It’s just over a year now since the Local Government Digital Declaration was announced. As I wrote at the time, we’re very much in support of the Declaration and the principles that are enshrined within it. So where are we now? Well, almost 170 councils have since signed the Digital Declaration. Each of these councils has promised to complete at least one project that enacts some aspect of the Declaration in their own organisation. Indeed, many councils have pledged to complete more that one such project. It’s gratifying to see so many Abavus clients and My Council Services users on the list of signatories – Allerdale Borough Council, Maidstone Borough Council and Stafford Borough Council are just a few of many examples.

Fixing the plumbing across local government service areas

One of the particular areas of focus of the first year has been on projects that ‘fix the plumbing’. Fixing the plumbing means moving away from a dependence on siloed proprietary systems that only solve one problem or do one thing. Traditionally this has been the legacy approach within local government and the end result has been massive inefficiencies. We see this all the time and regularly work with clients who are trying to address exactly this issue.

They find themselves wrestling with numerous ‘black box’ legacy systems installed in different departments to help with one departmental task. They want to move towards systems that solve multiple problems and can be deployed across the whole organisation. Doing this reduces inefficiency and can save significant amounts of money as councils no longer need to resource the maintenance of vast numbers of disparate systems, and communication both within and between departments becomes so much easier.

A joined-up approach benefits citizens too

This approach obviously has substantial benefits for citizens too. It’s not uncommon to find that citizens have to log into multiple unconnected systems if they want to interact digitally with their local council. There’s one system that manages reports of missed bin collections, another that enables the payment of council tax, yet another for ordering parking permits or applying for planning permission. Fixing the plumbing means that citizens can access digital services more efficiently and effectively, ideally via a single portal.

My Council Services offers a fully integrated solution

This is the approach that has always driven the development of My Council Services. Our clients tend to start with a single application – waste management, food safety inspections, streetscene – and quite quickly realise that the same core technology that is working well for them in one area of the council can also be used to enable the same benefits in other areas too. Whilst on the surface different departments might have different needs, when you dig into it most local government processes share numerous similarities.

For example, whilst on the surface revs and bens and adult social care may look completely different, underneath they share common elements – workflow management, case management, the need to manage payments and so on. Likewise, the same core technology that could be used to run food safety inspections could also be used to run more or less any other regulatory process.

A single customer portal for Southend Borough Council

On example of this approach in practice is the work we’ve done with Southend Borough Council to delivery a consolidated customer portal that could be used across numerous different areas of the organisation. The aim was to develop a single digital portal that customers could use to access a range of different applications. Now, customers can log into the portal and access more than 40 different payment-based processes, from purchasing a commemorative bench to remember a loved one through to purchasing a copy of a birth certificate. As part of the wider project Southend has also deployed over 200 forms, via the MySouthend platform, for customers to access.

Our My Council Portal product provides a multi-channel self-service platform, facilitating the full range of customer-facing and internal digital processes and transactions (report it, book it, apply for it, pay for it). As such it has applicability to virtually every service area of the council. If your service area has any customer-facing processes for local residents, business owners, landlords or any other local stakeholder then this element of the My Council Services platform is hugely relevant and valuable. It is the keystone of channel shift and transformation. If you’re interesting in finding out more about how this might work for you then take a look at our on-demand webinar on the topic.