Digitising government services goes beyond the glass

For many agencies the idea of streamlining or digitising their customer and constituent services might seem like a monumental task. Whether it's managing processes such as managing the rising level of Development Applications for local councils through to the multi-faceted task of Ministerial Correspondence requests for state and federal agencies, each level of government has been tasked with looking for ways to reduce overheads, waste, increase efficiency and ultimately provide better overall customer service outcomes.

The challenge facing these organisation is how to implement a strategy that delivers convenience and transparency to customers and constituents, at the glass, but at the same time provides increased efficiency to the organisation without massive disruption to staff or infrastructure. Following is a strategy that has been adopted by forward thinking agencies to overcome this challenge.

End-to-end digitisation
Digitise the ‘Whole' service request process. One of the common mistakes made by service organisations is not automating the entire process from request through to response. Jerry Fishenden recently posted an article entitled re-engineer government, abolish government departments highlighting that since 1994, attempts to modernise government using technology have focused almost obsessively on moving forms from paper to websites. While there's some tactical value in this, digital forms and computer systems that support current ways of working are no better at improving the way government is designed and engineered than their vellum and paper predecessors. It's shunted government sideways, from analogue to digital, but not much forwards.

Taking a leaf out of the retail industry, in the early days of e-commerce retailers were spinning up virtual shopping carts online, but many didn't automate the back end supply chain (pick and pack) workflow within their inventory systems. This led to considerable frustration for the business and customer, when purchases were handled manually post-order and often mismanaged or not fulfilled due to stock issues. This meant that the customer experience was poor and inconsistent. Fast forward a few years and online commerce is now a massive enterprise, where it's fully integrated to most back end supply chain systems so now regular updates on orders can be viewed by the customer, including real-time delivery tracking, providing confidence to the customer and enabling the business to resource accordingly in peak periods.

The lesson learned for government services is that the web form front end component is only part of the solution. Ensuring there is a clear and comprehensive process management structure once the request is received and that kicks off a digitised business process is just as critical if efficiency is going to be achieved. Otherwise we are at danger of satisfying the customer initially only to disappoint them by not providing a level of service commensurate with what they've experienced in the private sector.

DPC NSW injects automation to transform ministerial correspondence
A number of forward thinking agencies have taken an approach of transforming their high value/ high impact processes by digitising them from request to response. For example, DPC NSW have transformed their ministerial correspondence request processes through automation, reducing the overall process time from 10 days to 2 days. Previously the approval process was a major bottleneck, where senior executives were holding up response due to not having supporting information easily at reference. Department of Lands went from having the majority of their correspondence requests late to a 98% on time turnaround. Wyndham City Council went from processing 300 DA's a month to 1,000 per month without the need to increase staff, by making it easier to share information with contractors and automating the back end approval process.

Returning to the retail e-commerce journey, many forward thinking technology providers discovered very quickly that taking their expertise in customer (online) behaviours and simplifying the integration to the core retail supply chain solution, enabled retailers to get onto the job of selling to their customers, leaving technology to do its role behind the scenes. Government agencies certainly appear to be going through this same digitisation journey and again forward thinking solution providers are working with existing information management platforms to provide efficiency and transparency into the customer service process not only at the glass but across the back end automation ensuring that accountability, compliance and governance are respected.