Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government ISB Case Study Report: Project 2/24 - Promoting Electronic Government Introduction 1.1 This case study report has been prepared by SQW as part of an evaluation of the Invest to Save Budget (ISB) Rounds 1 and 2. SQW, together with MORI, has been commissioned to undertake the evaluation by HM Treasury. The evaluation comprises some 35 case studies of individual ISB projects and a survey of all Round 1 and 2 projects. 1.2 The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the extent to which the ISB has promoted sustainable partnership working and innovation in public service delivery. This case study explores these issues with regard to one project. This report is based on a number of questionnaires and interviews completed with key individuals that have been involved in the project, together with a review of background documentation. The report is divided into two main parts, with part (A) describing the project and part (B) discussing the findings of this brief evaluation. (A) Project Description 1.3 The ‘Promoting Electronic Government’ (PEG) Project is a two year project that has been partly funded through Round 2 of the Invest to Save Budget and that has been promoted by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). 1.4 The purpose of the project is to contribute towards the Prime Minister’s target of ensuring that all appropriate public services are available by electronic means by 2005. The target is one of DTLR’s Public Service Agreement targets with HM Treasury agreed through the Comprehensive Spending Review 2000. As Local Government delivers many public services, the DTLR has been promoting a number of complementary initiatives aimed at accelerating the move towards ‘electronic government’. These include work with the Local Government Association, IdeA, the Society of Information Technology Management and the E-Envoy’s Office. A national strategy for promoting e-government at a local level has also now been published. The PEG Project is one of the many initiatives that has been promoted by DTLR. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government Aims & Objectives 1.5 The PEG project has operated from April 2000 to March 2002. It is a research and development project. Its objectives are: to develop a comprehensive benchmarking toolkit that local authorities can use to assess their own progress towards electronic service delivery and identify areas for improvement, and to have 25% of local authorities in England using at least some of these materials by March 2002 to establish and make available a database of good practice case studies in electronic service delivery in local authorities to provide guidance to local authorities on how to use the available materials effectively in a ‘managed process of change’ to facilitate the development of a network of local authorities who can learn from each other’s experiences of electronic service delivery to improve the collective position of local authorities to procure ICT from the private sector, through greater co-operation with each other and improved understanding between local authorities and the private sector; and to ensure that a process is put in place to roll out the benchmarking toolkit and associated materials after April 2002 to all local authorities in England. 1.6 The intended (short term) outcome of the project is that every local authority in England will have access to the benchmarking toolkit (and other supporting materials) and, prompted by PEG and the other ongoing activities of DTLR, be actively engaged in moving towards electronic service delivery for all appropriate services by 2005. The intentions behind the project, however, are also to promote a broader set of outcomes. 1.7 The project defines the nature of change required in local authorities as having two (closely inter-linked) dimensions. It specifies the need to procure and apply appropriate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) within an authority. This in itself provides benefits, but it also in turn opens up wider opportunities for delivering services differently. The project therefore also identifies the importance for an authority to corporately review the structures and processes it uses to deliver services, and to consider how traditional ‘service silos’ could be replaced with approaches based on greater partnership working within the authority and Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government between the authority and other agencies. In particular, the project is seeking to highlight how ICT can enable the wider adoption of a ‘single access to service’ approach, where appropriate. This is not about promoting a specific type of organisational arrangement (e.g. a ‘one stop shop’) but is rather seeking to encourage local authorities to see how the adoption of new ICT enables services to be delivered more effectively, particularly through greater joint working (‘intelligent shared working’) across services. The introduction of new ICT should therefore not simply be a ‘bolt on’ to existing service practices, but should be used as an opportunity to review and put in train more fundamental corporate changes to the way services are provided. 