Council chiefs 'fear demand' created by digital

Written by Colin Marrs on 21 October 2014 in News

Corporate managers in some councils are reluctant to invest in channel shift because of fears it will increase demand for services, according to Socitm president Nick Roberts.

Making the opening address at the 2014 Socitm annual conference, Roberts said that digital technology was essential to helping councils cope with cuts in funding.

But he added that there was a fear among some council leaders that improving the user experience could put extra pressure on hard-pressed departments.

He said: “If we do digital right, we make the services easier to use and cheaper and make them more efficient.

“The rub that comes from that is it makes the services easier to access and increases demand.

For example, if you make pothole reporting very simple then you get a lot of reported potholes and an expectation you are going to repair them – the highways budget goes through the roof.

“That creates a kickback against digital.”

He called for senior digital officers to have a “sensible conversation” with colleagues to persuade them that the risk of extra demand is not a reason for retaining digital services that are difficult to use. .

Roberts said that a new Socitm technology board would attempt to improve dialogue between the demand and supply side in public digital services.

The aim would be to identify good practice as well as identifying where “technical inhibitors” exist, he said.

Roberts said, separately, that Rob Miller, head of shared ICT services at Royal Borough of Kingston and London Borough of Sutton would chair a Socitm group looking at the issue of sharing data with organisations which are not on the Public Services Network.

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Neville (not verified)

Submitted on 22 October, 2014 - 21:28
These fears need to be taken care by the Information Leader in an Organisation. This can be achieved if the Information Leader themselves are convinced of the change required and are able to communicate the business needs and solutions in a convincing non technical language. Thus the ability to communicate in simple English. An Information leader who is afraid of an idea would communicate fear to the audience. Most councils do not have Information Leaders with any formal Information leadership qualifications, but persons who have worked their way up the ladder . I can only compare this situation to RBS who had Fred Goodwin as its chief who had no formal banking qualifications. How can one ever expect such Heads of IT/ CIO's in Local Government to instil confidence in Council Chiefs?

Millie (not verified)

Submitted on 24 October, 2014 - 16:45
Yes, horrifying as it is, if a customer takes the time to report something they expect the council to honour their end of the bargain and do something about it ... failing to take action just causes dissatisfaction and potentially drives up costs due to customers (rightly) pursuing the issue further. But the reality is that the pothole (in this example) was already there - better reporting isn't creating more potholes, just creating better knowledge of them - services need to consider how they can use this better knowledge to improve. SOCITM are right in saying that this is no reason to retain difficult to use services (and it's not very often that I feel able to agree with SOCITM on anything), but they seem to be ignoring the systemic implications and/or treating them as 'not their problem', when they could actually get involved in the end-to-end change in thinking that's needed here.

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