The announcement that Manchester City Council (MCC) has won the BT Online Excellence award for the best local council website in Britain represents a landmark in the Council's transformation agenda.
MCC's online service strategy is a key component of the council's transformation agenda which is being delivered through the Manchester Improvement Programme (MIP). This sees major internal change for the council in how it operates and interacts with the public to deliver:
- Improved customer service by enabling easier customer access to services through multiple touch points including web, telephone and face-to-face.
- The creation of a more 'joined-up' and integrated workforce, where all employees have access to the same information reflecting a 'One-Council' approach.
- Improved effectiveness and efficiency, delivered through new technologies, leading to a better customer experience and an improved skill set for council employees.
Delivering 'Britain's best local government website'
To deliver this change programme, MCC has developed an enterprise-wide strategy for delivering online services. The web content management system (WCM) and the enterprise content upon which it draws, provides a critical focal point for the external and internal change programme. It also provides a platform that reflects the City of Manchester's status across the world, as one of the UK's major centres of finance, commerce, retail, culture and leisure.
Establishing the critical building blocks for transformation
The selection of a WCM capable of supporting the Council's Enterprise Strategy was a critical building block in putting in establishing the infrastructure to support transformation. The council's existing web site had supported council operations well, but because of the need for manual HTML updating, it had become very labour intensive. Emerging standards for accessibility had also become a driver for site redevelopment, as had the need to upgrade the current A-Z capability.
The main requirements driving selection of a WCM were therefore the need for:
- Technology that was capable of supporting the emerging Enterprise Content Management strategy. This 'joined-up' approach would enable one view of content for external and internal users across multiple access points and improve customer engagement.
- A system that was easy to use and navigate and enabled rapid publishing of content to deliver the internal effectiveness and efficiency savings sought.
- Excellent accessibility to meet the needs of all users and standards.
Manchester wanted an up to date, 'joined-up' site that reflected its status as a major UK city.Martin Turner, Manchester City Council Senior Project Manager
MCC went through a vigorous procurement exercise evaluating suppliers from across the UK and their ability to meet the key criteria. Jadu, a leading enterprise content management provider, was selected as the technology partner for web content management.
The solution adopted is based on a new range of Web 2.0 products and consisted of Jadu CMS, Jadu Rupa Enterprise Search for Google and the unique Jadu Galaxies delivery platform. The website implementation also uses enhanced web services that offer advanced Google Maps, social book marking of content, dynamic A-Z service listing, blogs, RSS feed management and simplified navigation.
Rapid development and benefit delivery
Development and implementation has been rapid with the website going live within six weeks. This included the migration of over 10,000 pages of content and the delivery of a train the trainer programme for over 100 staff and subsequent training of a further 200 end users.
After only six months, MCC is already seeing significant quantifiable benefits from the Jadu Web 2.0 CMS, with major progress being made in implementing the transformational agenda.
There has been an increased level of customer engagement and better customer service in many areas. Traffic to the website and page viewing activity has increased significantly and is up by 125%. MCC's recent recognition by the BT Online Excellence Awards (an award driven by user choice), as the best local government site in Britain, further demonstrates the high level of user satisfaction being achieved, placing MCC's website in the same league as Google, Amazon and the BBC.
The public is also making greater use of the online self service aspect of council services, with a significant increase in the submission of online forms. This has been enabled by the Jadu XForms Professional platform, which is fully integrated with Jadu CMS and provides more streamlined processing of forms.
MCC has also seen considerable improved internal efficiencies, with staff needing only a half day training session to be competent in making regular updating easy for the non-technical user.
It's very easy to update content and users only need a half day training session to become competent. Council employees are now able to publish information quickly. This has generated a much better service and information is now much easier to find.Martin Turner, Manchester City Council Senior Project Manager
Search was an area MCC regarded as high priority and the council opted to implement the Jadu Rupa Enterprise Search for Google product. The Jadu Rupa search system provides MCC with the ability to harness the Google Search Appliance's powerful search engine functionality to index multiple council and partner websites.
The resulting functionality presents a community search portal - http://search.manchester.gov.uk - that indexes over 40 local council related websites and services.
The Jadu CMS implementation has also delivered a 'highly accessible' site to meet the needs of users with impairments such as motor control difficulties and sight and hearing impairments.
Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility services at AbilityNet praises the new development. "The Manchester City Council site was praised by end users and found to be 'highly accessible' with a range of impairments for its ease of use".
Leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese said:"Our website combines a good mix of news and information with a range of services that people can access and order online. We use our website as one of the vital channels to make contact with and to hear from our communities, so we are delighted to receive this award"
Suraj Kika, CEO of Jadu says "We knew we were breaking a mould with Manchester.gov.uk. We really just wanted to offer the best web experience that technology could offer. The latest web standards template design techniques we employed paid significant dividends in making the site astonishingly accessible - and search.manchester.gov.uk is really a turning point in the way local councils should look at search as the key to unlocking local content.
It's the beginning of a transformation vision that the council is successfully implementing through the MIP - to improve Manchester and reinforce its position as a world class city."
MCC's transition to the 21st century council is well underway. Information is now more easily accessible to council employees so that customers experience a more 'joined-up' service. Effectiveness and efficiency has improved and customers are benefiting from rapid access to online services.
The next step in the transformation agenda sees Jadu technology being utilised to support new areas such as helping customers to identify schools and education courses in their area through School Finder and Course Finder. These initiatives will be supported by Jadu Galaxies, which allows the design and deployment of multiple CMS-driven websites within minutes, with no technical skills required.