1.8 PEG’s ‘change agenda’ is therefore not just about promoting the greater use of ICT in service delivery but also about contributing to Best Value, continuous service improvement and the broader modernisation of local government. Project Direction and Management 1.9 The project has been led by a Project Board consisting of a mix of Central Government, Local Government and Private Sector representatives. The membership of the Project Board is as follows: DTLR Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) ‘Exchanging Information with the Public’ (EIP) Local Authority User Group CDW & Associates Ltd. The Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI) 1.10 DTLR is the sponsor Government Department for the project. IDeA is a public sector agency responsible for promoting innovation and improvements in Local Government. The EIP group comprises a network of approximately 100 local authorities that have been working together for several years to share good practice in better public information and service delivery, including electronic service delivery. The group was represented in the project by a core group of nine members, four of whom were selected to be on the Board. The FEI and the Computer Software and Services Association are both private sector trade associations, representing suppliers of ICT services and products. 1.11 The research and development work itself has been undertaken by CDW & Associates, a commercial consultancy under contract to DTLR for this project. CDW have been collaborating with a number of local authorities in the development of the PEG benchmarking and case study materials. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government 1.12 The Project Board has met several times each year, and has been accountable for steering the project. The Director of DTLR’s Local Government Directorate chaired the Board. The project was also required to submit six monthly progress reports to HM Treasury. CDW have undertaken the operational management of the project and acted as a secretariat for the Project Board. Project Background 1.13 A previous project had been undertaken from 1997 – 1999 for the Local Government Management Board (the predecessor to IDeA) – ‘Benchmarking in Community Information Services’. This had developed a benchmarking tool to be used by local authorities to assess progress towards improving the provision of customer focused information. The EIP group had also undertaken a related research exercise. 1.14 Some of the groundwork for PEG had therefore already been laid and some of the relationships already established, including the involvement of CDW in one of the research projects. The DTLR also has a much broader programme of activity in promoting electronic service delivery and modernisation in Local Government, into which this project fits. Project Inputs & Activities 1.15 The project has been funded jointly by DTLR (formerly DETR at the start of the project) and ISB. DTLR contributed £200,000 and ISB contributed £600,000. Much of the funding has been paid to CDW, as the project contractor, in consultancy fees, with the rest expended on specific project costs such as website development, running the conferences and the (ongoing) evaluation. The appointment of CDW was made through a standard DTLR tender process. 1.16 Contributions of time have also been made by the Project Board members, and in particular by the local authorities working on the project. The nine local authorities that comprise the EIP core group have been involved in the both decision-making and in the development of the benchmarking materials. An additional 30 ‘testbed’ local authorities were identified (from the EIP group) and have been assisting in the development of the materials. The time contribution (in person-days) of each of the Local Authority project members was formally written into the original project agreement. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government Project Outputs 1.17 The key project outputs that were planned and have been delivered by the project are described below. The project has been focused on the 343 English local authorities (district, county, unitary and metropolitan borough) but the outputs are available to all in the UK: the benchmarking toolkit – The self-assessment benchmarking toolkit is comprehensive and detailed, and includes detailed briefing notes. It has three tiers of assessment, which are integrated, with each successive tier enabling assessors to ‘drill down’ for a more detailed assessment. The top tier defines nine Critical Success Factors, each of which has a health-check exercise to undertake. The middle tier defines a larger series of Profile Parameters, each of which is in turn defined by a further tier of detailed Attributes. The second or third tiers would be assessed by front-line staff, as well as managers. 1.18 The thinking behind the Attributes/Parameters is based on a structure that divides service issues into three ‘horizontal’ layers of activity (corporate, infrastructure, operational) and six cross-cutting ‘vertical’ themes (communicating with the community, information, the business case for single access, developing partnerships, procuring the ICT and service access). 1.19 The design of the toolkit is modular to allow parts to be separated out and used by themselves. Local authorities can decide how to use the materials as best suits them. All of the materials are available electronically and on the PEG website. A FastTrack tool has also been developed, based on the nine Critical Success Factors, which allows a relatively rapid high-level assessment to be undertaken. This is intended for use by senior managers and elected members. The more detailed assessment using the rest of the toolkit, or parts of it, can then be undertaken if desired. good practice case studies – a series of case studies has been developed of experience in local authorities and these are available on the PEG website website – a PEG website (www.peg.org.uk) has been established explaining the purpose of the toolkit, and making it, and supporting