Public Sector challenges: It's a good mobile web strategy that is required, not a 'App in the AppStore' knee jerk.

A fascinating discussion with Shirley Ayres last week - impossible to capture in a blog post - but here are the highlights...

­Shirley Ayres, CEO of Aspire Knowledge is a well known strategist and Social Media specialist. Shirley interviewed me (Suraj Kika, Jadu's CEO) and we discussed ideas on digital strategy in the public sector and the mobile web in context of some of the challenges facing the public sector in the UK.

Shirley: "What do you think are the big challenges for the public sector in terms of developing their digital strategies?"

Suraj: "The top three as far as I see them:

    1. Spending cuts that divert resources away from channel shift and investment in developing the web as the channel of choice for customers and building for the Mobile Workstyle
    2. Lack of investment in the right technology and the assumption that internal resources can deliver without recruiting in the right skills, good project management, the right products and critically, the right service delivery partner
    3. Over dependence on large service integrators and IT outsourcing which is stifling innovation and costing billions - it's small businesses that innovate and drive successful implementation at a fraction of the cost."

      Shirley: "What excites you most about potential digital innovations in the next year?"

      Suraj: "The way the evolution of the Internet is accelerating and converging with devices and the way methods of working are changing. I think there will be a lot of exciting innovation and development in consumer products that makes accessing and using the Internet more ubiquitous and in the devices we use every day. The real challenge is how tech companies overcome the issues of IPR and the constant cycle of law suits in the technology sector at the moment."

      "The mobile web is certainly the future - delivery of applications from the cloud to the users directly through the mobile device. No more walled garden app stores to distribute through - or the requirement to compile to different device operating systems or be expert in writing code. It's time we do for mobile application development as we have done for web site management through WCM - put the control in the hands of the everyday user.

       ...Making the mobile web the core strategy is common sense. It's more manageable, real-time and agile - not to mention much easier to resource from a development perspective. HTML5 and CSS3 will bring about a lot of change in this area. The way HTML5 and technologies like JQuery Mobile have made mobile web application development straight forward is very exciting."

      "The real issue facing Local Authorities and other government departments is that in the rush to go mobile - there is likely to be a lot of money wasted on tactical point solutions. It's a good mobile web strategy that is required - and not a 'App in the AppStore' knee jerk."

      "I also think design and web design have changed exponentially. Now, we are implementing responsive web design that display websites based on the media they are presented on. CSS rules all. At Jadu we're really lucky to have customers who allow us to try these new methods on their huge websites (and we always do so responsibly). Harborough District Council have recently trusted us to deliver their design. It's responsive and intelligent and utterly designed for their customers. We can't wait for that to go live - it will break a mould that many Local Authorities are stuck in."

      "The way mobile web technology is accelerating and the ubiquity of the tablet - that's another important factor. Laptops have reigned for too long and have been far to difficult to use for everyday people."

      "The app revolution we are going through at the moment means that people buy more software now than ever before and consuming applications at an unprecedented rate. This is a very exciting time to be a software writer."

      Shirley: "In your view what is different today in terms of perceptions and styles of digital engagement from when you started in the business? "

        Suraj: "Jadu started over 11 years ago - and today we have a very different web. Standards across the web are much more established and HTML5 and CSS3 have promise to change a lot of how the web is delivered - particularly on mobile devices..."

        "...the web is a much more social place. In fact, the web has always been social and collaborative - but technology and a focus on user experience have brought about a simplification of the technology - making it accessible to non-technical users - so rapid adoption of social technology has brought about massive change and growth of the web. That change is happening again now with mobile devices and will again with convergence of media. Television will inevitably converge with the web (and has started to) as well as other devices and that has promise of huge change."

        "The potential business case for linked data has only recently become clearer for business leaders and managers and they are starting to see the benefits. This is a real relief as the semantic web will change the way we interact and use data and will have huge impact on how we use information - particularly on mobile devices."

          Shirley: "Can you give three examples of solutions you have offered to the public sector?"


