Published on the 08/09/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson
It might be all upheaval in yet another election year, but happily the civil service is either beneath or above the machinations of political parties...
So, while the colour of the in-power party might change, what won’t is the government’s march towards more effective, easier to access and, one hopes, friendlier services.
As Tim Occleshaw, government CTO recently told iStart, “We’re looking to deliver the future of digital government; we’re achieving progress on that, fostering and developing a digital ecosystem in New Zealand which is centrally-led and collaboratively delivered.”
Most folk will have some experience of this already: several aspects of dealing with the IRD, for example, get easier by the day.
Behind at least some of these developments is the concept of ‘citizen service management’. In keeping an eye on ServiceNow, which provides a range of service management solutions (but which are ultimately rooted in the concept of IT service management), it has become apparent that several government organisations are, at the very least, dipping a toe into the service management pond.
‘Come on in, the water’s lovely’, one might rightly imagine the vendor to say. We approached Hamish Miles, NZ country manager at ServiceNow, to find out more about what seems to be a promising vein of business for the company. Speculating that among these might be the IRD, Miles said, nope, you’d be mistaken.
However, in a phone interview, Miles did say the country’s civil service is an early adopter of the principles and approaches encapsulated in service management. “We work with global organisations and see government as leading the charge in its desire for better public service. In some cases, it is even ahead of the private sector in terms of documenting strategies and identifying technologies which can transform the way they work.”
That’s heartening for citizens, perhaps the more so because, while governments tend to have deep pockets thanks to taxpayers who give and give (like it or not), the willingness to make things better for citizens in the absence of competitive necessity makes for warm fuzzies at the very least, and easier, more convenient access to services as a more tangible outcome. Without, one hopes, breaking the bank and putting upon that long-suffering taxpayer too heavily.
Miles said citizen service management is a ‘team sport’ and has a high bar to meet in terms of usability: we all know how to hail an Uber, we can order a Domino’s pizza with ease and we should be able to access and interact with government services on the same simple basis. “This experience is what citizen service management is about. What government is trying to do is make as easy as possible to access life services. Take the arrival of a new baby. Multiple government divisions and services are involved, so you want to connect these events with a workflow. In the USA, we have an example where you log into a portal, and it connects all 47 agencies that are involved in a child’s birth, it routes and tracks the work request so the individual knows exactly what is happening, when and where.”
Self-service and automation are big parts of that, added Miles, and those who must file returns with IRD are already seeing clear elements of that progress. IRD’s Gary Baird recently told an audience at the CIO Summit that this is among its goals, and indeed the organisation has announced job cuts as fewer paper-pushers are required.
Cost is one thing, better service another
“There are a number of drivers for governments considering citizen service management,” continued Miles. “Part of that is reducing the cost of service. Another is providing a better, connected experience for citizens. And we must look at who benefits, and it is you and me mate.”
How service management makes that happen, he added, is that it connects the relevant parts of the enterprise at the right time, along with record management. “You’re directing work more effectively. You’re doing away with manual reporting and distribution of tasks. You’re taking out email as the means of allocating tasks, so service becomes more accurate, faster and you can track its performance.”
How receptive to the idea of service management are government entities? Very, said Miles. “But this isn’t something you can switch on and off. There is a transformation that the organisation has to go through to deliver these services.” And there is, he confirmed, a fairly heavy change management loads – after all, service management is about ‘changing the way you work’ and that doesn’t necessarily get everyone excited, notwithstanding putative benefits.
There’s a big public-sector pie that ServiceNow and its competitors are vying for. Miles said there are some 300 agencies in total; asked what the split between public and private sector is for the company’s clients and prospects, he put it at an estimate or around 50/50.
While still a small team of 7, Miles noted that ServiceNow has recently opened a Wellington office (for obvious reasons) and expects to add to that number ‘soon’.
And just what does citizen service management mean for Joe Citizen? “Soon we’ll look back and wonder how we used to do things. We’re talking faster and more efficient services, better use of public money and the ability to do a lot of our interactions with government through mobile. It’ll be like banking once was: most of us can’t even remember what it was like to go into a branch for every slightest thing.”