The core vision of the study is as follows:
We seek to understand, and provide evidence of, the extent to which multichannel approaches to public service delivery contribute towards meeting the needs of all citizens, more effectively than ever before, in ways that are economically sustainable.
The study is underpinned by an analytic framework.
We have developed a series of relevant Concepts and Relations.
MC-eGov targets inclusive eGovernment in a multi-channel context wherein each consumer (citizens, business etc.) may benefit from exploitation of ICT in sustainable service delivery regardless of whether they themselves use ICT. This defines the three primary concepts to be fully operationalised in our investigation, and in our creation of think papers, case studies, etc.
This focus emphasises Government as supplier and as the key object of investigation, yet retains perspective on citizens and business (e.g. SMEs) as the targets of different services, and having different needs. This implies:
- • Differences in customers as users of selected channels;
- • Differences in services that may or may not make them appropriate for different channels because of the channel interaction characteristics, or the presence of intermediate Customers in the service value chain.
These considerations expose the possibility of differences in target sectors determining inclusiveness of eGovernment (features of citizens and business).
Early discussions have revealed an interest in the delivery (organisation) of services and the actors involved – especially third sector as service agencies in a distributed governance scenario, and intermediate actors and/or intermediate customers where the final step is not online usage of electronic services by citizens (i.e. channels with partial electronic delivery).
Another key point of interest is that of value (both material and immaterial benefit) and the problem of showing return on investment (payback from eGovernment exploiting MC opportunities).
In order to unpack an appropriate level of detail for initial our analytic framework, we briefly unpack and elaborate sub-concepts / dimensions within, and relations between the above. This unpacking is limited to that necessary for group orientation, since complete unpacking is the task of the project.
Key Elements of the Analytical Framework
The following elements are elaborated to ensure common understanding of meaning in support of interviews and case descriptions. It is assumed that cases and interviews will investigate and report on all elements fully as the primary mechanism for development of understanding.eGovernment Services
Employed Service Channels
Intermediate Service Customers/Users
Benefits of Multi Channel Delivery
These include any and all instances of government services towards citizens and business having significant usage of electronic service components (online) as part of the delivery chain. Government therefore includes online services used directly by citizens and business, as well as services whereby an intermediary (for example a social intermediary or a tax advisor) is the final link in the electronic part of the service chain, and final delivery is completed offline (for example a face-to-face meeting, product being sent via email or conventional post). We could develop a series of models to describe and understand the various transactional models in more detail.
There will be characteristics of services that make them more or less amenable to delivery via multi-channels. Such characteristics may derive from the services themselves or, in a given case, from user or environmental considerations. Whatever the case, the determinants of channel selection are of interest to the study and to case recipients.
The development of Government services towards electronic (the ‘reinventing’ government scenarios) and online (the ‘transformational’ government scenarios) wherever practical was initially met with discussion of ‘exclusion’ at a time when services were very much pilots or pathfinder developments.
Digital ‘exclusion’ is a term still applied by those concerned that some customers will be excluded from accessing services with the same ease as ‘abled’ customers, and who argue that inclusiveness must depend on who is involved in the design of the service from an early stage – those who's value chain is the reference – and we can link back to work in the cceGov project about how do we can ‘know’ what people would prefer. Citizens not using electronic channels, or not using them easily, include those who through preference avoid electronic interaction (the will not use electronic channel users), or who through sensory or physical limitations have problems (they cannot readily use electronic channel users). The former group need to be considered as candidates for non-electronic delivery to the point of consumption, but can be served via a service chain which benefits from eServices right up to that point – for example mediated service delivery.
The latter group can be dealt with in the same way, but can also be facilitated in direct access by careful service design (for example according to Web Accessibility Standards), by provision of sensitive and multi-modal interfaces (allowing users to select their interface of choice), and by provision of user customisation (for example the delivery of data in formats suited to non-standard browsers, screen readers, text to speech).
These measures employed by groups such as ‘disabled users’ are designed under initiatives dealing with ‘access’ techniques so as to show methods for ‘access for all’, and service designers should show adherence to standards coming out of those ‘special’ initiatives.
Service Value Chain and Actors
For a delivered service there is a clear delivery chain (an operational description of who does what) and a value chain (why the actors do it and what is gained in value). The chain will include government actors, and may also include external partnerships with business and/or the third sector (civil society or voluntary sector). Incomplete electronic service chains are of interest as examples of where electronic access in the final stage (end user) is either not yet working, not suitable, or facing technical and organisational problems.
