When the impact of the 2008 financial crisis extended into long-term public sector cuts, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) Council of Buckinghamshire, England, turned to technology to help it navigate the age of austerity.
"Five years ago we decided that the world had turned," AVDC CEO Andrew Grant remembers. "Austerity was in its infancy, but we realised that we were going to need to change our business completely because we were a traditional council in receipt of government funds and they looked like they were going to dry out by 2020."
They answered the challenge by embarking on a sweeping digital transformation strategy dubbed "Right Here Right Now". It began with a website redesign and developed into a complete overhaul of services as the council moved towards a commercially orientated business model.
At the centre of the transformation is a Salesforce platform known as "My Account" based on the Salesforce Community Cloud Software. It supports a variety of interactions with the council such as automating processes like signing up to the garden waste service or making council tax payments.
Five years after embarking on the strategy in 2010, the council had saved £14 million, half of which it estimates was down to the digital overhaul.
The council chose to pursue a customer-focused business model that could generate income while reducing costs, drawing on private sector practices for inspiration. AVDC began to sell services provided by private sector entities and invest the profits that these generated in services such as homelessness inquiries and social care.
At the same time, the council was embarking on replacing their static legacy equipment with a cloud system to support a more tailored service for citizens. Grant wanted to create a market for new suppliers that could come in and provide software-as-a-service services.
The Buckinghamshire organisation became one of the first councils to move to the cloud. Today only one in-house server remains, as the DWP won't license AVDC to move it offshore.
AVDC used the Salesforce platform to replace legacy systems with services that could swiftly be tailored to changing customer demands while also reducing infrastructure costs.
"We wanted something that was disruptive, we wanted something that was globally known as a leader in CRM and content management, that let's face it, the private sector used to handle their customer interaction," says Grant.
The core of the new website was a feature inspired by commercial retail practices called "My Account". It collects all activities with the council in one place and provides self-service functions for users.
The council ran workshops with local residents to understand their needs. They included applying for benefits checking and paying council tax, signing up for new services and updating personal information.
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