The drive for integrated digital services
5 Aug 2021 02:03 PM
Rachel Felix, Digital Programme Manager at Chesterfield Borough Council reflects on how the council has created truly citizen centric services through its digital programme
When you first start out on a digital improvement programme, it’s important to get buy-in from senior stakeholders. Of course, the reality is that this isn’t always as easy as it seems. To navigate any preconceptions at Chesterfield, we decided to badge our project as an ICT improvement programme, and the main reason for doing this was to secure support from councillors.
We also decided to split the programme into two with one workstream focusing on infrastructure and networks and the other looking at business process improvement. The main goal of the programme is to remove technical debt, data silos and any difficulty with case management. No more duplication and time-consuming inefficiency and not being able to see the full picture.
There have been lots of ups, downs, and learning along the way. But one element that has proven to be very successful has been to bring digital skills in-house.
Developing a golden customer record
Upgrading capabilities in a structured way is the key to strong digital transformation and the roadmap we created sets out improvements across the entire council. To do this we have worked with Arcus Global to harness the power of the Salesforce platform. Our corporate vision and strategy from the very beginning has been to utilise this platform as much as possible.
Councils are always striving to provide excellent customer service to citizens, businesses, and visitors. The starting point for the project saw us implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. It’s a key driver of transformation and acts as a data warehouse, where important information is stored, and where processes originate. We found that, as we’ve continued to build our digital provision, more and more transactions and back-office processes rely on CRM integration. The strategy here is not to try and replace them but to work on integrating Salesforce with those systems.
The CRM has reduced the time taken to train new staff, given us a golden customer record, and our advisors now have visibility of all customer interactions, regardless of where they have come from.
The CRM platform also integrates with the Digital Services Hub, a secure self-service portal for citizens. The self-service functionality available through the Hub has already made a positive impact. We had just under 12,000 residents signed up within the first six-months and we’ve started to see the volume of traffic coming into our contact centre reduce, by about 8% compared to previous years.
Developing new capabilities
It’s been a hugely challenging time for local authorities, the pandemic has seen us change the way we work whilst responding to the changing needs of the citizens we serve. Utilising a cloud-based system has meant that data has been much more accessible to the teams that need it, especially when working remotely.
One of our biggest successes to date has been the service we created for business grants. We didn’t launch the digital improvement programme with business grants in mind, but to date, we’ve paid out well over £18 million worth of business grants and received 96% of applications submitted online.
What we’ve quickly been able to see is that by using Salesforce in a number of different departments, the data we hold is more accessible to the teams that need it, helping us streamline processes. We’ve already realised £380K of savings, mainly through the reduction of manual process and reducing administrative burdens.
For authorities setting out on digital improvement projects, it’s really important that you have support managing the changes you plan to implement. The responsibility shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the IT, digital or comms teams. Having the best available technology doesn’t guarantee digital transformation success on its own. You need to have a great team and the right approach and partners on board to help shape the change and measure outcomes.