In this series of blogs, Marcus Devaney looks at recent developments in Blue Badge processing and covers how IEG4’s revolutionary digital Blue Badge solution, as implemented in Kent County Council and Surrey County Council, supports individual organisational approaches to Blue Badge administration and puts them in control of continuous improvement. IEG4’s solution for Blue Badge delivers superior customer service and helps councils save money.
What’s not to like?
At IEG4, ‘We do tricky’. Solutions which are good today, are seldom good enough tomorrow. Digital solutions evolve and must be flexible. That’s why we set out to enable digital transformation which is simply effective for everyone.
When ‘Good’ is not ‘Good Enough’.
The new centralised Blue Badge solution is good. In fact, it offers a step change in capability and transforms the previous software solution which underpinned a service which users had described as ‘the most complained about DfT service’.
The DfT recognised the need for improvement and, as a result of a successful tender, the previous supplier was replaced with a new one: Valtech. The new service is night and day when compared to its predecessor.
As a result of adopting effective design principles, carrying out user research, and conducting live ‘show and tells’, the new, centralised, Blue Badge system is a good start. Importantly, for external software suppliers, the provision of best practice-based RESTful APIs can be used to drive efficiencies in back office processes.
For some councils, happy to continue with manual processes and Excel sheets to manage their associated processes, it will be good enough. But, will it be good enough to cope with the increased number of applicants from August 2019, which will arise as a result of opening up Blue Badge allocation to those with hidden disabilities?
For the end customer, 65% of whom submit a Blue Badge application form on-line, the centralised application system quickly turns into a black hole. It hides progress away from the applicant and offers no support for councils to drive and manage their Blue Badge assessment activities. The links between end-customer, council worker, assessment activity progress and, the central system, are not there. Without the plumbing to keep people informed, the digital service will frustrate and under perform for everyone.
“Yes. But, in our council we do things differently.”
At IEG4, we understand this. It makes us think differently about our solutions.
Unlike within the Continuing Healthcare process in NHS England which has a national framework to guide how people should be assessed, with Blue Badge there is no standardisation for the steps which councils should take.
Assessment activities vary from council to council. Most have different processes and rely on a variety of support systems which often involve Excel sheets. Valiant attempts to maintain current status and drive processes forward have become the norm.
At best, mistakes are avoided and applications are traced smoothly through the process by manual reconciliation. At worst, and, more frequently than admitted, applications fall through recording gaps, delays are incurred and the cost of completing the process, per application, is far higher than it needs to be. This results in an unedifying combination of a high-cost process which delivers poor levels of customer service.
Customers are unable to see the progress of their digital application and, as a result, chase progress with their local council. Staff time is diverted from processing applications to following up requests about application status which are not always recorded. This all adds to costs, delays and dissatisfaction. All because someone settled for good, being good enough.
We don’t live in a perfect world.
In a perfect world, councils would agree standardised approaches to Blue Badge assessment and allocation. This would enable a standard software solution to be developed to replace all those Excel sheets and manual activities. This software would be universally adopted, and standardised changes would be introduced.
In reality, 200+ councils will all do it slightly differently. We have to accept this and, through ingenuity and innovation, develop sophisticated solutions which can deal with the complexity whilst, most importantly, appearing simple.
‘Doing Tricky’ requires taking a different viewpoint. One which recognises the imperfections in business processes. Tricky requires innovation to create a solution which recognises that:
- All councils work differently and supports each of them in doing so.
- Applicants expect to see progress synchronised across service providers and platforms and to be able to engage digitally to complete a process they have been encouraged to start online. Without this, ‘digital’ will simply drive up avoidable contacts and will disappoint.
- Politicians will introduce changes which will be extremely difficult to resolve in a central system because everyone works differently. (The previously mentioned changes for hidden disabilities being a prime example.)
- Council staff will want to alter their work activities to drive continuous improvement and will need a local digital Blue Badge system that supports them in that, without the reliance on external consultants and hard-pressed IT departments.
- Blue Badge service managers require much greater insight from their systems to help them forecast the type of assessments they need to provide, where and when, so that they can flex their service capabilities accordingly.
‘Doing Tricky’ requires us to fix the plumbing between the central black-box, the council Blue Badge application processing and the applicant, in a way that is flexible and future proof.
In our next blog, we’ll look more closely at how these issues are addressed in IEG4’s Blue Badge solution which is already driving benefits in Kent County Council and Surrey County Council, not just for the councils, but also for their customers.
We’ve ‘done tricky’ so that your council’s Blue Badge processing becomes more transparent, simpler to manage, more efficient and cost effective, whilst at the same time, delivering superior customer service.