Monday, 30 July 2007

Performance management

Having submitted a repayment claim to HMRC at the beginning of June, I phoned at the end of July to check on progress and was told they have now processed post from the middle of June so I need to submit a duplicate claim. I was therefore naturally interested in the recent report from the Treasury Select Committee on the impact of the efficiency programme in the Chancellor’s Departments, see (

The committee received evidence from outside organisations e.g. tax and benefit advisors and the unions on the effect of the efficiency programme in HMRC on the quality of service provided by the Department. The committee recommended that “HMRC accord high priority to the preparation, in consultation with users of its services, of measures of service quality which properly capture the experience and needs of users…….such measures, when finalised, should be used not only in monitoring the efficiency programme, but also in making policy relating to HMRC services”.

I couldn’t agree more, but for all public bodies not just HMRC, and to achieve it there needs to be comprehensive performance management systems in place that everyone can have confidence in. Returning to my claim, the HMRC evidence to the select committee said one of their measures is the “Percentage of external post worked within 15 working days dealt with correctly and Completely” and the HMRC web site shows that all regions are within the 80% target. Unfortunately when I phoned the response I had suggests that that it’s normal for the receipt of post not to be recorded for over 30 working days. This isn’t intended to be a criticism based on an isolated incident but a reflection on the performance management regime in place compared to what the Government requires.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Pull not push

In my (humble) experience Government Services are specified and designed by civil servants, sometimes with support from consultants and IT suppliers. It's rare for citizens and businesses to be directly engaged in deciding what's needed and how the services will work.

The logic of Transformational Government isn't just that services will be designed around the citizen but that they will be encouraged to say what they want the service to do and not just how it will do it.

The biggest change for government employees in policy and strategy roles is going to be developing a culture of listening and communicating, let's look for how it will be achieved as the professionalism agenda develops.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Why should anyone care about identity management

Proving who you are every time you want a public, voluntary or private sector service is a nuisance, but having others pretending to be you can be even more irritating. And it’s not only your inconvenience, all that checking of ones identity costs money, and someone has to pay for it. And although most of us have nothing to hide there can be good reasons for not making it easy for others to find us, whether ex-partners or the people who generate junk mail. It can also be threatening if what are innocent interests, e.g. nudism, being a scoutmaster and visiting Thailand are linked by a sensation seeking journalist. Privacy is a basic human right, but it shouldn’t result in wasted money, inconvenience and frustration.

Many people don’t trust the Government to safeguard their identity and the data it has about them, and I can’t say I blame them. We don’t know who can access our data, e.g. can anyone in the NHS access my medical records or only my GP and a hospital where I’m receiving treatment, and we also don’t know what controls exist to make sure that the systems are working as intended. For example if someone looks at records they shouldn’t, e.g. a neighbours, how would they be caught and what would happen to them. It’s not hard to build in controls, I know systems that include them, but there isn’t any public confidence that the controls are in place and operating consistently.

Transformational Government depends on there being a real improvement in how we manage identity’s, e.g. it’s hard to make it simpler to report a bereavement if one is identified differently by all the organisations one touches. But identity management will only work if people have confidence in it and that requires an open dialogue on what people want, the risks and how those risks can be managed.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

JobCentre Plus Green paper

The DWP Green paper at has a few interesting comments on JobCentre plus acting on behalf of other Government organisations e.g.
"We will position Jobcentre Plus advisers to act as an advocate for each individual in getting help across the range of their needs". I wonder if we'll have other cases where segments of the population have Government Departments acting as their advocates and agents?

Monday, 23 July 2007

What citizen centric means

I've just picked up a quote from a Demos paper on unlocking innovation - "in most government bureaucracies, it is not a part of the culture to actually listen or ask questions of the people who are going to live with your policies". The article is from Denmark talking about Mindlab but is eually relevant in the UK.

Whilst Transformational Government isn't only about knowing what citizens and businesses need and how they would like government to interact with them it's a good place to start. As the Danish article makes clear civil servants will need help / facilitation to enable them to learn from the people affected by their policies, it isn't enough to say " you must consult".

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

UK Government web site report from the NAO

The National Audit Office (NAO) have just published their review of how UK Government publish information and make transactionas available on the Internet, it's at

The report makes interesting reading and illustrates how far there is to go before we get Transformational Government, a few (admittedly out of context) quotes:

"Most departments still do not have sufficient information on who is using their sites and how they are being used"

"There is an as yet largely unrealised potential for government websites to signpost citizens towards organisations that have sites with information, services and web communities that can offer help, advice and guidance on, for example, childcare, health matters, legal problems or finding employment. This is particularly the case with third sector organisations, many of whom
act as important intermediaries between government departments and citizens, but to which few government websites provide links."

"The DirectGov strategy of..........:

  • re-ordering information to make it easily findable;
  • re-presenting information so that it is clearer and makes sense for citizens or businesses, and;
  • joining up information effectively so that it better meets people’s and enterprises’ overall needs.

This approach is challenging because of the complex departmental structure of national government against a background of ten or more years of un-coordinated growth of government websites."

Let's hope the strategy is successful and applied to the other channels that Government uses.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Why bother

Government delivery organisations are silo's created to implement convenient groupings of legislation, e.g. taxation and lnks to the giving of subsidies or benefits to the taxed are weak or nonexistant. The result is that whilst citizens and businesses think of government as a whole the services they interact with are fragmented. At a Public seminar on interaction sponsored by AT Kearney, Sir David Varney put his case for a more seamless offer of services to the public, asking why have multiple calls by multiple agencies following a bereavement, or 23 separate departments validating a citizen's identity. Contrast that with the private sector where increasingly all interactions with a customer are coordinated to provide a consistent and convenient service and internal silo's are hidden from customers.

We need Transformational Government to turn government inside out and instead of focussing on the needs of each government organisation to think of how citizens and businesses interact with government as a whole. The benefits are not just happy citizens, ther will be less money spent on duplicating services and the policy outcomes the country and it's legislators are looking for will be achieved.

EURIM dialogues

EURIM, the all-party, Government-Industry Information Society group, is organising a programme of “political dialogues” to help inform that debate by publicising good practice in three of the areas that are expected to cause the most difficulty:

  • the means of delivering genuinely socially inclusive services, given that parts of society are best reached by very different channels and that those in most need of support are least likely to be reached via the current generation of on-line services, public or private.
  • the challenges of organising delivery partnerships that really do cross the barriers between the public, private and voluntary/community sectors as opposed to dominant players trying to coerce others into adopting their pattern of working.
  • the democratisation of delivery, ensuring that consultations really do involve those most affected, the recipients and those who inter-act directly with them. But we also need to ensure that subsequent performance monitoring is based on their experience of what is actually delivered and their changing priorities for improvement.

In each area the aim is also to look at the role(s) of central and local government and their delivery partners, the means of set of appropriate objectives and subsequently monitoring performance and the challenges of managing the structural and cultural changes needed.