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Council Website Performance 2014
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Performance 2014

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Survey finds a drop in councils’ website performance by five per cent - 69 per cent of UK councils fail website performance test compared to 64 per cent in 2013

Thurrock Council outpaces its peers - website was 122 times faster than the slowest

Local councils need greater visibility of their online services if they hope to deliver on the government’s 'Digital by Default Service Standard’ introduced in April.

The standard requires that a user’s experience of digital services must be so good that they prefer to carry out the transaction online rather than by phone, post or in person.

New research reveals that 69 per cent of councils' front-line websites are underperforming. The study of 227 UK councils found that 69 per cent (156) failed to meet the threshold of good website performance, five percentage points more than last year.

 

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Managed Services are becoming the centre of gravity across the whole IT industry. Not only are Service Providers going through a major transition coping with the increase in demand for these Managed Services, but enterprise IT Departments themselves are becoming service providers to their own businesses and customers.

What these people need most is the ability to see, in real time, exactly how their users are experiencing these services but also proof that agreed services are achieving objectives. Many of our clients are now using Highlight to deliver on both these requirements (see case study on JLT).

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Is your University concerned about how your digital systems will perform during Clearing this year? Or perhaps you’ve had problems during Clearing in the past that were difficult to identify and solve?

This was exactly how David Swayne, CIO at London South Bank University (LSBU) felt. His institution had experienced a few issues during Clearing in previous years which impacted upon the service he was able to deliver to prospective students.

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With the aim of improving how residents recycle their waste, one of our council clients is undertaking an education campaign to change behaviours, rather than impose punitive fines.

Incorrect items in the recycling system can cost councils many thousands of pounds. To tackle this issue, our client has equipped its refuse collection drivers with mobile devices so that they can identify the location/properties of those recycling incorrectly. The resident is then targeted with educational materials.

This fits nicely with a new incentive scheme that the government is currently trialling - where households are rewarded with vouchers for good recycling. The council's in-cab reporting system could easily be adapted to the new scheme if found to be successful.

But to make it work, the council needs to receive accurate and timely information.

With our Highlight service, we check continuously that the mobile connections in the lorry cabs are working. When the driver identifies a particular location, Highlight ensures that the information is not lost – it confirms that all supporting infrastructures are working, that the information is delivered and that it is then processed.

From my perspective, I'm all in favour of the incentive scheme. If they can hit a balance between reward and effort on a personal level, I think recycling behaviours will improve dramatically!

We’ll have to wait to see where RBS lays the blame for Monday’s IT crash. Last time a bank’s IT system failed it was due to a scheduling problem with a critical service like batch processing.

At that time, the bank had no warning of the issue. It could have been building over time or it could have been as simple as someone making a change – planned or otherwise. What they didn’t have was visibility of their systems.

From a change perspective, it’s vital to be able to see how key applications are performing – and if a change is made, you need to see the impact it has on the operation of those services.

Regarding this week’s IT disaster, RBS' CEO Ross McEwan said: “"For decades, RBS failed to invest properly in its systems. We need to put our customers' needs at the centre of all we do. It will take time, but we are investing heavily in building IT systems our customers can rely on.”

Whilst under-investment may be a cause, RBS needs to be very cautious about throwing money at new technology, particularly if they are unable to see how that technology is then performing. They may well come up facing the same problems.

 

After all, you can only manage what you can see and understand.

 

With the deadline for infant, junior and primary school applications coming up in January, we’re working with a Council’s head of digital services to ensure that this vital online service is working efficiently.

Choosing first schools can be very stressful - a family doesn’t need to contend with slow or unresponsive websites to add to their anxiety.

We’re helping the Council to ensure that all systems are working properly. We allow the council to check rapidly that the technical infrastructure supporting this digital service is up to the task and that the supporting databases are all connecting and performing properly.

We’re also monitoring this Councils’ website front page, the pages dealing with planning applications and additionally, their consultation portal – an area where residents can submit their views on issues such as flood risks, housing payments, health and wellbeing.

Moving more services to the web and away from the call centre makes good financial sense. And many residents appreciate being able to submit information at any time of day and resolve their issues quickly online.

But councils must ensure excellent performance from these web services or residents will revert to the more expensive and time consuming telephone or face to face meetings.