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NDL: Increasing online services only hope for cash strapped councils

Wednesday October 2nd, 2013

Figures released this summer show councils face up to a 16% reduction in funding from central Government in 2015/16 and an on-going freeze in council tax, research carried out by software house NDL has revealed that three quarters of councils now view increasing the amount of transactions done online as the ‘main focus’ for maintaining or improving service delivery. Government Opportunities

Currently the majority (54%) of councils view automated phone systems as the main channel of interaction between councils and citizens while just over a quarter (27%) view the council’s website as fulfilling this role. However, by 2016 respondents predicted a radical shift with almost 70% saying the majority of interactions with the public will be via the council’s website, with just 21% still expecting automated phone systems to be in poll position.

NDL’s managing director, Declan Grogan, commented:

“From a cost savings perspective it makes perfect sense for councils to route more interactions with the public via their websites This very much follows the trend set by central government’s Digital by Default initiative, where services which are deemed appropriate are designed to be accessed online first, as is the case with the flagship Universal Credit reform.

“In this sense, this prediction of a radical shift isn’t surprising, but for it to become a reality, and for service delivery to be improved it is vital that councils’ websites are properly integrated with wider IT systems. The signs are that IT experts, whose opinions feature in our report, know this but there is still an enormous way to go in implementing full scale integration.”

Almost 90% of senior IT personnel surveyed recognise that lack of integration is a barrier to delivering services via online channels.  A substantial majority (70%) of those questioned believe that the link between the front end of a council’s website and back-office systems will be provided by Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, but generally speaking CRM systems are themselves poorly integrated.

The report reveals that a third of councils still integrate less than 10% of CRM services with back-office systems and 81% of councils integrate less than half of services, so it’s hardly surprising that over 70% of councils say re-keying data gathered by CRM systems is ‘common practice’. Almost 40% of authorities re-key more than half of the data gathered.

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