Changing Regulations Will Make 2006 the Year of CRM for U.K. Local Government


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For U.K. local authorities, this Christmas brought a key deadline: compliance with the e-Government Metadata Standard (eGMS). On a very practical level, authorities must have categorized their online content and documents to government-mandated standards. The reasoning behind this compulsory requirement is that without such rigorous categorization, a citizen, stakeholder or member of staff looking for the information needed to satisfy a query will not be able to find that information quickly or easily. Neither will the objective of “joined-up” public service across multiple authorities, departments and agencies be deliverable.

At the mid-year point, almost 40 percent of councils had made no attempt toward compliant content categorization at all, according to research my company, APR Smartlogik, commissioned, analyzing levels of compliance to this crucial standard. Sixty percent had a form of categorization that will deliver a level of “findability,” but only 22 percent were overtly conforming to the e-Government standards for effective information sharing. A citizen going on the web to get an answer from his or her local authority is not interested in the technicalities, but without underlying technological compliance, e-Government does not actually deliver results.

This certainly indicates serious difficulties at the heart of e-Government. But the findings mask the reality that there are, of course, many examples of authorities who are effectively adopting common categorization standards and reaping real benefits. Of course, for authorities with technical compliance under their belt, December raised the question: Where next? It is worth taking the example of a best-practice e-Government project to answer that question. is a pioneering online portal launched by five local councils earlier this year to replace individual council web sites. Using eGMS-compliant categorization and a specially tailored taxonomy to manage and control the vocabulary on the site, the Dorset For You Partnership has created a “single point of access” for its citizens with real information “findability” across disparate information resources.

Solid foundations

For the Dorset For You Partnership and other similarly advanced authorities, 2006 brings the further practical challenge of completing the Government’s Priority Outcomes by March. But the overall aim in 2006 is to realize the potential of the technology that has now been put in place.

In short, the partnership can really focus on delivering proper citizen benefits—or good customer relationship management—from its compliance-driven technology investment. The nature of compliance means that 2005 saw much attention given to external web sites, but many citizens simply cannot—or do not want to— “self serve” via their council web site.

John Rider-Dobson, Dorset For You Partnership Manager, explains this: “We intend to develop our customer relationship management program, extending the ‘joined up’ vision and technology of the Dorsetforyou portal on a far wider scale. For us, CRM means providing a ‘single customer experience,’ where citizens can access consistent county or district information and services via any means they choose, whether a council phone line, face-to-face drop-in center or via the web site. In the future, it may be possible for each property in the county to have a unique reference code which gives direct access to all locally pertinent information, regardless of where the data is stored or the council contact point.”

Of course, this will require much greater standardization of systems, both technological—such as unifying, or at least linking, each council’s databases—and administrative, like using the same revenue and benefits forms. But the principles of categorizing all shared content with consistent metadata will be crucial to smoothly integrate these various silos of information. Common systems undoubtedly lead to economies of scale, too, and as this recognition grows, it is likely that portals such as Dorsetforyou will bring on board many other partners such as local parishes and the fire service.

Rider-Dobson brings up another fundamental part of CRM in local government. “Next year’s agenda must include further ‘regionalization’ of our services. There is the perception that government-driven initiatives lack an understanding of each locality, but this is where we can turn technology to our advantage. For instance, tourism is hugely important in our region, and potentially we could link the “What’s On” guide on our portal to satellite navigation systems and send directions to visitors via their mobile phone.”

In 2005, we saw an increasing polarity between those local government bodies embracing technology and eGovernment compliance and those who have not taken sufficient steps to enable effective information sharing. Local government has a great opportunity in 2006 to really make a difference in the way people interact with their council; but the technical foundations must be in place before this can be achieved.

Jeremy Bentley
APR Smartlogik
Jeremy Bentley became CEO of APR Smartlogik in 2001. He has 15 years of experience in complex, high-value solution-based software sales, marketing, operations and development. He has a proven record of rapid business development and development of a customer-oriented entrepreneurial attitude within the teams that he builds and leads.


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