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Gain an insight into the demand side of local government

Lean, shared services, channel shift – terms that have dominated the local government landscape in recent years as councils search for efficiencies against a backdrop of budget cuts. While 2015 has been another year of success for local councils in improving the way services are supplied, I believe councils must look ever more closely at the demand-side.

With rising demand, changing demographics and increasingly reduced budgets, it is essential to actively and aggressively manage demand – changing the way we work and moving to a new mode of community leadership that is more connected, collaborative and more reflective of the public councils serve.

Understanding demand 

We can only manage demand if we understand it. This understanding is achieved through the use of insight and analytics, demand segmentation and information management.

The proliferation and abundance of data can provide us with the raw material needed for customer-centric service design and organisational optimisation. At Capita, we work with our clients to harness their data, using analytics tools to transform this information into valuable insight. Our analytics community comprises over 200 professionals that have an unrivalled combination of skills, and sector knowledge across both private and public sectors.

We are able to analyse and gain insight from the large volumes of closed and open, structured and unstructured data to understand what and why things have happened in the past. For example, we can understand what drives failure demand and cost in to the system. This provides actionable insight into what we should do in the future.

Our approach to analytics and insight works on four levels providing evidence for Strategic Service Commissioning, Transformation, Service Design and Operations Management.

An example of our analytics in action can be seen in our work with local authorities, helping them to tailor communication and recruitment strategies with the aim of increasing the number of fostering households.

Our insight is helping councils to focus marketing materials at particular segments of the population or at people living in specific places. We start by profiling current foster carers and then identify similar residents who could potentially become carers themselves. In addition, we analyse key features of those potential carers to understand how they could be targeted and encouraged to offer their support. This type of insight is helping to increase the number of applicants by 250%.

Tackle demand failure 

Understanding demand as outlined above is not driven by customers, but by the processes created by the council/partners.  Process improvement and/or service redesign can prevent this.

This can be achieved in one of two ways. Firstly, by staff leading a continuous improvement into an organisation’s culture so that there is a constant and iterative, albeit small, increase in performance. Secondly, a design-led ‘step change approach in which processes are redesigned with some engagement but a greater focus on a data driven method. Both approaches can help address customer satisfaction and reduce cost.

Capita uses a structured approach to realising service improvement utilising a wide range of operational improvement tools and techniques combined with rigorous change management.

In summary, we believe in ‘situational’ service improvement and we will use whichever technique or others we are developing in our day-to-day work which are appropriate for the particular client situation, specifically designed around the people involved.

To illustrate our approach, The States of Jersey (SOJ) engaged Capita ‘to become an effective, efficient organisation, responsive to the needs of its customers and flexible to change by engaging and empowering its staff to improve services’.

Through our delivery of extensive, practical, experience-led training to more than 1000 staff and, the partnership has been able to identify over 250 improvement initiatives to create a portfolio of future projects. This is in addition to the fast realisation of many thousands of hours of value identified for quick re-investment into SOJ and public services.

Services have tangibly and meaningfully improved for the public as a result of the Lean Academy. Furthermore, there is a clear commitment to lean methods and behaviours being a key part of the organisational culture in the future

Shift channels and redesign pathways 

The way customers live and how organisations are run is changing as technology becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, connecting physical and digital worlds.

According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 88% of the UK population are now online (aged 16 and over) and smart phone use has more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 24% to 58%. Our customers can now work, shop, communicate, socialise and learn on-line, 24/7.

Being connected means our customers are empowered and they expect more – demanding tailored services at their pace and convenience. And if they don’t get what they want, when they want it, they share their experiences with others. Increasingly that sharing takes place over social media, providing immediate feedback that can potentially go viral, damaging the brand and revenue.

Faced with more downward pressure on budgets and the creative disruption of digital, organisations must transform the way they think about and deliver services. Shifting channels should mean not only lower costs, but also making it easier to sign post people to alternative sources of information or service. Handling ‘real’ demand in this way enables an organisation to retrain the customer to make smaller demands on service resources.

Our work with local authorities to co-design and co-deliver digital transformation is resulting in a multi-channel digital customer experience, broader and deeper self-service and increasing productivity through service-line automation, including mobile field teams.

Reduce demand – directly or indirectly

Demand can be reduced through prevention and/or readiness strategies and through more effective deployment of capacity beyond the council. This can be seen through our work with a council in the south-east, where Capita is using insight from data analytics to help the local authority meet the challenges of increasing demand and high customer expectations, combined with budgetary pressures.

Increasingly clients’ partnership relationship with Capita includes a dedicated insight team with data analysts, marketers, demographers and geographers. They capture data from a huge variety of sources to help pinpoint the exact needs and expectations of our residents as precisely as they possibly can, using our deep understanding of behavioural science.

The team has access to all manner of data sets, whether that is from council tax collections and housing benefits, parking permits, the school census or the electoral roll. As a result, the council is able to transform what it does based upon a new understanding of its residents’ preferences and needs.

The insight model we have developed is built on a data warehouse to help model and analyse information to help us understand the future demand for services from local citizens. This will identify those who need the support of the council, with the ultimate aim of creating a ‘single view’ of the customer to enable efficient and effective programmes of support to be developed.

For example, an interactive dashboard for council members provides  a regular, up-to-date snapshot of information in the borough’s wards. This allows them to track changes over time and gives them a detailed view of residents, helping members make informed commissioning decisions.

And the council is already using insight to build an understanding of demographic changes in the borough, which will again help us plan for the future of our services.

By combining information from different sources and linking in to one household, the council is able to provide services today that could save money and improve quality of life in the future. This, ultimately, is the goal of the council’s insight service.

Conclusion

Accurately predicting future service demand and then working within the ‘behavioural economics’ space to prevent, deflect and divert is already critical for most councils. To meet the challenges ahead, the sector will need to become even more sophisticated – fortunately we are working with some clients whose progress gives us confidence that the sector more generally can rise to the challenge.

First published in the LGC Transformation Supplement

Photo of Andy Theedom

Andy Theedom

Local government market director, Capita

Andy is a believer in the power of local government to improve the lives of individuals and communities; he works with clients to design and implement the transformational change that can unlock and enhance this. Andy brings experiences from working in and with a wide variety of local and national authorities on topics such as demand management, digital futures and adult social care

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