Graham Williams, Commercial Director at NSL, argues that a holistic and collaborative approach can increase the relevance of frontline resources in a way that supports and safeguards local communities.
Some would have us believe that technology has the answer to everything. True, the output of technology has opened our eyes to all kinds of new opportunities, new possibilities and new aspirations. But, it’s not outputs that ever make the difference. It’s the way those outputs are applied and exploited to deliver what really matters – the right outcomes. Put simply, technology is the enabler. It’s not the solution, and it’s certainly not the answer to everything.
Securing the best possible outcomes is dependent on knowing what we want to achieve rather than being dictated to by technological specification, or the claims of equipment manufacturers. Once we really know our target, we can then determine the best way to use and blend different technologies to reach our goal and how we can capitalise on the wealth of data and insight that such technologies provide. This boils down to smarter thinking and smarter application to provide smarter solutions.
Take our streets and public places, for example. Here, GPS, intelligent cameras and the adoption of sophisticated sensors can all offer significant output benefits. And there’s no question that self-serve functionality has certainly saved costs and increased efficiencies. The real goal – the desired outcome – for any local authority and any community, however, is whether the area is clean, safe, and secure. I would actually go further than that. Any community relies on social cohesion to thrive and prosper. So public spaces, and public services, should also be welcoming, convey a sense of fairness and reassurance and, it should encourage engagement to bring communities together.
With our focus on outcomes, we begin to see through the fog of bewildering technological features and specifications. We remind ourselves that technology can only do so much and that the achievement of meaningful outcomes will only come from real service transformation not just in our Town Halls, but also out in the heart of our communities – at the frontline of service delivery.
Today’s challenge is for Councils to harness frontline resources in a way that will enhance the experience of citizens, reflect local priorities and add value at the point of delivery. Indeed, the development of multi-functional and multi-skilled frontline services not only takes us nearer to our target goal but also counteracts the diminished social interaction arising from a Council’s growing reliance on self-service functionality.
The trick is to shift to an outcomes-based approach to service provision. That means taking a more holistic and collaborative approach to target the impact and relevance of frontline resources in a way that supports and safeguards local communities and neighbourhoods while also reducing operational costs and eliminating any service overlap or duplication. It also means taking full advantage of data and insight from all forms of new technology. This enables existing community resources and assets – such as the civil enforcement and waste collection teams – to broaden their activities and become more aligned with wider community issues and priorities.
In effect, a frontline resource – with a higher level of training and a deeper skill set – become agents for change for the Council, solving problems and enhancing engagement right in the heart of communities they serve. Consequently important community issues can be addressed much more effectively and efficiently – issues such as littering, fly-tipping, vandalism, truancy, identifying faults with Council property and equipment and also reporting any concerns about elderly or vulnerable residents.
Such a progressive approach not only improves outcomes and reduces costs but can also boost revenues through better demand management and deliver much more visible and effective citizen engagement and interaction. Surely, that’s the best way for any Council to stay in tune with demands and priorities while also maximising the efficiency of its services and the effectiveness of its resources – all in the very place where it matters most.