Councils can be better equipped for the future by adopting strategic platforms which let them transform processes away from older tech to a single service platform, writes Richard Shipton, director local government, Hitachi Solutions
Look at most local government services and it is possible to identify three layers in the process, each with requirements that have evolved with the development of digital systems.
There is the customer experience, enabling a citizen to do anything with the council through any channel, with the online approach now becoming predominant. Then comes the customer service element, ensuring that the interactions between the individual and the council go smoothly and provide assurance that the right steps are taken.
Third is the fulfillment of the request, ensuring the final delivery of the service in an efficient and effective manner. When the customer is satisfied and the organisation has fulfilled its obligations to the community it can be judged a success.
Historically councils have relied on a collection of digital systems working within one of the three layers, holding data within siloes, with a lot of integration work to fit them together. As customer portals have become more sophisticated this has often provided an impressive front end, but still left gaps between the layers and required a manual effort in the back office to fulfil the request.
Those gaps have been a serious shortcoming for local government, often offsetting any gains in the customer experience from a well designed portal. They can produce long delays and, when the data is processed manually, create the risks of errors that undermine the quality of a service.
When the processes become dependent on human handovers – one employee having to let another know what to do and/or confirming what has been done – it creates an extra risk. People are fallible and the more that organisations rely on them the more likely that some tasks will be lost in the gaps.
This has created weaknesses within local authorities and often undermined the quality of their services, becoming painfully apparent in that third layer of fulfilment.
But there is an alternative approach that can close the gaps, integrating the three layers into a whole customer journey within a single platform and removing the scope for error, risk and inefficiencies. It is possible to build this within Microsoft Dynamics 365, which has been developed well beyond the traditional CRM system to provide a range of applications. It can now facilitate most functions required by local authorities, and has the flexibility to both unify and manage each of the three layers of a service with a high quality customer experience.
One of the big advantages in this approach is that by taking out the legacy field service applications you take away the overhead costs of integration. Configuring the various stages through the modules within the platform is a much simpler process. It requires less time, reduced dependence on expensive support and no need to spend on APIs or licences to ensure access to data.
It provides for more automation within the process, reducing the risk of human error and mistakes in service delivery. And it provides a cleaner single view of the customer, enabling a council to see the details of its interactions with the individual across several services, and better understand their needs and likely requirements for the future.
The approach also lays the ground for a more agile approach to service development. As demands change it is possible to configure the processes within the platform without going back to a number of vendors to make required adjustments in their systems.
The fact that services are based on core processes, rather than specific service silos, gives the flexibility to respond to changing demands and rapidly facilitate future services. This will be a big advantage in using a platform as societal changes and tight resources push councils to swiftly find new approaches to service delivery.
Hitachi Solutions’ expertise in the Microsoft cloud platform – especially Dynamics 365 – alongside our experience of local government and wider public sector, means it is well positioned to help make this happen.
Retaining IP ownership and avoiding lock-in
This involves using a set of accelerators which simplify the implementation of local authority services using Microsoft Dynamics 365 through a simple series of configuration steps and automation of common tasks. Customers’ data resides within the Microsoft cloud platform, ensuring that the council retains full control of the data, all of which is open and accessible, using well documented APIs and open standards.
Because Dynamics 365 extends through the three phases of service provision and all data is available in Power BI, it is simple to publish performance dashboards and statutory reports, across the services and the experiences of different service users. And that data can be easily combined with data from councils’ existing systems, providing of course it is as accessible and easy to obtain as it is in Dynamics 365.
Also important in helping authorities avoid lock-in is developing their own capability. Most of my conversations involve an element of knowledge transfer, as more and more authorities look to build a “mixed economy” of skills – both internally and from the market. Hitachi Solutions have a deep technical expertise in Dynamics 365, close links to Microsoft headquarters and staff playing an active role in the community – it is important we share that knowledge with our customers to help them realise platform’s potential. This kind of collaborative partnership is key to helping councils replace their existing business applications and create new end-to-end digital process within the one platform.
We are confident this approach allows councils to exploit the potential of the single platform in bringing together the three layers of service delivery. This creates an opportunity to take a new approach to service delivery in local government, with the promise of a more efficient and effective delivery and a big step towards a positive relationship between a council and local community.
You can see how Hitachi is approaching transformation in local government with Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the video below - or visit our website to learn more.
Meanwhile keep an eye out here on UKAuthority for our joint Local Government white paper exploring how councils can share assets across the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform!