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Why end to end digital platform transformation is so important

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

As an authority, we are committed to providing the best service possible to our citizens across a wide remit of services including council tax collections, housing, planning applications and business licensing. However, our traditional IT estate made up of over 45 legacy, mostly on-premise, applications made the integration needed for customer facing self-serve and cross-council customer service difficult, time-consuming and costly.

The Council’s disparate, service-based systems meant that we did not have a single view of our customers and, therefore, did not fully understand all activity relating to a customer. We were missing out on the intelligence that could be drawn from this information and were struggling to meet the growing expectations of citizens, businesses and staff.

Using legacy IT systems presents challenges to local councils

Our IT infrastructure was limiting our ability to make the progress we required and realise the efficiencies associated with transformation. We needed new approaches to help us meet our goals and deliver the full benefits to us as a council or the customer.

The first step was to invest in a council-wide digital platform. This helped us achieve our ambitions for a completely integrated front-end and back-end system service using one source of data.

When looking for the ideal solution, it was important that we found the right partner with the technical experience that would allow us to feed into the design and collaborate through an agile process. We didn’t want an on-premise legacy provider or to simply move existing technology onto someone else’s servers. We wanted a Software-as-a-Service platform in the cloud.

It was very important to find a platform that would provide us with a front-of-house solution and allow us to move back-office legacy systems onto the platform, consolidating the 45 systems over time when needed. It was also imperative to maintain a level of autonomy and control through a platform which would enable the upskilling of staff to make changes and improve it after the initial implementation.

Arcus Global with its proven track record with other authorities, and a unique, true front-to-back office solution built on the world-leading Salesforce platform gave us this flexibility. Together we have started to implement one digital platform that includes a library of council processes and a single point of access for the customer across a range of council services. At the same time, we have a single view of the customer journey, which has provided a whole host of new information and business intelligence to aid strategic decision making. We are now using the same technology and accessing the same real-time data as our customers.

The project takes off: implementing the digital services hub

The first phase of the project was to implement a Digital Services Hub underpinned by Salesforce CRM. It has two distinct functions. For residents, the Citizen’s Portal provides real-time interactions for a host of services such as Revenues and Waste & Recycling, and provides self-service requirements in a single online account. For staff, the Employee Portal was developed for a range of internal processes such as HR management and a new IT service desk which gives staff the same self-serve online functionality, treating them as an internal customer.

This has given us the structure to start delivering productivity and efficiency savings. We are working on a roadmap to further consolidate systems and data. This will remove vast amounts of manual work and more importantly will reduce the associated risks surrounding data quality.

Merging back-end systems with phase two: MyTenancy

The second phase is underway with more digital services added for citizens and businesses and the further consolidation of back-end systems and data. 

In December 2018, we extended the Citizen’s Portal to include 'MyTenancy' which provides residents access to live housing account information, including viewing balances, making payments and sending/receiving messages. Additionally, in February 2019, we went live with Arcus Global’s end-to-end Green Waste service which has been proven to increase revenues and reduce costs for councils around the UK, adding further functionality for residents and another online self-service process for the Council.

Overall, the new digital offering puts the customers’ needs at the heart of the journey by enabling them to self-serve online. It also gives us real-time information, which helps us better understand their needs and shape our services accordingly.

What does the future hold for this council?

Following a very successful first two years of the transformation programme here, we have seen positive change and can quickly react to changing needs of both citizens and businesses without the traditional issues associated with legacy IT systems. As such, we are primed for the next step of our digital journey. The roadmap over the next year will focus on the areas that can deliver the biggest benefit to our citizens.

Caroline Croft, Digital and ICT Manager, St Albans City & District Council

Caroline Croft is Digital and ICT Manager at St Albans City & District Council.