Potential ways to measure value would include take-up; there are many win-win examples in terms of taxation services of course, but we can also look at the relationship between multi-channel provision and take-up, assuming increased take-up provides value to the deliverer. Or it may be that the desirable outcome is to shift demand patterns: so we can deal with people worried about minor illness more effectively through UK NHS Direct types of services, and then direct resources to other areas. That should alter or re-focus the value chain without creating new exclusions.
Multi-channel services exploit opportunities to provide easier access to services via multiple channels, including both electronic channels (for example Web, email, SMS, phone) and physical channels (including face-to-face and post).
In common with service oriented architectures (SOAs), which are revolutionising how large scale services are designed and deployed, Multi Channel Service Architectures (MCSAs) will soon be incorporated by organisations requiring synergy and integration of service channels, especially where each customer may be present in multiple channels.
The question here will include exploring the design process and rationale that lies behind the implementation of such systems. Presumably someone decides which channels are provided for which services, assuming there are limitations in terms of practicalities and resources (or competing priorities).
This supports customer satisfaction (choose the right/preferred channel at each instance), as well as customer access (choose channels that customers can deal with). In addition, it supports customer relationship management by facilitating integration about customer behaviour in an appropriate way (case handling, customer history, avoiding of ‘multiple personalities’ etc.). We need to be careful to distinguish between satisfaction with the way information is provided about services and the way transactions are dealt with, from the underlying service. We need to look wider to understand the effects on society as a whole.
Employed Service Channels
What is appropriate, what works and why? When mapping channels to services, service users, service agencies (government and external), and actors we could develop a series of transactional models to capture the range of possible types.
(This category may overlap with sectors view – but included since a case or interview may focus actual customers rather than sectors). Who are the customers – the users of selected channels? What channels match what customers and why? What factors (both supply and demand-side) dictate patterns of use? What is the feed-back mechanism that allows iteration towards a better service? So if one channel is underused (do you set target levels initially?), should it be closed and what criteria are there to use in making such judgements (e.g. purely financial or more in line with the public value approach)?
Two distinct sectors could be explored – citizens and business, since socially disadvantaged groups can be (for example sheltered employment) active in the labour market and economy. Each has distinct characteristics and will have specific inclusion and MC issues. There may be sub-sectors within each which require special consideration (e.g. poor people, non-IT users, micro-business, etc.). All such sectors which are of interest to eGovernment service providers should be situated in our analysis and cases where possible.
Characteristics of sectors may or may not be determinants of inclusiveness. Where the characteristics of sectors do determine or affect inclusiveness (e.g. health and social services), this should be fully explored and, where possible, illustrated using case studies. Efforts of government to overcome any such effects should be identified. Overcoming exclusions created by the same deliverer is reactive (i.e. eInclusion) not inclusive government. We are interested in:
- Where a new service is provided but which is also more inclusive than what was available before, it serves all users better;
- Where a transformed or extended service is more inclusive than what was available before, it serves all users better;
- Where there is clear evidence of user demand or customer preference informing the innovation;
- Where inclusive eGovernment can contribute towards addressing wider societal, challenges rather than simply provide a better experience for a specific service. So we must consider aggregate or whole-system effects.
Intermediate Service Customers/Users
In an extended value chain, especially where external partners are present (commerce and Third Sector), there may be actors in the chain who are customers for part of the service (e.g. ‘helping to help’ their customers).
Benefits of Multi Channel Delivery
What is gained in terms of ‘inclusive eGovernment’ by using MC as opposed to a single channel? Benefits can be material or immaterial, for example saved time and money, versus improved citizen confidence or reassurance, but benefits must be clearly related to the concepts of MC Inclusive eGovernment.
The customers for our outputs are the CEC and authorities interested in sustainable MC eGovernment for the benefit of all citizens.
Interests in sustainability issues will therefore be diverse, and will no doubt include financial aspects of sustainability, technology aspects of sustainability, social aspects, etc. We therefore need to recognise that all aspects evident in a case or interview are potentially interesting. We cannot invoke new studies and are operating on ‘available’ information, so should ensure all available information of potential value is captured and made use of.