everything in one go

When developing a team to deliver integration it should include staff that have a clear understanding of existing systems and processes. Existing processes most likely will need to be redesigned in a digital way and the technology is developed to support the delivery of the process, processes should not change just to use new technology.  This must include the customers experience and journey. 

Any initiatives to transform the Council needs new thinking from the leadership, to apply new technologies and increase the use of digital tools a highly focused approach is required

The speed at which technology has and is changing, the access customers have to the internet on numerous devices creates pressures for the Council to meet the way customers want and expect to engage with the Council. The development of technology gives more opportunities for the council to communicate and engage with its customers and gather data which gives a better understanding of customer behavior to enable the Council to use this knowledge to make informed decisions to prioritise investment and improvements required. It also brings challenges as customers expect services to be available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, this can be difficult to manage and maintain along with providing an excellent customer experience. Expand on staff to develop skills

Providing an excellent customer experience is a challenge especially when there is no personal interaction, companies like Amazon have completely changed the customer experience and expectations, customers expect convenient, simple and immediate responses to requests and questions.

As part of the Councils Digital Strategy is to support the rollout of superfast broadband across the Borough as this is shown to have a positive impact on social and economic factors such as social inclusion and employment. (Evangelista) argues that the mere accessibility to ICT facilities is only a pre-condiition for moving towards a digitalised society, while the level and the quality in the use of these technologies, play a much more important role. They conclude that digitalisation may drive productivity and employment growth and may effectively contribute to bridge the gap between the most favoured and the disadvantaged parts of the population

References

  • Aronson, P. (2018) ‘Will We Survive?’, Security: Solutions for Enterprise Security Leaders, 55(1), p. 28. Available at: http://oxfordbrookes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=127104255&site=ehost-live (Accessed: 11 December 2018).
  • Evangelista, R., Guerrieri, P. and Meliciani, V. (2014) ‘The economic impact of digital technologies in Europe’, Economics of Innovation & New Technology, 23(8), pp. 802–824. doi: 10.1080/10438599.2014.918438.
  • Anthony singleton – Why technology innovation in local government is about people, not IT
  • Read journal on legacy integration page 319 

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