Two announcements passed across our desk last week that give mixed signals about the adoption of CRM by UK local government. Firstly, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced a £4.25 million project. The National Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Programme was officially launched on Tuesday 17th June at Cabot Hall in London. Unfortunately, due to prior commitments we couldn’t be there, but nevertheless we believe we have enough information on the programme to comment. Secondly, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council is to spend more than £2 million to implement Frontline by the UK’s Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) specialist Lagan at its new Customer Contact Centre.
Of course, all this is chicken-feed compared with the £2.5 billion that the UK government estimates local authorities need to spend on E-gov by 2005 (see CRM Opportunities in e-Government). In our own comments on that program, both here on the CRM-Forum and in response to the request from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for comments on their strategy, we have highlighted that we believe CRM is an essential component of the e-gov initiative, so we can hardly cavil at the idea of adopting a Local Government CRM strategy.
However, the second announcement is a bit more worrying. Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council is to spend more than £2 million implementing Frontline to further improve service delivery to the borough’s 290,000 residents.
Lagan is currently working with the Council on the implementation of phase one, with several further phases to follow. The initial phases will involve the Council’s Fair Trading, Streetscene, Revenues and Benefits, and Housing service areas with the first phase on schedule to be operational in the summer.
The initial number of 30 Contact centre staff – to be called Customer Service Representatives - is expected to increase to around 100 over the next two years.
As well as providing the systems, implementation and support for the Customer Contact Centre Lagan is also providing the capability to integrate with the council’s current legacy systems, some as much as 20 years old, integrating them into new CRM and telephony applications.
Stockport Council has 128 different systems to be linked into the new system, and the focus of the integration work is to ensure that all the information, stored over several years across the legacy systems, is made available to Contact Centre staff.
In addition to the CRM strategy being implemented at the Council, Lagan is providing the ICT, Contact Centre, and service-based employees with skills transfer and training. This will help the Council to become self-sufficient and carry out further customisation and other work itself using Lagan FrontLine’s technology.
Ken Horton, Strategic Head of Stockport Council’s e-Services, said: “The Council is fully committed to implementing e-Government, and we see the Contact Centre and CRM project as a key part in improving the way services are delivered.
“We are bringing together front line staff at the Contact Centre, providing them with information and training to offer a higher level of service to residents. The chosen system will have the necessary information to handle enquiries from the public, and improve services to our communities”.
This sounds rather familiar. “Let’s spend lots of money implementing a contact centre, and let’s spend lots of money integrating a large number of legacy systems (though 128 does sound more excessive than usual). Does this sound rather like a lot of early commercial CRM implementations, with the consequent problems of using the resultant systems (remember Gartner’s view that 42% of CRM systems remain unused) and for those that are used, the consequent problems of delivering a return on investment.
In our own advice to local government and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, (see How to develop a strategy for implementing CRM in public sector) we limited our advice to two key points:
- Don’t rely on your strategic IT partner for advice on your strategy for how to deliver benefit from your CRM strategy – the conflict of interest is too large, and they probably don’t have the expertise in using CRM to deliver value
- Do develop your own strategy and find out what your citizens want you to do for them to make sure that your CRM programme meets citizens’ needs.
We did go a bit further, and offered some thoughts on how to structure the strategy development process, and that’s probably worth repeating here:
- Develop an actionable vision of where you want to get to.
- Develop a programme of the projects you need to undertake which currently limit the delivery of that vision, prioritised by value, cost and flexibility. (See Delivering ROI from CRM through incremental implementation and Back to the future: a strategic planning methodology to successfully adopt CRM and sustainability for a discussion on how to develop this list.).
- Implement the organisational change, the technology, and the detailed business process changes required for each project.
- Measure the successes and failures of each completed project.
For further details, it is worth re-visiting How to develop a strategy for implementing CRM in public sector.
This concern about the Stockport Council CRM project drove us to explore the National CRM programme further. So what is it, and what does it hope to achieve? The following is taken from the National CRM Programme web-site (www.crmnp.org):
What will the Programme achieve?
The Programme vision is: To bring clarity and definition to the role of Customer Relationship Management in local government
The National CRM Programme will:
- Publish guides, give support and develop tools to help local authorities exploit CRM as part of the e-government agenda to deliver better customer services.
- Establish a Customer Relationship Management Centre of Excellence (The CRM Academy) that will:
- act as a repository for CRM knowledge
- facilitate the dissemination of information
- provide impartial advice, support and training to local authorities and public sector bodies wishing to exploit CRM.
The Programme’s key objectives are to:
- Carry out an ‘Environmental Scan’ that will sample the different exploitations of CRM strategies, approaches and techniques across each tier of local government.
- Define a CRM Vision Statement that provides clarity about CRM in local government.
- Create a generic CRM Business Case.
- Develop CRM Business and Functional Specifications.
- Create a flexible and modular ‘Blueprint’ of the structure and composition of transformed services that will support the CRM Vision Statement.
- Develop CRM Roadmap scenarios, which describe the steps that need to be taken.
- Create a framework that supports the deployment of CRM.
- Develop integration models, strategies and adaptors where possible.
- Collate the standards relevant to CRM in local government. This will include e-GIF/XML, data protection, technical and operational standards.
- Develop diagnostic and self-assessment toolkits that will help local authorities make informed decisions.
- Conduct Proofs of Concept (PoC) with selected local authorities that will validate key products from the Programme prior to final publication.
- Establish Supplier Forums to help ensure that the industry supports the most cost-effective and rapid rollout of CRM across local government.
And this will all be achieved by end-March 2004.
So what are our conclusions?
- It doesn’t sound as if they recognise the need for the involvement of the citizen in developing CRM programmes.
- It doesn’t sound as if they recognise the need for arms-length relationships with their IT strategic partners.
- It doesn’t sound as if they recognise the need for the different implementation approach that has been so successfully used in the environmental industry (see Delivering ROI from CRM through incremental implementation and Back to the future: a strategic planning methodology to successfully adopt CRM and sustainability).
- It doesn’t sound as if they are going to learn from the mistakes made by early adopters of CRM in the private sector.
Chaps, if you need some help, we think we might be able to save you a considerable number of millions of pounds.
What is most curious is that other parts of the government do seem to have learnt the message and are moving rapidly to a buyer-centric (or citizen-centric) view of the world. We have published a DTI presentation on the subject (see Buyer-centricity - the next killer concept). We are also aware that work continues within the DTI on this topic, and we hope to bring you up-to-date with those developments in the not-too-distant future.
There would be real value, in our view, for those concepts to be shared with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and the National CRM Programme.
As always we’d like to hear your comments. Make them below or email me at [email protected]