Process is no longer a dirty word in UK Government
Blog: IT :: Redux
I recently attended the Criminal Justice Management event in London and presented a panel discussion on the topic of process efficiency within UK government. The event schedule was quite varied, with subjects on Intelligence Led Policing, Enabling Communication through Interpretation and Translation Services, Improving Performance Management and Boosting Workforce Capability and powered by both process and IT led initiatives. One of the more interesting sessions was with PredPol and how using predictive analytics and big data can enhance the police’s abilities to prevent opportunistic crime.
It was quite a busy event but the overwhelming response I took was how local government departments are crying out for real process change. Despite making strides in enabling and automating many public-facing services online, such as the DVLA Road Tax renewal and HMRC Self Assessment, the fact is that the majority of people remain convinced their only options are to wait in a queue at the Post Office or bounce around the local council phone-lines in an attempt to have their query dealt with. And with that perception comes the burden of trying to convince the public that the Government is cost-efficient and fast across all aspects of their lives, not just when it’s time to pay up. HMRC Self Assessment again is one such service which now processes in excess of 80% of tax filings online. That’s over 7.5 million returns handled digitally, and at its peak handling 445,000 filings in one day. The costs savings alone have totaled £126 million since launch but the fact is that whilst the front-end is an automated and digitised process of information capture, the broken back-end processes and cross-departmental silos are still as evident as ever.
According to the Digital Efficiency Report, a digital transaction can be almost 20 x lower than the cost of telephone and 50 x lower than face to face so clearly the Government must do more to change public opinion by showing what it can be capable of through end-to-end process transformation. And this was one of the main themes that came from the panel discussion.
Ensure that change is really multi-agency. Stop treating change as a relay race and concentrating change on handovers only.
Sharing of information, standardised processes, more collaboration came out more and more as the discussion engaged, but also, and in light of the criminal justice context, processes were there to protect victims and those who needed it not to segregate them even further because of local authority inefficiencies. As an industry we make a lot of claims of customer experience management and real-time marketing but clearly there are other areas we have to look at where the experience is not in presenting a discount coupon for shoes at the right time but in managing someone’s expectations wrapped in a service when they’ve come into harm.
Every process step in our core organisational procedures does add value however some add more value that others. Which do we cut our without overall negative impact on victims and other users ?
Local and National government services revolve around process as much as a financial institution does, and the perceived differences between Public and Private sector are not that great at the end of the day. Government and public serving departments can take cues from the private sector in how they transform their businesses through business process design and management, how they view and account for risk, governance of end-to-end supply chains. Commercial organisations deal with safety within their core processes on a daily basis, and the public sector can draw lessons from the experiences of these organisations.
If you ran your local authority dept as a business and you were responsible for the bottom line, would you accept the processes in place today ?
For example, when a food safety issue is identified, the subsequent processes which need to be enacted are complex, typically cross border and involve multiple participants, including government agencies, independent testing laboratories, ingredients suppliers, customers, other supply chain partners, and the media. The same happens in context in a criminal inquiry but is it as efficient and does it protect those who need it most ? A well designed child protection system delivers a joined up end to end process across all agencies involved in the protection of vulnerable children. Police, Criminal Justice Agencies, Local Authorities, Social Services, Education Providers, Health Providers, Communities, Families, Family Education providers, Third Sector / Volunteer Groups, etc. but only if the processes are completely designed to interact end-to-end.
Process is very much alive and well and generating interest at local and national government levels. Whether through process automation or transparency of the end-to-end chain for the benefit of the UK citizen business process management is no longer a dirty word.
Where government needs to focus its resources is not in expensive and long-drawn out IT initiatives but to start at the grass roots level in understanding the process first. Perhaps then we wouldn’t see headlines about failures but more about the successes.
Because in criminal justice, success means the public remains safe.