Head of Public Sector/Services, Bluefin Solutions
ICT as a key enabler to delivering cost and efficiency savings
The announcement in the recent emergency budget that local authorities are to face a cut in their budgets of £1.2 billion, has led to much debate as to how this can possibly be achieved. Many authorities have already well-established programmes that have delivered savings. But they now have to look again at new ways to achieve the tougher targets they have been set. The debate now is whether ICT can step up to the table and been seen as key enabler to help deliver the savings required.
Too much data, too little information
Effective decision making requires access to the right information at the right time. And it’s never been more important than now. Consider this: there is a sudden overspend on a service budget, but there is no supporting analysis of why this has occurred or a plan to rectify it. The recent National Audit Office report, “Is there something I should know?” noted that less than 5% of councils have excellent data quality, and 80% of council’s say a lack of in-depth analysis is a major problem.
Elsewhere it has been reported that 65% of councils still face problems sharing data with external partners. Throw into the mix the fact that everyone is now being asked to review their expenditure plans and have new budgets available for the autumn, there is an ever-present danger that organisations revert to ‘crisis management’ mode rather than careful reviewing and budgeting of the options. There is no question that, provided with the right information, managers make better-informed decisions that can lead to improvements in standards and reductions in in efficiency and waste.
Cloud computing: fluffy or real?
In July, Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude challenged the big Public Sector ICT suppliers to find ways of bringing down the cost of ICT. Inevitably this has brought up the usual discussions around outsourcing, whether in the UK or overseas, and the use of Shared Service offerings. A number of local authorities have already been down these routes and pocketed the savings. But now the challenge is bigger. According to the London Government Association, councils will be expected to achieve efficiency savings of between 10-15% over the two to three years.
Under the previous government, as part of the Digital Britain strategy, the concept of the G-Cloud was launched. Although in the current economic climate there may no longer be any money to invest in it, there is no doubt that Cloud Computing can deliver agility, flexibility and elastic scalability - all attributes that will be essential over the coming years. The challenge Cloud Computing faces in the public sector is one of data security and privacy risk management and assurance.
Serving the citizen
Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications in local authorities has long been about enabling front line customer service staff to deal with all the citizens’ routine requests and queries at the first point of contact. This helps prevent the caller from being passed around until their issue is resolved. As a result, requests are tracked, an audit trail is created and ideally there is one source of the truth. The citizen has improved satisfaction with smoother interactions and improved response times. However, with the challenging times ahead, combined with greater expectations of the levels of service we expect as consumers, new ways of operating are being considered. Some local council’s are now sharing their CRM systems and spreading the costs. Some more enlightened teams are recognising that several agencies can serve the same citizen. So why not provide a single CRM access point?
There are a few local authorities and PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) who have combined forces to deliver a single point of contact, whether it be a query about a bin not being collected, or the opening hours of the accident and emergency department. The aggregation of citizen facing services is perhaps another tool in the kit bag to deliver the cost savings being demanded without impacting the quality of the service.
The message behind all of these examples is that ICT still has a powerful to role to play in enabling greater cost savings and efficiencies within local authorities. Now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bath water, as they say, but make strategic, innovative investments that build on existing systems, by enhancing their delivery, data and access.
Bluefin Solutions has helped local authorities address the issues mentioned above in a variety of ways. But, more generally, a specific theme has developed:
“Citizen” relationship management
We have helped customers in a number of ways using CRM technology as an underlying enabler. More generally, the SAP CRM solution has been used extensively across a wide variety of industries to:
- Capitalise on customer insight by empowering the marketing team
- Improve front line efficiency and effectiveness
- Increase customer retention and loyalty by providing service staff with the information they need to meet and exceed customer expectations
Bluefin Solutions has a vast wealth and knowledge of the SAP CRM product suite and how to ensure SAP customers maximise the return on their CRM investment. Specifically, we can assist Local authorities in the following areas:
- Building the business case for the deployment of a SAP CRM solution
- Managing the CRM project implementation project lifecycle, from blueprint through to realisation and post go-live support
- Project management of CRM upgrades, both from a technical and functional perspective
- Understanding the use of mobile technologies/solutions and their impact on customer service and integration with CRM solutions.