The customers of Antrim Borough Council are on ‘cloud’ 9 as Antrim has put local people at the heart of local services. Recently, customer focus has been taken to a new level with a shift for Council systems to a cloud based platform resulting in more services being available both online and at the first point of contact.
Catherine McFarland, Strategic Director of Corporate and Regulatory Services, says: “It may seem paradoxical but this move has allowed technology to fade into the background to make sure that we are not about technology but about customers and the customer experience is the main focus of our attention.”
The Council has challenged traditional thinking and delivered a sustainable transformation. One of our key messages is to properly analyse the business need and potential benefits so that the customer experience is actually better and efficiencies are made as a result.
“The cloud approach facilitates rapid deployment of new solutions, removing the need for long, expensive project implementations which often fail or over-run,” says ICT manager Graham Smyth. “These are often key features of public sector IT projects and there is a danger in basing decisions on the new ‘fad’ as opposed to business need.”
In terms of efficiency, the Council has transformed its services through mobile working using iPads for staff and elected members for services such as building control, dog control, licensing, recruitment, health and well-being services, customer relationship management and council and committee meetings.
The Council has integrated this capability and enhanced our website to shift channels towards online services e.g. leisure, recruitment, procurement, building control, box office and caravan park bookings.
Councillor Roy Thompson, Chair of Resources Committee, adds: “Through a proper business analysis and true integration between front-line and back office systems which eliminates duplication of work, significant savings have been made year on year which has contributed towards reducing the rates burden for our community.”
“In addition, we as elected members, find paperless working much easier and more efficient, particularly when referencing documents in Council meetings – even our oldest 82 year old member is converted! We are also very proud that it has all been achieved with only two ICT officers and no external support.”
Antrim has embraced Software as a Service, utilising the cloud for key business solutions, including a backup and recovery platform. This facilitates an agile and scalable approach to backup, while enhancing data protection with replication over multiple ISO accredited data centres.
Antrim Borough Council customers have been part of this evolution and the customer relationship management (CRM) system has been a key enabler in making this happen. The next stage is to fully integrate the website with the CRM system. The elected members already have access to CRM customer reports particularly when tracking enquiries. The vision is to extend this access to the customer.
Antrim’s approach in terms of ‘responsive web design’ means that the web services are made to suit all mobile devices – again this is a customer-led approach and will continue through the development of customer apps for key services.
Councillor Roderick Swann, Mayor of Antrim, says: “We see great opportunities in the next few years with the Review of Public Administration and our RPA partner, Newtownabbey, is also a progressive Council – joining our efforts, particularly in ICT, will help to build a successful new Council.”
A final word from our customer, Cynthia Cherry: “As a customer I find the approach taken by Antrim Borough Council so different to other public bodies. I can access the information and services I need at the first point of contact either on-line, by phone or in person and I feel that I matter.”