Posts Tagged ‘Gov 2.0’
Image source: http://www.chiff.com/science/hurricane-pictures.htm
With the hurricane season already started the various Government departments are co-operating and actively using social media alongside traditional media to get their public safety messages across.
David Cameron has made his first podcast focussing on ‘Government Transparency’ and an update on action taken to date and news on what is happening next. The fact that it was recorded while he was on the way back by train from a meeting in the North adds to the sense of urgency and multi-tasking.
What can business learn from this?
- Podcasts can be an effective way to commute information on plans and activities (surveys by CIPD and other employer organisations still show many employees feel senior management do not communicate with them)
- Great use of time – pulling all staff together or trying to message customers is time consuming and expensive. A podcast can be recorded on the move and with careful planning done in a single take without need for edits and a lot of post production.
- Simple messaging in quick time – in under 4 minutes you get a clear picture of what is happening across multiple departments and where the focus is and why.
As promised in the podcast – the ‘cloak of secrecy’ is being taken away. Accountable and visible government started today with the publishing of some of the salaries of senior civil servants.
As an ex-Executive Communication coach and writer of many speeches the words used in the podcast itself were interesting. As I mentioned the recording on the train with resultant background noises was effective. (Maximum use of time, on the move, multi-tasking, on way back from a ‘major speech’.)
In a future blog I will have a look at what sub-text messages the PM delivered in the podcast by using the words and phrases he did.
With Hurricane season (starts June 1st) expected to be much worse this year than normal South Carolina’s Emergency Management services are using social media as part of their public education and emergency planning and preparations. As mentioned in the news report (ABC Columbia) one advantage of Social Media is that it is lower cost than traditional media so is an additional cost effective tool to use to offset budget cuts.
Working over the last few years with UK local Government and Agencies I have noticed just how many still ban employee access to social media due to ‘managagement, IT or security issues’. At a recent Kable event over 70% of the attendees in my session (Sharing Data for citizen engagement) said that they either did not have a policy (and so banned access) or their IT policy was to ban access anyway.
In comparing other Governments policy it is interesting to see how the US Department of Defense (DoD) is approaching it. Here is an article about social media from the troops and family perspective when serving on active duty abroad.
The Department of Defence is now ‘positive’ about social media use and has an official policy covering it. As their web site says they ‘…wecome and encourage all DoD employees and families to use social media…’ but to be aware of the safety and security issues. This is where Net Smart – CyberSafe policy comes in (see logo above and link here). It is interesting that an organisation as large and security concious as the US military has found a way to navigate the issues social media may cause.
As to be expected for such organisation its leadership is embracing social media – the top brass are using Twitter, blogs, Facebook, podcasts and other tools to engage with service personnel and their families as well as the general public. You can see the lists here. They have also created a DoD Social Media Hub where information, best practice and advice can be shared. The hub also includes a central resource listing what parts of the military are actively using social media. The idea is that by sharing examples and best practice everyone can learn without having to manage it as a single massive exercise. In effect they are ‘crowdsourcing’ ideas but within a framework of guides and leaders ‘modelling the way’.
As mentioned in a previous post the US Air Force has produced a guide on social media and its use that is provided to all recruits as part of their basic training. Within the US State Department all employees attend specially designed training programs. These are also run for all employees at US Embassies overseas.
Businesses considering the practical value and use of social media may well find the guides and materials that the US DoD and specific branches of the military have developed useful background reading and good sources of content.
An interesting podcast from US FederalNewsRadio on what the US Government is doing with Web 2.0/Social Media. It is a recording of a lunchtime meeting earlier this month where 3 US agencies discussed their experiences of engaging with citizens using social media.
The 3 people are:
- Janice Nall, Director E-health Marketing at the Centres for Disease Control
- Amanda Eamich, Director New Media at the Agriculture Department
- Liz Olmo, Director, Department of Homeland Security
An interesting interview on FederalNewsRadio with Jeffrey Levy, Director of Web Communications at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA.
The EPA published an updated guide in January 2010 for their employees on engaging in conversations with citizens using social media.
Jeffrey talks about this being considered a fundamental change in engagement and not just a ‘tick box’ exercise. This means that Government employees need to be pro-active and re-active but within some guidelines in terms of authority to talk on the specific subject matter and investment of time into the conversation (as Jeffrey says – there are a lot of comments on social media platforms that are not worth spending taxpayers money responding to but factual inaccuracies or misinformation should be corrected).
The issue of Goverment employees having rules on acceptable behaviour and engagement with citizens is discussed especially where private and public personas interact. In business this equates to being a ‘brand ambassador’ for your organisation and where private comments and behaviour may have a negative impact on the company.
An interview with Stephen Timms MP, on LocalGovTV about Digital Inclusion (Note: Needs registration on site to watch)
Highlights of interview:
- 12.5m people do not have online access
- 10m never used internet so missing out on many online services and savings
- Digital efficiency and costs savings by providing Govt services online
- Focus on least likely groups online (55+, disabled, low income)
- Digital Participation taskforce of 60+ members tackling excluded groups in a co-ordinated way
- Targets – 100% online access by 2012 at 2mb and 90% at higher speeds by 2017
- Target – rural economy must be engaged hence 50p per month levy on telephones
- Digital Inclusion pathfinder examples – Barnsley and Swindon,
- DI Beacons via IDeA (now managed under the Local Innovation Awards Scheme) Govt
A nice summary from ComputerWeekly on the political parties strategy for Gov IT.
