I made this assertion recently during my plenary presentation at the Transformation through Technology conference in London. Thankfully, I didn’t get lynched…

The rationale behind my assertion is this…  whilst technology can certainly inspire a vision for transformation, it alone is not enough and without other factors, the likelihood of achieving the expected outcomes is significantly reduced.

I underlined this point with an anecdote about my son Mark.  I bought him the ‘must have’ 2011 Christmas Toy – the all singing, all dancing Optimus Prime Transformers toy. We duly sat down on Christmas Day and set about transforming it from robot to truck. I realised straight away that this was not going to be easy. It must have taken us about an hour to do it and I realised that we were completely dependent on the instruction manual. Once we were done, I said to Mark “Whatever you do, don’t lose the instruction manual”. And guess what, seven year old boys don’t listen and he lost it, and as of now we can’t transform the technological revolution that is Optimus Prime…  (Mark, if you’re reading this, Santa did buy it, but some big people don’t believe in Santa, so I’m lying to them…)

Getting serious again, many of the customers that I’ve worked closely with over the years would agree, citing three major areas to be considered in order to increase the likelihood of success: People, Process and Technology. Let’s look at each of these in the context of a number of case studies, both successful and unsuccessful.

1. CITY OF AMSTERDAM

A few years ago, the City of Amsterdam purchased KANA’s Lagan Knowledge Management product with the intention of transforming their ability to answer questions from 750,000 residents across 15 autonomous districts and 41 administration departments.  Their transformation program delivered a 50% reduction in callsbrought about as a result of a 400% increase in traffic to consolidated knowledge base on their web site.  And because they usethe same knowledge base in the contact centre, it’s easier for agents to find the information they’re looking for too, resulting in a 40% reduction in Average Handling Time (AHT).

These are pretty impressive results, but I doubt they were achieved by technology alone, and I would cite the following as critical to the success of this project thus far:

  • People: Imagine trying to get the 41 administrative departments to agree to work together. Strong leadership is required to achieve this along with the collaboration of the departments in the process.
  • Process: The city continues to measure the performance of the program meaning they had a clear view of their start point, where they are heading and they continue to have a clear view of where they are at any point.
  • Technology: KANA’s Lagan Knowledge Management empowers departments to manage their FAQ content with views for both external and internal consumption.

However, I also know of similar situations where the outcome has been less successful and, without going into the details, the reasons range from (lack of) motivation to processes let down by the way technology was implemented.

2. NORTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL

In the second half of 2011, North Ayrshire Council launched an iPhone ‘Report It’ smart phone app that enables citizens to report issues directly to the back office. In early 2012, they also launched an Android version of the app, increasing the potential citizen participation.  As of March 2012, over 18% of all reports filed in their CRM system (the KANA Lagan solution) originated from the smartphone apps and, for street-related problems (the initial focus of the app), the smartphone apps has overtaken the web to become the 2nd channel of choice after the phone.

North Ayrshire worked in partnership with the Scottish Improvement Service and KANA to deliver this, using KANA’s Lagan Mobile and Lagan Open311 products and whilst the technology was certainly important, I would cite the following as critical to the success of this project thus far:

  • People: The project had political support from the start in the form of Councillor David O’Neill, one of his focus areas being “providing excellent customer service” and where possible is “keen to embrace new technology“. The project also had support from the Scottish Improvement Service, whose aim is to “improve the efficiency, quality and accountability of local public services“.
  • Process: The council planned a (pretty incredible) marketing campaign from the start, exploiting both traditional channels, including the national Scottish news TV program, and new channels including YouTube.
  • Technology: The solution was fully integrated to the council’s CRM system meaning the cost of service delivery isn’t compromised.

The importance of political support cannot be underestimated because, unfortunately, we have experienced a similar situation with a very different outcome, primarily due to the lack of this support. In this particular case, despite the project reaching a successful soft live milestone and generating a lot of positivity within the participating city, it was prevented from going live because there was a fear the launch of an app would send out the wrong message during a time planned cuts.

3. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

The City and County of San Francisco is a very innovative city, which always seems to be trying out new ideas. One such example involved their implementation of the Open311 standard (one of the first to go live anywhere in the world), effectively an ‘intelligent glue’ that enables 3rd party apps to report issues about public spaces directly into a city or council’s CRM system and – crucially – bypassing the contact center. Once built (fronting the KANA Lagan solution), the city organized a Hackathon aimed to stimulate the innovative creation of apps that were fully integrated to their 311 service.  Around eight new apps were created as a result – providing citizens with a variety of new ways to report issues directly into San Francisco’s 311 service.  I refer to this as the “Field of Dreams” concept – “If you build it, [they] will come” – in this case they certainly did.

The City and County of San Francisco have both gained and learned a lot from this experience and indeed have been generous in sharing their experiences with others. From my perspective, I would cite the following as critical to the success of this particular project thus far:

  • People: The culture of City and County of San Francisco is one of innovation.  It permeates the organization.  No-one is afraid to try or experiment with new ideas.
  • Process: This particular project has highlighted many issues that need to be considered including app sustainability.  Of the apps created by partners, not all are still live today. What are the implications of this (both good and bad)?
  • Technology: The creation of the Open311 standard, which the City and County of San Francisco contributed to, was fundamental to allowing this project to happen at all. They built their own implementation of the standard Open311, integrating it to KANA’s Integration Interfaces.

KANA believes standards like Open311 are fundamental to enabling transformation. For years, KANA (and Lagan) has embraced open standards for this reason. In fact, KANA has since built its own implementation of the Open311 standard (Lagan Open311) and is using it with Lagan Mobile. Unfortunately though, there is a critical lack of standards in the Public Sector despite attempts by Government to change this. Open311 is an exception and KANA believes there is a lot to be learned from its inception.

In summary, these case studies highlight how transformation through technology alone is impossible, but very possible when considering people and process. Whilst this concept will be familiar to many, my real hope is that the specific examples help you with something concrete to incorporate into your transformation journey.

We firmly believe that technological innovation can enable you to be more revolutionary in your transformation programs thereby unlocking more benefits. These case studies are real world examples of this and, we believe, provide proof that we are in the middle of an Experience Revolution where we’ll see more and more of the kinds of citizen experiences and related benefits I’ve shared in this blog.

(BTW. For those concerned about the plight of my son, don’t worry, I have since found and downloaded the Transformer instructions.)

(David Moody is VP Product Marketing, KANA)