Applications > CRM

Herefordshire overhauls major project planning

Neil Merrett Published 03 September 2014

Action plan underway to address concerns flagged by Grant Thornton audit of council's CRM implementation


Herefordshire County Council is in the process of implementing a five-step action plan to overhaul how it acquires services and implements major projects on the back of challenges faced in introducing a Customer Relationship management (CRM) system in 2011.

The council said implementation of the action plan - which includes securing detailed input from the authority's finance department on projected costs and business case benefits from any new projects, as well as efforts to "future proof" contracts against changing external circumstances - was ongoing.

Herefordshire will also commit itself to:

  • Ensure full buy-in from all departments when implementing the business case for all future council-wide projects.
  • Develop a clear view concerning the scope and key aims for how it engages with its customers through digital and other channels.
  • Ensure understanding across all departments as to how the council deals with complaints.

The plan was outlined in a recently published audit report by Grant Thornton concerning the council's implementation of its current CRM system, which was found to have been implemented with only partial success.

The report, undertaken this year after the auditor received a disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) from a concerned council employee, concluded that the system failed to realise a number of anticipated cost benefits it was originally designed to provide.

The auditor said that £1m had presently been spent on the system, which was originally given a £1.5m budget.

According to the report, cashable savings of £1.6m targeted through the system's implementation had failed to be supported by "robust analysis", with the council found to have focused instead on plans for centralising services in an attempt to curb back-office costs.

Yet while the implemented CRM system was continuing to provide a shared front office that worked "reasonably effectively", Grant Thornton said not all of the original aims of the project, such as extending the service to all council bodies, had been met.

"In reality the project subsequently did not progress much beyond phase 1 and therefore key elements of the cashable benefits to be derived from reduction in staff costs due to the implementation of CRM (as opposed to changes which were subsequently delivered as a result of other drivers and initiatives) would not have been delivered, or at least not in the way envisaged," the report said.

Pointing to the findings of a post-implementation review of the CRM implementation undertaken by the council, Grant Thornton said that the "momentum" of the project had been stalled by a number of time and cost factors.

These factors included impacts from an austerity drive across local councils that meant sufficient funds for full implementation of the original CRM plan were no longer available and had to be delivered by other means.

"In short, the business plan was very ambitious at the outset and the wider council was not bought into it. When austerity arrived, and 'the world changed', any commitment to deliver the original plan dissipated," said the audit. "The Council has a functioning system which delivers a unified call management system, but there does not appear much appetite to extend the system further."

Additionally, the report noted a change in the council's operational model, on which the CRM was implemented, by shifting from providing services to meet customer demand to constraining this demand and enabling greater levels of self-service.

"Our review of the procurement of CRM suggests that the council appears to have carried out an appropriate tendering process with sufficient safeguards built in to ensure fairness and transparency. We also found no evidence to suggest that the tendering process was not carried out properly," said the report.

Moving forward, the audit report said the council needed to be clearer about the scope of its ambitions for how it engages with customers, as well as considering the digital channels needed to support its plans.

Herefordshire County Counci today said it was satisfied with the findings in the Grant Thornton report, "which suggest that there was no impropriety around the procurement process and that an action plan is in place to address any identified improvement actions."

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