In their move towards digital delivery, councils are wasting extensive amounts of time and money through manual re-keying of data, despite cost-effective methods available to stop this. They are determined to overcome pressures on budgets through transformation and in particular through channel shift but these attempts are being undermined by wasteful duplicated processes. This year’s National Digital Report by NDL Software surveyed 250 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to investigate the use of digital strategies in the transformation and evolution of their service delivery.
NDL specifically sought information on channel shift, digital services, CRM, shared data, shared services, big data and the cloud. The key findings were:-
Overwhelmingly authorities continue to state that they want to meet the challenge of budget cuts through channel shift and by extending their online services.
Channel shift to digital services remains a priority but authorities report that on average they are only one third of the way along the path to a complete online offering.
The number of services enabled is far lower via e-forms than CRM. However the number of transactions for e-forms is also proportionally slightly lower, bringing into question the ease of use, awareness of and accessibility of these online services to the public.
There is still an extensive amount of manual intervention to re-key data taken through e-forms into back-office systems.
- Almost a quarter of authorities re-key all data received via e-forms.
- Over 50 per cent of authorities are re-keying more than half the data they receive.
- This re-keying is creating a financial waste across the country of more than £14 million a year but, as councils say they are only 31 per cent along the path to channel shift, this has the potential to rise to around £45 million a year. Authorities accept that the best way to overcome this waste of money and resource is through integration.
- There is also the associated delay in provision and error in transcription to be taken into consideration.
CRM installations are declining and under threat, giving way to e-forms-based alternatives.
Given the maturity of the CRM systems, authorities continue to increase the number of services running through these systems, reporting high transaction volumes.
Despite the maturity of these implementations, large amounts of data taken into the CRM are then being manually re-keyed into back-office systems.
- 44 per cent of councils report re-keying more than half of their data, while 11 per cent of authorities are re-keying all data.
- This is creating a financial waste across the country annually of approaching £40 million and this is set to rise if authorities continue to increase the number of services running through their CRM systems.
The complexity of reaching agreements over data sharing is proving to be a hindrance. Compliance and data security are cited as key barriers.
- Those who do share data report that they are seeing tangible benefits around improved citizen service delivery and a reduction in the possibility of fraudulent activities.
There is widespread acceptance that shared services have been successful and achieve efficiency savings.
- 71 per cent of our respondents are currently sharing services either with other authorities or with other organisations.
- This is not likely to grow substantially, but those who currently share services are intending to extend this activity.
- Once again the key barrier to maximising the benefits of shared services is lack of integration across disparate legacy systems.
- 81 per cent of councils with social services departments reported that they now proactively share data or services with healthcare providers, with 65 per cent sharing both.
The publication of datasets is not a priority at this point. Not many authorities are making data sets publicly available beyond the bare statutory minimum.
- There is a lack of awareness of the historic schemes to assist in this area.
- There are a small minority who are leading the way however they are exceptional.
48 per cent of respondents are currently using cloud-based services.
- Much of this has been proving work.
- This is likely to increase with 86 per cent of those not already doing so either planning to or considering adopting these services.
The Wider Implications
Access and integration with the data on legacy systems is a serious and costly barrier to the delivery of Digital and Shared Services.
Based on the transactional information submitted, for CRM and e-Forms alone we can extrapolate a cost to UK authorities of some 2,000,000 man hours per year, rising to 6,000,000 man hours as digital adoption grows. Taking a low end view of the staff unit costs this means an average cost per authority in excess of £300,000 per year based on CRM and e-forms alone. This figure rises dramatically when other areas such as “Tell us once”, NHS & Social Services and Shared Services are added into the mix.
A copy of the full report can be downloaded from NDL’s website.