Wouter van den Bergh
Do you work at a municipality? And are you responsible for IT or citizen support? Then listen up. I’ll explain why you need each other to provide excellent service your citizens - and how an Enterprise Service Management (ESM) approach will help you.
But first, let’s take a step back.
What is citizen support?
Citizen support literally means supporting the citizens of your municipality with their questions, requests, and complaints. It means making it as easy as possible for citizens to renew their passport, make an appointment, or request a driver’s license.
The key to great support for your citizens is making the interaction between your citizens and your municipality an effortless experience. To achieve this, municipalities organize teams, design processes, and buy software.
But not every municipality succeeds. You’ve heard it before. Modern day horror stories from your neighbor who spoke with four different employees, had to repeat their story endlessly, and needed to fill in two different forms before they finally got what they requested.
So, how come it’s so hard to get it right?
Why citizen support fails
There are several reasons why citizen support initiatives fail. In my 8 years as a consultant, I’ve seen a lot of municipalities, and there were some issues I came across more than once.
Improving citizen support = buying a tool = work for IT
This is what I often see happening. The team that’s responsible for citizen support decides they need a tool to support their work, so they can help their citizens better. Their next move? Walk up to IT, give them a list of requirements, and from then on, the IT department is tasked with finding a tool, setting it up, and making sure everyone in the team knows how to use it.
What the citizen support team does, unintentionally, is making the IT department responsible for the success of their tool. They’re depending on the expertise of people who might know tooling, but are not directly involved in supporting citizens. And so the team ends up with a tool that’s tailored to IT’s needs – instead of their own. And because the tool isn’t optimized for the specific needs of the team, the adoption rate of the new tool is lower than it could be.
One person handles all IT support - as a side-job
Supporting citizens is considered the core business of your municipality, while maintaining the tool is seen as a side-gig for IT. Once their tool has been set up and the citizen support team starts using it, they’re usually aided by an IT worker who’s dedicated to supporting them. But more often than not, this person has far too many tasks and far too little time.
The IT worker is responsible for managing the tool, organizing the process, and all reporting to superiors. In most organizations, three different people are responsible for these three tasks. It’s safe to say that this doesn’t improve the performance of your IT support.
“Citizen support is not IT’s responsibility!”
When some IT departments at municipalities feel they’re taking on work the citizen support team should handle, they respond by dropping all responsibility. Their reasoning: “My IT department’s goal is to help my colleagues, not our citizens. So I’m not going to invest time and money at the expense of my IT projects.” Strictly speaking, the IT department might be right, but of course, this kind of thinking is counterproductive. The citizen support team practically has to beg, steal, and borrow resources from other departments to get their job done, while IT has all the expertise they need – and the skills to do it much quicker. This, of course, is far from efficient.
How to make citizen support work
So, making citizen support successful depends on commitment of the IT department. But no IT department can afford to assign a fulltime taskforce to helping the citizen support team. Luckily, they don’t need to.
The trick is to better facilitate collaboration. Not just between the IT department and the citizen support team, but also across your entire organization. Yes, we’re talking about Enterprise Service Management.
Here are 3 tips for making it work.
1. IT should facilitate the process – but not own it
Right off the bat, this is my most important tip. The citizen support team should take ownership of choosing and implementing a tool. That doesn’t mean they need to take care of it all. But in the end, they are the ones who’ll use the tool. And if it’s not the right tool, or if it doesn’t have the right setup, they will suffer the consequences.
You want to make use of each other’s strengths. IT has experience with selecting and implementing a tool and designing work processes. The citizen support team knows exactly what services their citizens need. So the role of IT is to find out what the goals of the citizen support team are and helping them get there.
2. Involve all stakeholders in choosing and implementing a tool
Several teams will probably be involved in choosing and implementing a tool, such as technical services, green services, and the sports department. The citizen support team, as owners of this tool implementation project, should involve all these stakeholders in the process.
One important party to get on board is your management. Not just to get the green light to purchase the tool you want, but also to reserve IT resources for during and after the implementation. As I’ve mentioned, the time needed to support a citizen support tool is often just an after-thought, and rarely budgeted. You'll probably also need management support when the project isn’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped and you need to convince all teams why you’re investing in this project.
3. Start a pilot project – together
Implementing a citizen support tool and starting a new of way of working can be daunting. That’s why we always recommend starting small. Don’t try to change your way of working all at once.
Why not start a pilot project? Choose a relatively simple service, preferably one for which you already have a process in place. The IT and citizen support team should work together to set up the process and tool and test it in practice. A municipality I visited started a pilot around the process of handling stray cats. This might be just a small process, but you can learn some valuable lessons from it – and use what you’ve learned when you tackle other processes.
Collaboration is key
When collaborating with colleagues from another team, some team building is always necessary. Make some time at the start of the project to get to know each other. Celebrate the milestones you achieve together and communicate them to the organization.
This knife cuts both ways. Investing in team building could save you a lot of hassle and frustration later. And you’ll get to have cake when your project is done. And who doesn’t like cake?
Want to know how ESM can help your organization in other ways? Download our ESM e-book to find out what else ESM can do for you.