success story/Plymouth City Council
Enhancing citizens’ experience through digital transformation
Transforming digital services to exploit automation in Revenues & Benefits went from being important, to imperative, when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Key objectives & outcomes
Break out of a silo to transform citizens’ experience of online self-service in Revenues
>10,000 Council Tax transactions in the first 6 months; 97% online take-up
>70% automation rates
Use automation to free up team resource – became vital when the pandemic struck
More than 65% of all customer service requests made to the council were in relation to Council Tax or Street Services. Whilst the channel mix for Street Services (built in the Granicus govService platform) often reached over 90% digital, Council Tax (supplied by another vendor) was stuck at around 28%. Analysis and customer feedback on why Council Tax digital uptake was so low highlighted the poor usability of the existing digital offering.
About Plymouth City Council
- Servicing 262,700 residents
- Over 121,000 chargeable dwellings
- Established in 1998 as a unitary authority
A key initiative in Plymouth’s wider Strategic Digital Transformation Programme was to improve its Council Tax self-service facilities for citizens and facilitate automation between the front-end web forms and its Capita R&B system. Increasing the rate of online self-service and automating transactions would free up contact centre and other staff to focus on more complex cases and vulnerable citizens.
Based on a successful digital transformation project with Kirklees MBC, Granicus recommended Govtech as a Revenues & Benefits integration partner for Plymouth. A new partnership between Granicus and Govtech offered the means to address digital deficiencies in Revenues as part of a single council-wide digital service. The partnership promised a fully hosted, off-the-shelf solution on the Granicus govService platform that could be configured to fully digitise Revenues in a matter of weeks and automate processing in Capita’s Revenues system.
Improvements in useability would drive uptake of online digital services by citizens. Automation would allow the council to consider how and where to reassign Customer Service resources to best meet the needs of vulnerable customers. A business case was required to underpin the investment and responsibility for developing this rested with Peter Honeywell, Plymouth’s Transformation Architecture Manager.
The key assumptions that underpinned the business case were:
- Govtech would automate at least 56% of all the customer interactions presented to it.
The dependency in delivering this level of automation was whether Capita’s R&B system APIs would allow customer requests to be automatically processed, since no supplier had previously shown that this could be done to the extent proposed.
- The value of the capacity freed up by Govtech automation within Customer Services would cover the costs associated with the investment and the ongoing costs for the service.
The business case investment was modelled against the expected benefits, expressed as the value of resources freed up and revenue gains from re-assigning resources into debt recovery and other high value activities. The task of realising benefits was owned by the Customer Services management team.
Reassigning resources would play a key role in benefit realisation with the main associated dependency being the additional recovery of debt.
Following approval of the business case, Govtech undertook a 3-month discovery project to test and prove API capabilities from end to end. The results were documented and presented to the council in December which then commissioned implementation in January.
Govtech was ‘a company with a mission’. A mission to help us break out of the silo we were in. The Granicus govService platform was already widely deployed but nobody had previously integrated with our core R&B system in the way they were proposing to do, so we had to have confidence in their abilities. What we found as we went along was that they are experts in the field in which they practice, Revenues and Benefits automation. Govtech’s approach was to present themselves as good problem solvers. And I was particularly struck by the focus they placed on “value”; that what they are doing, the problems they are solving, must generate a return that we can measure. Their people are credible and the partnership they have forged with Granicus has created an eco-system for councils to exploit across all service areas. I am sure it will have a major role to play in the continuing modernisation of the council.
Peter Honeywell, Transformation Architecture Manager
online Council Tax self-service take-up
R&B transactions processed within 6 months
automation rates of all R&B transactions
resources successfully reassigned to cope-with pandemic priorities
Within weeks of the project commencing, the Coronavirus pandemic led to the first lockdown. Despite both organisations’ staff having to set up new home-working environments and practices, the impact on the project plan was confined to just a 4-week slippage on the planned ‘go live’ date, from May to June.
Post-live, there was continuous tracking, monitoring and joint analysis of automation rates, including identification of underlying business rules, or core product configuration issues, that were affecting automation.
By October, automation rates were approaching 70% - well above the business case breakeven point. Business rules were triggering interventions for the balance of work and these were automatically classified as High, Medium or Low priority items and sent to work queues with instructions to aid officers.
Adapting to the pandemic
The business case clearly identified and quantified the benefits that would flow from transforming citizens’ digital experiences and exploiting automation to release staff for other priorities. The pandemic had two significant effects on the business case. It greatly amplified the need to transform digital and exploit automation, and it greatly accelerated achievement of the outcomes. In a matter of weeks, the entire Revenues and Benefits service was moved online while staff were relocated to work from home and reassigned to urgent new priorities.
Automation was a key investment. It enabled services to remain operational while freeing up skilled people to deal with the emergency. A smaller team was able to manage an increased day-to-day workload whilst colleagues processed business grants, welfare changes and, later, the even more time-critical track and trace payments. Citizens and businesses in Plymouth, desperate to make ends meet, were supported by staff able to work more flexibly and cooperatively than ever before.
Automation has been vital. The more of it we can do, the better. It’s difficult to imagine how we would still be managing without it.
Emma Rose, Strategic Development Manager
All standout digital transformation success stories begin somewhere...
No matter what your starting point is, get in touch and our team will arrange an informal conversation to understand what improvements you want to make and why, explore ways digital process automation may be able to assist and, if you need it, provide help to write a business case based on achieving those goals.