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The big opportunity in 'council in a box'

Industry voice: 'Council in a box' represents an opportunity for local authorities to take a big step forward in implementing their digital strategies, wherever they are in the journey, writes John Jervis at IEG4. 

All councils do things. The same things, over and over again. What things? Well, they all:

  • take money (payments for services such as garden waste, parking permits, etc);
  • pay out money (payments for welfare benefits, rebates, etc);
  • receive forms (applications for things, questions);
  • receive and process documents (as part of the above, or separately);
  • send notifications (we have received, we are processing, etc);
  • answer questions (when is my bin collected, benefit paid, etc?).

Not only do all councils do the same things, more or less, but all departments in all councils do those same things. There are hundreds of local authorities and in any one there may be dozens of departments. They may be all doing things slightly differently with their own systems and software – an approach which might be described as inefficient.

In 2015, the director of the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) Eddie Copeland, then working for the Policy Exchange, imagined a scenario where local authorities would no longer design and/or buy their own online services, because those software services were essentially doing the same ‘things’ as in every other local authority.

Instead, software services would be available in an ‘app store’, having been created by different organisations, and would be used by dozens or even hundreds of local authorities. This would, because of economies of scale, be more efficient (ie cost-effective, saving councils money).

In line with Copeland’s vision, IEG4 has created a store of ‘apps’ enabling local authorities to share developments under our concept of Local Government as a Platform, or LGaaP. 

Our approach is that, while councils do like to do things their own way, which means there is some reinvention of the wheel going on, it is also true that increasing numbers are happy to share. And through IEG4U, the company’s customer portal, they are able to make forms they have built for ‘things’ available for other councils to see and share.

Additionally, IEG4’s own free library of forms numbers around 100, which is also available to all customers on the portal. This means that from day one users have access to a library of in excess of 250 forms.This may be to get started on a coherent strategy, or to pull a number of disparate departmental approaches together.

Coherence, look and feel

They get access to the forms, which have a shared coherence, the same look and feel, making it easier for citizens to recognise and navigate their way through a form. And if citizens find it easier to use online services, then channel shift, digital transformation, really does happen.

The tool used by the local authorities, eDesigner, also comes with the means to create trackable processes – a workflow/EDMS tool we call OpenProcess.

All of the forms share other benefits of eDesigner:

  • All forms are mobile responsive and trackable.
  • Forms can be used in existing EDMS/workflow or with Open Process.
  • Forms can be tracked by citizens.
  • No code payment integration is involved, including for GOV.UK.Pay.
  • No code back office integration.
  • No code mapping integration.
  • Smart search tags make it easy to find forms.
  • It is possible to deploy a built service in seconds.

So for the things that all departments in all councils do, over and over again – the paying in and out, the tracking of requests, the receipt and sending of forms, the notifications etc – there is a store, a place where councils can share.

To discover how IEG4's LGaaP solution can help local authorities to manage their own day-to-day digital contact with citizens click here

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