materials, available Networking & Dissemination – Two national conferences on PEG have been held in 2001 and 2002, bringing local authorities and private sector ICT suppliers together. The toolkit has also been sent to every local authority. Various regional workshops have also been held Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government procurement guidance – following discussions between local authorities and private trade organisations, some guidance has been developed on how to procure ICT from the private sector more effectively. (B) Evaluation of the Project Actual Costs and Outputs 1.20 The project has been delivered on time and on budget, as planned. The outputs that have been delivered are those as described above in ‘Project Outputs’. These are the principal (immediate) benefits of the project. A new tool has successfully been developed, new operational service standards have been defined, good practice has been identified, and their dissemination is being promoted. 1.21 Some problems were encountered during the project, including some small slippage at various stages and the need to simplify the presentation of the Toolkit for its intended audience. In particular, the early drafts of the Toolkit were considered too complex and insufficiently engaging for key decision-makers, which required significant redrafting by both the contractor and the Department. More generally, the project also had to work hard to engage the interest and active involvement of senior staff and elected members in local authorities. The problems were, however, identified and successfully addressed. 1.22 The level of awareness and involvement of local authorities that has been achieved by the project is very good. By 31st January 2002 (before the project was due to complete), some 80% of the target group of 343 English local authorities had registered on the PEG website. Also, some 176 of the target local authorities (51%) had accessed the FastTrack package from the website. 1.23 The annual conferences and the Away Days that have been held have also been well attended. Some 30% of the target local authorities have attended a conference, and the Away Days in February 2002 included representation from 118 local authorities (34%). This is in addition to the local authorities that have been actively involved in testing and piloting the PEG toolkit as part of the project. By March 2002, it is estimated that about 100 local authorities will be engaged in using part or all of the Toolkit. The exact number will be estimated by survey in the final evaluation of the project. Other organisations, including Health Authorities and a National Park have also started to use the Toolkit. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government 1.24 Clearly, in terms of the project’s immediate objectives of developing materials, raising awareness of them and persuading local authorities to begin using them, the project has been successful. Wider benefits can also be identified, although they are difficult to quantify. 1.25 The concept of ‘single access to service delivery’ has been developed further and promoted to a wider audience including both local authorities and DTLR itself. The process of engaging local authorities and private sector ICT suppliers has also been important in helping to promote a greater mutual understanding and ability to do business effectively. Private sector suppliers have been wary of dealing with local authorities in the past, as many are small organisations, each has different requirements and most are not used to contracting with ICT suppliers. The longer term benefits of the PEG project are considered below. Partnership Working, Innovation and Risk 1.26 The purpose of the ISB is to develop, test and promote new and sustainable examples of partnership working and innovation in the public services, with the intention that good practice, where identified, would be rolled out more widely following the project. At the outset, it was recognised that ISB projects may therefore involve a higher level of risk of failure than other projects as a result of their experimental nature. 1.27 This project has involved partnership working in two different ways. Firstly, joint working has happened in the process of delivering the project. There has been co-operation between Central Government, Local Government and the private sector through discussions and decision-making on the Project Board. In developing the toolkit and materials, there has been practical collaboration between local authorities, and between local authorities and CDW. There have also been discussions about, and the development of guidance on, the procurement of ICT, involving both local government and private sector representatives. 1.28 These ‘partnerships’ have operated within the project itself. Secondly, however, following the adoption/use of the toolkit by a local authority, greater partnership working and innovation should be promoted within that authority (for example, between departments) as it reviews the way it delivers services. This form of partnership working is one of the main intended outcomes of the project. 