Just What Will E-Government Mean for the City of Liverpool?; It's Time to Change the 'Silo Thinking' Attitude
John Gregson, management consultant with Deloitte & Touche, looks at the world of e-Government
DEALING with local government can be a frustrating experience. Nowadays we are increasingly used to carrying out transactions on-line, whether it is booking tickets or banking. By comparison, the bureaucratic and 'jobsworth' approach of some Government officials can be frustrating.
Some local government agencies have recognised that the current approach to serving customers, i. e. us the taxpayer, is not working and that technology and the "silo thinking" needs to changed.
E-Government is all about the use of smart technology to make it easier to access and deliver Government services.
This is precisely what Liverpool City Council has done in its partnership with BT. The council recognised that if the attempts to regenerate the city were to continue to be successful, it would have to play its part in looking after its customers, whether private citizens or local businesses.
The council has taken a long-term view focused on the customer and has removed some of the barriers which used to frustrate everyone who deals with the council.
It has done this by using technology developed to support the internet as well as specialist software to deal with customers, known as Customer Relations Management software.
What this means for the individual customer is that the council will have the potential to deal with all of their enquiries from one point, whether that is the one stop shops in the City and Kirkdale, over the telephone at Liverpool Direct or eventually on line via the internet.
From the council's point of view this means that using the same number of staff they can, by using technology, deliver a much better service to the customer.
The price to pay for this, if indeed it is a price, is that the old council empires will disappear as any council department can access all information about a customer.
This is the removal of "silo thinking" when organisations move to a more lateral customer focus rather than the vertical bureaucracies characteristic of large organisations in general and Government in particular.
Investment in e-Government sends signals to the council's constituents that they are prepared to invest in improving services without adding to the burden of council taxes in order to pay for it.
A strong message is also sent to businesses looking to invest in Merseyside as investment in technology and in council employees reinforces the council's commitment to be an innovative, business-friendly city. The investment shows that the council is indeed progressive, giving a positive reflection on the city as a whole as the council is usually the first agency a potential investor will meet.
A business involved in high technology or a business investing in technology for e-business will want to see a similar commitment in any potential host city.
THEREFORE, those cities without such an investment are likely to be disadvantaged in the inward investment market as inward investors cannot be certain that the local authority understand the issues that face their business.
An e-enabled council is patently more likely to have this understanding.
At a basic level, it means the citizens of Liverpool will not have to waste time trudging from department to department to get their query resolved.
In the jargon of inward investment, this could be termed a quality of life enhancement.
In the real world, it gives people more time to deal with more important issues without getting hassle from well meaning council employees who are as frustrated by council bureaucracy as are their customers.
Building a successful e-Government means converting the potential of innovation into real business value.
John Gregson can be contacted at j. …