The eGov ‘Tell Us Once’ programme: part 1

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This is the first of a two part blog. In this first part I’ll focus on the general approach to Tell Us Once. In the second part I’ll focus on the progress we have made.

You can be forgiven for thinking that eGov focuses on technological changes and, more specifically, Internet services.

The truth is, however, that the transformation eGov is trying to achieve has more to do with other aspects of government than with technology. Nowhere is this truer than in Tell Us Once (TUO), the first programme launched under the eGov banner.

The objective of TUO is that when we ask our customers and partners for any piece of information we share that information appropriately, so that we never have to ask them again. The “Us” in TUO (the “we”) includes all parts of the States of Jersey administration (States departments, parishes, agencies) and even, potentially, private entities where appropriate. The audience is all SOJ customers and partners.

Why are we doing this?

The focus of TUO is to improve customer service through sharing customer data, with the understanding that this will create efficiencies across the States of Jersey.

The benefit to the customer is obvious (fewer interactions, simpler forms and processes, faster response times) and they have already told us that this is one of the things they expect us to achieve quickly.

The efficiencies that this will create are not so obvious. They will appear as echoes or will have a ripple-effect that extends beyond the immediate changes.

  • We will reduce the number of customer interactions by sharing data as soon as it is received (removing the need for the customer to keep interacting with the different departments that may need the data)
  • As the sharing of data will be automated, we’ll reduce the amount of manual processing effort
  • More accurate customer data means less corrections, checks and controls
  • Consistent data across departments and systems means a better understanding of our customers and makes providing services a simpler task
  • Compliance assurance will be easier because of better data and consistent processes across departments

But the benefits extend beyond this. With good data at our disposal, we will be able to utilise it in better ways to provide improved services in a more proactive manner.

Why hasn’t this been done before?

Unless you work within the SoJ, you probably assume that a lot of this is already happening. You might have even heard about laws specifically implemented to support the sharing of data.

Until recently though, each SOJ department was run as an independent organisation by its minister. Laws were written for each department with little regard to the overall functioning of government. This created all sorts of barriers between the departments; processes, systems, cultures are different and independent. So when you try to do things in a different way you need to overcome all of those “obstacles”.

The good news is that the SoJ are changing fast and the drive and willingness to change can be found at every level, from the political to customer facing staff, through management and the back office. That doesn’t immediately remove the obstacles, but it certainly makes change easier.

How are we doing it

The answer is simple; one step at a time. By having the objective clearly set in front of the project team and choosing the steps that will allow us to overcome obstacles one-by-one and to learn as we progress, so we can keep improving the pace; at each step adding more layers of complexity.

We first defined the scope of the eGov TUO programme. This included two key decisions; TUO processes should link into parishes and public agencies and cover both individuals and business customers.

We then had to agree what processes the programme would focus on first. Some would have wanted TUO to address immediately some of the big impact processes, like change of address, but we decided to start in small bite-sized pieces. Each process was chosen to allow us to learn something and to deliver a specific customer benefit.

Four low volume processes were selected:

  • Three of the processes relate to the creation of new records, one process involves the updating of existing information.
  • One focuses on businesses, three on individual customers
  • They extend beyond the SoJ, to the parishes and one external agency.

We sat with all key stakeholders for each process, including customer representatives, around a (BIG) table to review the current processes and define a “vision”. Achieving those visions will take some time; they involve changes in key technological systems and the States organisational structure. But we identified some “Quick Wins”; improvements that can be achieved reasonably quickly, with limited investment.

The Quick Wins are mostly about creating new interdepartmental processes, defining new process owners, minimising customer interaction, improving customer information, all with only limited changes in technology. Once these processes have been implemented we’ll look to automate them.

The Quick Win concept is part of a significant change of approach being embraced by the eGov programme. Instead of trying to fully define all changes before we start implementing, we want to set the direction of travel (the vision) and start moving. This should allow us to move faster and to learn as we progress. This type of approach is a big change in the way government works and requires changes in procurement, risk management and project management.

It also requires a big leap of faith from the process owners; they need to trust eGov to keep delivering improvements after each step. Nobody wants to be stuck with a temporary solution, but that’s what previous experience tells users that might happen.

One key area of activity is making sure we are doing what customers want us to do. We call this collecting the voice of the customer and we have committed to do it:

  • before we make any changes, in order to understand what the customer wants and to set a baselined satisfaction level
  • after the changes have been implemented, to confirm success and identify areas for further improvement
  • continuously for any new process, to support the continuous improvement that the SoJ is aiming for.

Have we made any progress?

Yes we have. The first two TUO processes have now been running for a few weeks. And we are piloting the last two and have already started work on the next phase.

But please allow me to leave that for my next blog.

Please feel free to contact the project team at tellusonce@gov.je or using the comments section below to discuss, provide feedback or suggest what the TUO Programme could do next.

  • Darius Pearce Jeweller

    I do not agree with the whole ethos and intention of such a program. The concerns of the masters (the public of the Island of Jersey) must be pre-eminent over the servants (the employees of the States of Jersey). Not to mention it is the States of Jersey who are running this so the information will be inaccurate, the process flawed and the outcome a total disaster. Serious work needs to be done to streamline the management process in the Civil Service before anything like this should be attempted. I will not comply with any requests related to this program.

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