1.29 This section will focus on the partnership working within the project process itself, although this was not the principal objective of the project. The next section considers the longer term outcomes of the project. We suggest that the most substantial partnership process that has been at work has been that between local authorities, with CDW acting as facilitators. The development of the toolkit and the good practice examples has involved a high degree of Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government collaboration, involving staff at both an operational level and a senior decision-making level. It is clear that some participating local authorities have contributed significant staff time to the project. The advantage of such an approach is that it has yielded a product of which local authorities have a good sense of ‘ownership’ of and which has been grounded in the realities of day to day service delivery experience. As a model for research and development, the process has much to commend it. 1.30 The discussions and links between the private sector trade associations and local authorities have also been constructive, although whether and how this will lead on to changes in ICT procurement is yet to be seen. 1.31 The other main aspect of partnership working has been that between DTLR itself and the other project partners through the Project Board. The Board has operated constructively and made key decisions, and was given joint ownership of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to the project’s outputs, although it was always the intention to make the end products freely available on the internet. Many Board members, including DTLR, have invested considerable time in the project, at key points through the project’s two year period. 1.32 Consideration of other aspects of the way that project partners have worked together suggest that the project has been largely conventional in its approach. As the accountable body for the project, the Department retained final responsibility for the delivery of the project. The relationship between the Board and CDW remained essentially one of client-contractor, with the risks of the project largely transferred by contract onto CDW. There was some involvement in the PEG project process by the DTLR’s own Local Government Modernisation team and a little from the Cabinet Office’s E-Envoy. 1.33 It is not clear how much capacity the Department had to deal with, or pass on, the feedback and suggestions coming from local authorities regarding possible flexibilities and innovations that would help to overcome some of the barriers to changing service delivery structures, although some feedback was passed on. Clearly, some of the barriers to innovation at a local level can have their origins in structures and regulations decided at a national level (and not just in DTLR). 1.34 Overall then, the level of innovation in the project process itself has been modest, although the collaborative model employed to develop the toolkit drew on genuine partnership working between local authorities and has helped to build a platform for more consistent service standards across Local Government. The general approach of the DTLR working with local authorities and representatives of the private sector is also evident in other e-government projects being operated by the Department – for example the Strategic Service Delivery Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government Partnerships programme. The experience from PEG may have contributed to the design of these projects. 1.35 The project has been relatively low risk in nature. The financial inputs to the project have been modest and a number of key risks that existed were transferred onto the contractor, CDW, although the Project Board were still ultimately jointly responsible for delivering the project successfully. The principal concerns at the outset of the project were centred on ensuring the necessary engagement from local authorities in developing the PEG materials and subsequently in securing their use across Local Government. The risks were mitigated by the fact that previous projects had already built up some awareness and momentum on the issue, that the PEG materials would be freely and widely available and that all local authorities had been required by DTLR to engage with the e-government agenda and prepare strategies to that end. Project Outcomes & Impacts 1.36 At the time of writing this report, this two year project is coming to a conclusion. Although the project has successfully delivered its outputs, its principal intended outcome is to promote innovation in the delivery of local authority services and to accelerate moves to electronic service delivery. At this level, there is every expectation that use of the toolkit will promote innovation in at least some local authorities, although the extent to which this happens depends on the success of the dissemination and embedding of the toolkit in Local Government. However, it is too early at this stage to be able to evaluate these outcomes. Although a growing number of councils are adopting the toolkit, even those that have assisted in piloting are not yet at a point where benefits could be properly assessed. 1.37 A firm of consultants have been appointed to evaluate the benefits of the toolkit through a number of case studies and are due to report later in 2002. The study will assess the levels of awareness of the PEG materials and the extent to which they have been used. There would be considerable value from attempting quantification of the cost savings and other benefits that innovations have brought in the case study authorities. Additionality 1.38 The PEG project originated from an idea that had been developed to some extent before ISB funding was available. It was a logical progression from previous projects. The project was, however, developed in detail as a response to the availability of ISB funding, and was subsequently 75% funded by ISB and 25% funded from DTLR’s research budget. Without ISB funding it is likely that the project may have proceeded in some form, but only at a much Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government reduced scale. Although DTLR has responsibility for promoting e-government at a local level, it is not clear that funding would have been forthcoming for a research and development exercise such as this, beyond the modest funding available through their research budget. The level of additionality is therefore likely to be high, but not total, at perhaps 75%, reflecting the level of ISB funding. 