How dynamic partnerships will be a necessity to local authorities' web channel strategy

As the public sector begins to get to grips with the transformation of services to online delivery, it is more important than ever that councils and local authority departments select the right supplier to support their Web Channel Strategy.

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It is well recognised that there is a plethora of web content management (WCM) systems in the marketplace. Many are feature rich solutions offering the tools required to develop and manage successful websites. Out of the box core solutions are widely available that deliver websites with Web 2.0 functionality in conjunction with a range of features that have become standard requirements for most Local Authorities all underpinned by varying degrees of support and maintenance. Some will offer, hosting, additional modules and other such tools - it is a familiar landscape to many Local Authority IT and Web Managers; as one recently commented 'they are all about the same'. So, if many suppliers' systems are still developing in roughly the same direction at about the same pace (give or take), then where lies the differentiates? How do you make sure your web partner is the partner of choice?  

Channel Shift online

Selecting a good WCM system and publishing an engaging website is not by itself going to get public sector bodies where they now need to be.  The measurement of a successful website is now and will continue to be, the extent to which it effectively delivers services and this is where the role of the solution supplier can become a significant and valuable differentiator.

Digital by default

Some WCMS vendors have recognised the transformation in the public sector market and have adjusted their messaging to reflect the need for effective channel shift to online self service to deliver cost efficiencies or more for less whist increasing customer satisfaction. Products and solutions have developed rapidly to offer the means to engage customers in the online transactions that are the heart of online services.

Making the difference

The demands on Councils require a more complete service from web partner suppliers than simple solution provision.  Ask yourself the questions, is my WCMS supplier helping me to get the very best from my chosen solution? Are they genuinely focused on assisting me to achieve channel shift to meet my strategic objectives?  Are they working with me for the long-term?

In everyday life we strive to get the best value from the suppliers we work with, sometimes there is value in going to the same supplier, but in other instances staying with one supplier may keep our view narrow minded and is influenced by the product's capability. It is therefore imperative to consider the long term plan of what your web channel strategy is trying to achieve and if the aspirations of the partner fits with your requirements.

Through evaluation of what your current partners provide you can make judgements on whether they are suitable to help you deliver that change. This may lead to the realisation that strategic change throughout the organisation is required, and that corporate buy in is holding back the website rather than the technology itself. However, by looking to different suppliers for different aspects of your website will ensure you have a comprehensive review of your website and new ideas may unfold. A supplier who is in tune with your needs and requirement will work with you to optimise your website, delivering effective user journeys and maximising long term transaction fulfillment.

The importance of realising your objectives makes it crucial not to be held back by a web partner who is not focussed on them. Don't be afraid to go elsewhere to obtain the expertise you need to make your website as effective as it should be and to deliver the savings you need.

Posted by Jon Taylor, 8th July 2011