          1. We have delivered a platform for Customer Experience Management
          2. A strategy for channel shift, which we call the 10 Steps to Channel Shift
          3. Transactional technology that will transform an organization from an IT perspective and empower non-technical users

          Shirley: "What was the client need? "

          Suraj:  "Recently, we delivered Edinburgh City Council a new digital platform for customer engagement. They really needed a revolution in technology at Edinburgh - Internet, Intranet and many smaller websites. Their old CMS system was heavily out of date, extremely expensive to maintain and required a lot of resource to manage."

          Shirley: "How you engaged with the client?"

          Suraj:  We are really luckily with our customer base. We have built fantastic, close relationships with our customers which means it's a partnership built on trust and honesty. As a business, we have great processes too - and that's thanks to all the amazing people who work for Jadu - we call Jadugars.

          With Edinburgh - they have a very talented team focused on the quality of content before any other consideration - that's partly what makes them one of the best Public Sector sites in the UK. We focused on providing them with the resources they needed to deliver.

          Shirley: "What service was provided?"­

          Suraj: Jadu implemented the entire Jadu Customer Experience management platform:

          • Jadu CMS (Web content management) for Internet
          • Jadu CMS (Web content management) for IntrANet
          • Jadu XFP (online forms and transactions delivery)
          • Jadu ePay (online payments system)
          • Jadu Rupa (portal based search powered by the Google Search Appliance).
          • Designed both Internet and Intranet sites
          • Hosted the entire platform within our secure government hosting cloud
          • Delivered the Council's committee papers online section
          • Developed an ePayment system as well as 'shopping cart of services' website functionality - the site does over £1.5m per month now.

          Shirley: "How your implementation improved/transformed the service? ­and can you provide customer testimonials?"

          Suraj: The results for Edinburgh have really been transformational. It's important to stress that this was a real partnership - they have a very talented team of project managers and editorial management as well as strong leadership and senior level buy-in:

          • The Edinburgh website was transformed and I guess the best accolade was that just a few months after going live, it received a top four star rating from SOCITM and was named the best Local Authority Website in Scotland and one of only 2% of four star sites in the UK
          • The site brings in over £1.5m in transactions per month and this is growing
          • An average of 350 form submissions / service requests per day and this is growing
          • An average of 100 payments made a day across just a few transactions currently deployed
          • An average of 10,000 visits to the site per day
          • There is a powerful Google Search Appliance and Jadu Rupa search that indexes all content and makes it very easy to find even the most niche things.

          Edinburgh Council:

          London Borough of Southwark:


          Shirley: "How will your partnership with GovDelivery open up new channels for Government to Citizen communication? "

          Suraj:  "GovDelivery have a great platform for alerting and automated messaging. For any large government body in this day and age, this kind of pro-active marketing and communications activity is essential. Jadu and GovDelivery are working together to build some great integration through our new Jadu MarketPlace which will make is very easy for Jadu and GovDelivery customers to realise the benefits of this integration both in the UK and in the USA."

          Shirley:  "How do you think digital strategies can help with the challenge of public sector cuts and efficiency savings"

          Suraj: "The online channel is critical to delivering savings. Following the Martha Lane Fox review and focus on digital channel shift by central government and by SOCITM - many local authorities are now just beginning to take their web team and web technology seriously. It has to be an 'invest to save' approach. If you don't have the right technology and platform to engage customers across web, forms and mobile and proactively start marketing your services so customers see the web as the default channel - your going to struggle to deliver the mass savings in the face of dramatic and potentially damaging cuts.

          What you may find is that in some cases senior managers are taking ownership over the web channel (because of staff cuts) and they are not completely prepared with technical understanding of the web and how software development works. This knowledge gap can be damaging for any strategy and managers/ directors and CIO's need to skill up quickly, avoid taking a defensive position and trust their experienced staff and service provider partners to deliver.  

          Building a close working relationship with your web technology partner and working together, investing in each other and aiming for the best possible result for the customer, will help you deliver on this difficult and complex technological and cultural challenge."


          More information:

          Aspire Knowledge collaborates on ideas, projects and products in knowledge to the third and public sector - and are co-ordinating Public Sector Digital Strategies convention September 14th in London  - The hashtag for the event is#psdigital


          Follow Shirley on Twitter - @shirleyayres

          Presentation on the Mobile Web at the SOCITM Building the Perfect Council Website 2011 Event:




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