1.39 The reason that the project was not likely to secure full funding from DTLR was not due to concerns over potential risks or any unusual approach, but was more a reflection of the competing priorities for limited funds for promoting e-government within the Department. Value for Money 1.40 Given that the project is providing a toolkit for over 340 local authorities (as well as others elsewhere in the UK), the unit cost of such benefits is very low, with only £2,300 being spent per target local authority in England. If the time spent by contributing local government officers (and members on the Project Board) were quantified and added to this, the figure would be higher, perhaps double, although still modest in scale. 1.41 If the use of the toolkit provides only small benefits in each authority, the project will have paid for itself. The forthcoming external evaluation of the impact of the project may shed further light on the level of benefits that authorities may be able to achieve through service innovations. Administrative and Accountability Issues 1.42 The project has operated without any significant administrative or management problems. The Project Board, including the DTLR’s Accounting Officer as representative of the sponsor department, has been kept up to date with developments and has overseen the project as intended, although the day to day management was provided by CDW. 1.43 The original project plan specified the time contributions of key local authority contributors to the project, although there has been no systematic attempt to actually monitor this. Instead, the contributions of local authorities in commenting on and reworking draft materials were monitored on a qualitative basis through a more informal monitoring process. The evidence suggests that their collective time input has been greater than originally committed. 1.44 The role of HM Treasury as the main funder of the project has clearly been very ‘hands-off’. On one occasion, the project progress report was not completed and submitted to HM Treasury, with no apparent response. This has, however, had little impact on the project. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government Project Rollout 1.45 The awareness of PEG is now very high amongst local authorities and a large number have accessed the FastTrack materials. The PEG materials are also being sign-posted by several organisations and websites involved in the process of promoting e-government and are being promoted by DTLR. The process of dissemination is therefore well underway and has some momentum of its own. 1.46 However, the full impact of PEG will only be felt if these materials continue to be available on the PEG website, continue to be promoted and are supported by some form of facilitation. The success of the project depends not just on local authorities accessing the material but putting it into practice and engaging in processes of organisational change. 1.47 The original intention was that IDeA would take on the responsibility of publishing the final materials and maintaining the website. In practice this has not happened, as IDeA have not been as engaged in the project as originally intended, partly due to the disruption caused by the establishment of IDeA as a new organisation and also a lack of resources at the appropriate time. The DTLR have also been reluctant to take on any ongoing financial responsibility for the project or the project materials beyond its completion date, not least due to the number of other complementary initiatives also funded by the Department. 1.48 Following discussions by the Project Board it is likely that the website will now be maintained by CDW, with their ongoing (commercial) facilitation of local authorities using the materials helping to pay for it. The final arrangements for this are still being agreed at the time of writing. 1.49 There are no plans for the Project Board to continue, although informal contacts between members may continue on an ad hoc basis. Given that the Board has joint IPR on the final materials it is not clear how any decisions will be made in the future regarding possible developments. Conclusions and Implications 1.50 The project has been successfully delivered and has achieved a high level of awareness amongst its target group of English local authorities. The collaboration evident in development of the toolkit also represents a valuable model for future research and development exercises. The prospects for the promotion of substantial change in service delivery at local authority level are also good, although this needs to be evaluated in due course. Evaluation of Invest to Save Budget Case Study Report Project 2/24: Promoting Electronic Government 1.51 The ISB funding was necessary to secure these benefits and the project had a high degree of additionality. However, the levels of risk and innovation within the project process itself were quite low. Web Links 1.52 The website for the project is www.peg.org.uk where the materials and information about the project can be accessed. Further information on the DTLR’s broad approach to promoting electronic service delivery in Local Government can be found on the DTLR’s own web site (www.dtlr.gov.uk).
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