Features: January 14th, 2003

Risk Management During E-Government

By Paul Johnson

The Modernising Government agenda provides an exceptional opportunity for Local Authorities to focus on the needs of citizens, improving their lives and the prosperity within the local economy.

A successful E-Government programme will offer the citizen well targeted, enhanced and more accessible Local Government services to meet their needs, as well as a choice of how to interact with their Council via email, contact centres, one-stop shops, neighbourhood offices, interactive website, information kiosks and interactive Digital TV.

Furthermore, the adoption of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software provides a single face to the Local Authority across all access channels and enables consistent customer interaction across the entire Local Authority. In addition, it should facilitate links between neighbouring Local Councils and other Agencies such as the Police.

Change brings risk

With new technology and CRM as the key driver leading up to 2005, change is one of the few constants in the E-Government environment. However, any change, especially fast-pace change creates risk – on a technical as well as operational level. Risk that needs to be recognised, evaluated and managed if Local Authorities and their citizens are to benefit from, rather than suffer from change associated with E-Government.

While IT directors recognise change management as the number one management challenge (Computer Weekly report on survey carried out at Richmond Events IT Directors’ Forum, May 2002) many Local Authorities have little or no appreciation of formal risk management strategies during change.

For example, the technical transformation of opening up and joining up Local Government services is considered by many to be the largest obstacle against delivering the strategic vision. By definition, the sharing of centralised information across departments and the transfer of data between the citizen and the authority presents massive data protection and security risks.

Preparation not re-action

However, in order to achieve the true vision of E-Government, the Local Authority needs to take the appropriate route, so that it can prepare rather than re-act to change.

Success not only depends on being able to harness the right technology to meet the Local Authority’s objectives in the shortest time possible, but also to balance technology with two other fundamental issues of business: people and processes. The E-Government vision should provide a combination of technology, methodologies training and process change consultancy.

Local Authorities pre-occupied with technology will not make a success of E-Government. E-Government is not just a technology issue. Services for example, may need to be delivered face-to-face, in print, as well as electronically. The most important consideration is to design services and the resulting business processes around the citizen and shape the technology to fit that, rather than to develop services and processes to fit the available technology.

By choosing experienced service partners, Local Authorities can not only ensure that the right technology solution for their needs is recommended and the correct level of resources are provided, but also that the business processes are reviewed and redesigned to achieve the agreed benefits.

Again when preparing for change, People are perceived to be the smallest problem, although in reality it is the biggest threat. End-users at the Local Authority must for example feel confident, through being fully empowered and trained, if they are to get the most out of the new CRM investment.

For example, to ensure that change delivers the benefits required, new technology and business processes must be tested by a sample of the existing workforce. Once the solution has been developed employees must then receive adequate training. Furthermore, nobody likes being ‘out of their comfort zone’ and the service partner should ensure that the strategic vision is prepared, planned and executed in a well-constructed manner.

In addition, all parties involved must be committed to the change process and to the continual evolution of the E-Government project.

Paul Johnson is Director, Sales and Marketing, Public Sector at ITNET www.itnetplc.com