Joined-up servicesveryard projects > government > joined-up services
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|The notion of “Joined-Up Government”
implies new channels linking, and new points of connection between, the
many different elements of government: from policy-making through operations
to service provision. As the UK Government's espoused policy, therefore,
it raises structural and administrative issues, as well as presenting technological
challenges. This article identifies a number of important requirements
for the effective management of joined-up services.
Published in Review of the Public Management and Policy Association. February 2002
Integrating these services has the effect of changing the relationship between the components that provide or manage them. In some cases, these components will need to be more closely coordinated (“tightly coupled”) – and this may be achieved by a combination of new technological mechanisms and organizational/ administrative measures, or even by reorganizing the structure of government. If the responsibility for delivering a service is split between several departments, this is likely to result in higher costs as well as greater opportunities for error and delay.
This leads to the first requirement: To align the structure of Government to the structure of the demand for services.
But this is easier said than done. While it is tempting to define the
services in a way that preserves the existing structure, this typically
fails to accommodate external demands and changes. Sometimes, a radical
regrouping is called for, using sophisticated clustering algorithms to
find the optimal shape of the organization.
|PAN (Projective Analysis) is an analytical tool developed by Boxer Research Limited within a Eureka project funded by the DTI. It is based on a "triple articulation" of the enterprise. The inputs to PAN are generated from the outputs of BRL workbooks and workshop processes.|
Understanding what people really want is key. In some cases, especially
with disadvantaged groups or communities, citizens may need some assistance
articulating their demands. In all cases, the challenge is to listen and
respond rather than assume and prescribe or impose.
|Rich Voices - A Process for Socially Inclusive Online Consultation The Rich Voices e-consultation process is a socially inclusive method of informing and engaging the citizen/consumer. It has been extensively piloted in the public sector in Northern Ireland, with citizen panels contributing from home, the workplace and public internal access points.|
In many commercial situations, a service provider has no interest or responsibility in providing a complete service. For example, an airline may not provide a complete holiday, merely a segment of the journey. Or a caterer may not accept responsibility for providing the customer with a balanced diet. Governments are, however, generally expected to provide complete and meaningful services, and this leads to the second requirement: To respond flexibly to the citizen’s demand for a complete transaction.
While it may be useful to wire together the elements of a complete transaction from the citizen’s point of view, it is necessary to do this is a way that maintains a high degree of adaptability – both to changing citizen requirements and profiles, and to evolving policy regimes. This leads to the third requirement: To build a consistent and efficient service from independent building blocks.
When independent services are combined, there are often unexpected side effects. While some may be beneficial, others are unwanted and lead to inconsistent or incoherent services. (The technical term for this phenomenon is feature interaction.) Considerable prior analysis and testing needs to be done to avoid this, and ongoing monitoring and auditing are required to detect anomalies in operation.
Technology change is one of the many causes of stress and anxiety for those working in public services. While technology change (and some degree of consequent stress) may be unavoidable, it is counter-productive to overload any organization to the extent that sustainable productivity and excellence is no longer routinely accessible. The fifth and sixth requirements are therefore: To balance technology change with the capacity of the organization to accommodate technology change. and To increase the capacity of the organization to accommodate change.
(Note: there is a considerable body of knowledge and best practices on technology change management.)
While, however, joined-up government is enabled by technology, it is not solely a technological project. At its core, joined-up-government is about connections between people – both inside government and outside – for which technology may provide a medium both for service delivery and other forms of communication.
(Of course, technology may modify the service – not only are emails different in tone and style to traditional letters, they are also different in volume. Receiving several thousand emails is qualitatively different to receiving a handful of letters.)
Incremental (stepwise) change can be very difficult to manage, especially when so many people are driven by short-term results. Large numbers of small steps may be taken; while each may be meaningful in isolation, they may add up to gross confusion and ultimately fail to meet the underlying policy requirements. In industry, longer-term strategic investment in organizational capability and learning may (at least theoretically, occasionally and approximately) be converted into tangible value by being reflected in the shareprice. In Government, there is no directly equivalent measure of tangible value, and the benefits of organizational learning can only be experienced indirectly, for example from the enhanced ability to develop and implement future policy.
This is where the intelligent service-based approach potentially scores
– by allowing large complex organizations to deliver short-term results
while paying attention to longer-term issues of organizational adaptability
and improvement. It supports organic planning, in which large-scale coherence
can be developed without large-scale cost and disruption. While ill-considered
and rigid service-based structures frequently lead to enormous problems,
attention to flexible service-based structure can yield significant
short-term and longer-term benefits.
|Towards the Service-Oriented Architecture for the Service-Oriented Economy|
Copyright © 2002 Veryard Projects Ltd