Worth contrasting the policy ’spin’ with what happened in the House of Commons yesterday when they rushed through the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill.
This is the House of Commons debate…. which only 40 MP’s bothered to turn up for!
An interesting report has just been published by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and I&DeA (Improvement and Development Agency) into how local authorities can ‘effectively use social media to improve local engagement and promote efficient communication’.
What interested me were the estimated cost savings of using web based services. Socitm’s (Society of Information Technology Managers) research showed web based customer service interactions were 27p versus £3.22 over the phone and £6.56 face-to-face. I must admit that I would have expected ‘face-to-face’ to be more than twice as expensive as a call centre due to office costs etc but it does show clearly the potential savings of using the web.
The Prime Minister will be making a speech today about Digital Britain. The likely content has already been written about so expect:
- Universal access (digital inclusion) by 2015 or 2020 and high targets by 2012
- Funding of the above via some form of public levy
- Major reduction of ‘front of house’ public services (job centres, benefits offices etc) and provision via online services (as happens with car tax) so allowing the PM to talk about ’savings and improved access’
The provision of services online should provide considerable cost savings even after the expense of developing the necessary web sites and IT systems. It has been said that providing a service face-to-face is upto 10x more expensive that via a call centre which in turn is 10x more expensive than online. This is sometimes refered to the 10:1:01 metric. Whatever the real costs – and they will vary – the savings of not having to maintain a network of offices must be considerable.
But – and this is a big but – as I mentioned in my presentation at the recent Kable event on Managing Public Sector Data held in London – such changes are only cost effective if a high percentage of transactions can be completed online. Where the National Indicator 14 (NI14 ‘avoidable contact’) is missed then costs escalate as people miscomplete the necessary forms or abandon the process part way through. They then have to be proactively contacted or responded to via a call centre or be able to serviced via some form of physical presence.
Incomplete forms and errors will be the critical cost element. Every intervention will cost money to correct so reducing the savings. There will come a point where the system is overloaded and not enough ‘back room’ staff are available to clear the errors. We regularly see news reports of systems with big backlogs resulting in delayed payments or some form of customer fail.
In my presentation I actually used a personal real life example of a poorly designed web site and process versus a ’smart form’ or iForm based one. In my case whilst the form could be completed online it had to be printed off and signed, witnessed and then posted on with a fee. That is no problem except I must have misread the instructions as I completed the form incorrectly and so it was returned. I completed what I was asked but then had it returned a second time as there was a further error (why they did not spot this the first time I cannot say). It was them returned a 3rd time (!!) with a further error but I found this one impossible to work out what to do and had to phone the telephone Help Line. They themselves were unable to advise what to do and had to seek further internal guidance while I was put on hold. After following their instructions and posting off the form I called the Help Line to check all was in order and was told it was now being processed. Having been given a date for the expected confirmation letter back I called when it was overdue by a few weeks to be told there was a ‘bit of a backlog but it would be within a few days’. After almost 2 weeks I finally got the confirmation letter.
So in my case there were in effect 5 or 6 ‘avoidable contacts’ which would think would have cost a fair amount of time and money to process. I am not sure but I would not be surprised to learn that the fee charged for the service was exceeded by these ‘avoidable contact’ costs.
A process that I thought would take a few weeks lasted almost 3 months! In the commercial world if there were alternatives I would tell my ’social network’ contacts to avoid using them. Even with a Government service if there were alternatives such as going to local offices I may recommend people to go visit them and not use the online service. If enough people did this the Govt could miss their take up targets and so not make the projected cost savings.
So what could be done to improve the customer experience and reduce the transaction costs?
- Make the online form intelligent. Link sections that have to be completed to other sections and if not filled in flag it as an error.
- Only show sections of the forms as necessary. In my case it was a 12 page form – in full. A number of sections were not to be completed depending on previous answers. Hide the options and only activate if required. A simpler, less busy presentation will reduce likely error completion.
- Only allow the forms printing for signature or online submission when all have been completed and no errors (as far as the system can tell!) have been made.
- Use ‘pop-up’ text and video based instructions as both a user activated option and where sections have been completed incorrectly
- Allow ‘crowdsourced’ comments and feedback from previous customers. For example I had my own specific experience. I cannot imagine I would be the only one. If there was a Forum or Community section I could share those experiences and add my own tips on how to avoid the problems I had. It maybe people from the Help desk can also provide quidance and suggestions by commenting on my comments. These could be sorted by topic and shown as an overall resource or selectively displayed like the video at each relevant section. The objective being the same – increase successful online completion and reduce errors.
- Finally there may be 3rd parties (organisations like citizens advice and local charities and support organsiations etc) that can help. Maybe the web site can have an ‘access local help section’. The Call Centre Help team would still be there but if local offices are closing and some people still need ‘face-to-face’ help this can be done in the community. They themselves may have helpful advice online that can allow the transaction to be completed rather than the citizen needing to physically visit the offices.