Herefordshire Council CRM suffers report criticism

A Herefordshire Council CRM (customer relationship management) has been deemed only “partially successful” in a new report.

The document was published by auditors Grant Thornton after it received a disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) from an authority staff member in January.

Herefordshire has reportedly spent £1m to date on the implementation of a CRM system that went live in December 2011 – however the procurement arrangements for the contract, its implementation and future strategy have been called into question.

“Our investigation suggested that the business case for the project was very ambitious and not fully owned by all parts of the council,” claims Grant Thornton in the report.

“The estimated cashable savings of £1.6m identified in the business case were not supported by robust analysis and were premised on centralising services and therefore reducing back-office costs in departments.

“In reality the project did not subsequently extend to all of the services envisaged within the business case so it is unlikely that key elements of the cashable savings were realised,” it adds.

According to Grant Thornton, the local authority carried out an appropriate tendering process and there was no evidence that suggests otherwise.

“Number of factors led to partial failure”

The firm also believes Herefordshire’s implementation of a shared front office has been reasonably effective, but momentum stalled for a number of reasons.

It claims that because the council merged with the Herefordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) in 2008, then later abolished, key providers no longer had a contract with the local authority.

Austerity too played a part, says Grant Thornton, because the council could no longer fund the full implementation of the project.

Besides this, Herefordshire’s CRM-based model of seeking to provide services to meet all customer demands had to change to one of seeking constrain demand and enabling self-service when possible.

Insufficient corporate and departmental support meant also extending the project became too difficult.

The original budget for the CRM project was £1.5 of which £1m was spent. Grant Thornton claims that this budget was commensurate with the scale of the project.

It believes it is possible the current system is over-engineered for its current use and the underspending meant projected cost savings were not realised.

“Going forward the council needs to be clearer about the scope and ambition of its customer vision and what this means for the way it engages with all customers in future and the digital and other channels it needs to deploy to support that vision,” Grant Thornton claims.