Tandridge District Council is committed to providing public services which support an environment where people want to live, work and visit. Promoting sustainable growth, while protecting the area’s stunning countryside, which is 94% green belt, are key priorities.
Like other local authorities, Tandridge is under pressure to reduce costs. It needs to achieve a 10% year-on-year cost saving every year until 2020. “We’ve always prided ourselves on delivering excellent services,” said Stuart Mitchenall, Head of Business Services and responsible for ICT at the council. “We don't want to cut back on the range or quality of services we provide, so we need to find innovative and cost-effective ways of delivering them.”
As a traditional council with traditional values, Tandridge has always connected with citizens face-to-face, by phone and by email. To balance service quality with service cost, Mitchenall recognised the council needed to embrace new engagement channels. “We’re embarking on a major business design and digital transformation which will transform the way our staff work and keep the citizen at the heart of our services, using new technologies,” he said. “Social media is just one of the channels the Council plans to develop further - “Local people and local politics are increasingly active on social media and we need to be there too. We want to be listening and responding to community issues.”
Online self-service, mobile apps and web chat also form part of Mitchenall’s vision for citizen and community engagement. “You can’t keep up by standing still,” he said. “Local government organisations have been risk averse in the past, but we want to be champions of change.”
To support its digital vision, the Council first decided to transform the internal applications used by four departments. “Our legacy systems were not designed for today’s flexible and mobile workstyles. They were also expensive and difficult to maintain,” explained Mitchenall. “It was time to jump ship and embrace both new technologies and new processes, combined with new ways of working.”
Mitchenall first encountered Salesforce in 2012, when the council introduced an app for its building control teams based on Force.com, part of the Salesforce App Cloud. The app - which enables architects, builders and property owners to share documents and manage approvals more easily - was the first step towards an entirely new approach to not only IT, but also citizen engagement.
“I soon knew a platform approach would be essential for our digital journey,” said Mitchenall. “Salesforce is a platform that has the flexibility and integration we need to transform service delivery end-to-end – whether it involves logging a planning application or requesting a repair to a council property.”
The authority is developing plans to integrate most customer functions and every process into the Salesforce platform by March 2019. The Council has already expanded its app stable with solutions for managing online planning applications and automating local land charge searches. “Using apps helps us maximise our resources, while delivering a better experience,” he added.
For example with the building control app, he foresees that council officers will no longer have to manually type up notes and upload photos when they return from a property inspection. They will simply complete a checklist and take photos on their iPad, which are then used to automatically update the Council’s records.
Minimising manual effort doesn't just save time; it can also help generate revenue. As Mitchenall explained: “Land charge searches are a fee-earning service, greater efficiency means greater profitability. The app will help us become a more commercially focused organisation.”
Environmental health and housing services are on the transformation agenda, “We want to enable tenants to report a fault with their property using online self-service features, which will feed directly into back office systems to speed up problem resolution” he said.
The Council’s customer service team is to be equipped with Service Cloud to ensure a rapid response to queries, and expects web chat capabilities and knowledge articles will be introduced during 2017, as well as integration with VoIP telephony. “Every citizen request, issue and query will eventually be tracked in Service Cloud,” said Mitchenall. “With Salesforce, we will be able to make our digital and omni-channel ambitions a reality.”
For Mitchenall, one of the most important benefits of the Salesforce platform is how council employees can become agents for change. “With Salesforce we can update processes, modify interfaces and develop customised reports without always needing an external developer,” he said.
By digitising and automating internal processes, the Council will be able to free up resources and enrich the citizen experience. “We’ll be able to provide people with a choice of when and how they engage,” said Mitchenall. “We’ll also be able respond more quickly to issues, requests, and applications.”
To personalise the many services it delivers to the district’s 85,000 residents, Tandridge plans to create individual citizen accounts using Community Cloud. Via an online community, users will be able to access all the council services that are relevant to them in a single place. “The information flow will work both ways,” explained Mitchenall. “As well as keeping citizens updated, the community will provide council officers with an insight into the type of services being requested across the district. This will help us prioritise our resources.”
The community-based citizen accounts will also help the council meet new data protection regulations, which come into force in 2018.
“We’re becoming more commercially-minded, which will be essential as we continue to face budget cuts,” said Mitchenall. “With Salesforce, we can create a more mobile and flexible council which delivers more responsive public services for less.”