The team which I manage for our organisation has a very mixed portfolio, but it all hangs together well.
We have smart cards, Geographic Information Services, the Corporate Gazetteer, various aspects of operating and hosting a portfolio of web sites, domain name management, a lead on Social Media, Open Data, user-centred service design – all of which comes under the broad category of Digital Services (although we don’t currently call ourselves that). We still use the now rather dated term: e-Government.
And we operate the biggest Customer Service channel.
We haven’t had a web team, as such since 2006.
Our move from web team to being the providers of a broader suite of services began in 2003 when I put forward a business case to integrate the management of web content (then under Comms) with the running of the technical side, which was then my role. And when that happened we were one of the first organisations of our kind to implement that approach, certainly in Scotland. Many have since gone down the same route.
That integration brought huge dividends. We had one strategy, one approach, one set of objectives and we pooled resources rather than spend our time negotiating with other teams (or worse).
And we built on that core team – bringing in other services, becoming e-Government, moving from what had been the provision of an informational site (with the content run by Comms) to focus on initial online service delivery projects – with our first big launches in Summer 2004.
Prior to that no-one in the Senior Management Team seemed to know what to do with us. Up to 2003, if memory serves me right, our team had been based in ICT (with half in Comms), HR, the Office of The Chief Executive, Planning, Property, and back again to either HR or OCE – and we were later to find ourselves in Continuous Improvement and Corporate Governance. So we’ve been about a bit!
Since 2004, we’ve increased our focus on online service delivery – although that took a bit of a dip in 2006 when we landed with a manager who just didn’t ‘get’ web or self-service. And our staffing got cut at that point and has never recovered.
When we restructured again in 2010 we were aligned with Customer Services – as we sought to do – and we work closely with that team to address all three service delivery channels. That works really well and means that not only have an excellent relationship (with the teams co-located in the same physical space) but we also align strategy to a common aim.
Now we find ourselves caught up in another restructure. Once which will see a new Head of Communications role created and filled. This is a welcome move and one which is badly needed.
As part of the proposed restructure it was suggested that Web Content move to that role. We responded to this to explain more about what our team does – and how working with the Head of Comms role to provide a communications platform for a comms team might work – and how certain aspects of our team role, such a a lead on Social Media use, might transfer to that new function (noting that our current work in relation to the use of Social Media is focussed on integrating that into the Customer Service / Contact Centre in coming weeks). We also highlighted the wide range of functions we perform, how we work with other teams, explained that there is no longer a stand-alone web content function (as that is at the service of fulfilling customer service) and so on.
Now spectre of moving the whole team to Communications has materialised and has caused a degree of surprise. I think it is fair to say that this would be by most measures a retrograde step, and one which would put us at odds with just about every other local authority in the UK, some of whom have been seeking to emulate our long-standing integrated function, and also to align all three delivery channels under single manangent team as we have. It would take us back to pre-2010 in terms of our joined-up approach to Customer Service – and in fact to pre-2006 structurally.
We await further discussion on this – and the chance to explore the risks and opportunities such a move might bring. I’ve certainly been doing a lot of soul-searching on this. Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe we should move away from having a website that is the primary service delivery channel. How that would support an approach to Customer Service Excellence – which we’re tasked with delivering I can’t quite work out yet!
Meantime, if you work in digital services, web, or customer service in Local Government I would welcome your comments below please!