Technology is an enabler, but the direction in which it takes your organisation must come from people says IIzuka Software Technologies Ltd’s commercial director, Donald Malcolm. He feels that his 2-year old company’s approach sets it apart from many others, those who find themselves bogged down by the debate on CRM.
He explains: “Our approach is to recognise that technology is only an enabler. We have some incredibly powerful and flexible tools but the direction must come from people who have an intimate understanding of what needs to be achieved. What our CRM expert partners find is that using our range of reusable components we can deliver exactly what the front line workers need in terms of ease of use, exactly what managers need for measurement and reporting and exactly what was planned to provide a superior customer experience.”
Although the company is relatively young, its team has worked together since 1998. As a result IIzuka has developed an ethos whereby the aim is to sustain the company’s technical advantage, deliver value for money while maintaining a flexible ‘can-do’ attitude to meeting customer needs. The firm’s principal case study is Lancashire County Council for whom they provided tools to help it to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and other legal provision, which aim to increase the online presence, accessibility, and accountability of local and national government services and organisations by 2005.
The relationship with the Council, which aims to be a flagship amongst the other potential Pathfinders, is described as being very good. “We delivered both CASeS and a Welfare Rights caseworker tool, WRoSes to Lancashire County Council in 2003” says Malcolm who adds, “Feedback has been very encouraging. Lancashire Welfare Rights has been the perfect first customer – knowing what they want, questioning how they can go further and always professional in their dealings. This has enabled IIZUKA to develop in the right direction.”
“We are also recognised in Wolverhampton and within the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM)“, he explains. The development of collaborative networks is a key part of IIzuka’s business development strategy, with the ambition of being able to activate its Partner Programme. In order to develop its potential, the company is working within a number of networks, like the one presented by AWM which provides this small West Midlands company with a relatively large shop window to display its expertise.
The growth strategy of IIzuka includes the development of links with universities and other academic centres of excellence. It is primarily working with the University of Strathclyde Business School. Malcolm talks to Insightexec about the rationale behind this strategy:
“The reason behind this initiative is that the institutes are all trying to find ways of implementing the recommendations of the Lambert Report whereby they become closer to local economic regeneration programmes and in particular create partnerships with local businesses. In this context we are at the centre of a new system called BusinessFirstUK, which permits virtual engagement between owner managers and advisers. The system enables remote problem solving to cut costs for all parties.”
He describes the problems within the public sector as being very complex, and argues for a more business-led approach to the way councils run their services and particularly use and implement new technologies. The main problem is that this sector suffers from what Malcolm calls ‘the grand design syndrome’. What does he mean? He feels that too much is “attempted within a single, highly complex flagship programme.”
There are nevertheless a number of opportunities to be found here: “The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) provides clear direction to local authorities; raising school standards, improving quality of life and so on. For us the opportunities lie in our ability to focus on specific problems while providing a bigger platform on which additional services can be plugged in. This is what we achieved in Lancashire and we are working hard on elsewhere.”
The trends, according to Malcolm, within local government are as follows:
1. There is a move away from costly infrastructure programmes (that by definition have no end time) to more business driven projects that deliver immediate value within defined timescales.
2. Projects need to show connection with the citizen. IIZUKA has a unique solution called Citizen Access to Secure electronics Systems (CASeS).
3. A constant requirement is the measurement of quality or Key Performance Indicators.
IIzuka has found that there are three key challenges within the public sector as a whole. The first belongs to finding the right way to measure performance; there is a need to somehow verify the legally required service levels. Security of data, and compliance with the Data Protection Action, forms another part of the equation. He also suggests that the Freedom of Information Act, although beneficial to making local authority services more accessible to the local taxpayer and with regards to the development of e-democracy, can be very costly to implement.
The company is looking beyond the public sector too, and had developed a working relationship with Newell and Budge and others are on the cards. Like with any project, whether it is IT-based or marketing-focused, the key to the success of IIzuka, and the projects of its clients, will be its/their people. People give the power to make a project happen, not the technology itself. This is the key message that Donald Malcolm presents, and it is a core element of a potentially profitable collaborative approach to business development. So your company could perhaps learn from IIzuka’s experiences and profit from its expertise.
By Graham Jarvis
Insightexec Case Study Editor
23rd October 2004
1. West Midlands IT Association
2. IIZUKA Software Technologies Ltd – e-Government
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9. Bridging the Digital Divide – IIZUKA and Lancashire County Council