Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Charging headlong into the Barnet call centre

The what? The Barnet call centre. Part of the Future Shape plan for Barnet council involves setting up a Customer Service Organisation (CSO) aka call centre. Yes, they kept quiet about that one, didn't they?!

Anyway, there are problems in the plans so far made to set up the Barnet CSO. These are revealed in a paper Rog T has got hold of and posted on his new Barnet leaks blog. The paper is an expert overview of the plans to move to set up a CSO through which Barnet residents would access services (as opposed to F2F - face to face - access). It is clear that Barnet council would like us to move to doing far more things over the phone and online.

The paper is pretty involved stuff, but will reward study. Actually, it is political dynamite. Two quick things that jump out at me. First is the warning from the expert that outsourcing revenues and benefits - yes, they want to do that - has not worked well when it has been tried in the past in London.

Second is a loud echo of the warning made in the recent Grant Thornton audit of Future Shape. In this document we find:
From a purist point of view, I can't help noticing [!] there is no business case, a rudimentary project plan only, resourcing needs are not fully identified, the target operating model is emergent, benefits are expressed as trends rather than quanitifed, etc. ...Barnet may well feel this formal sketchiness is justified in the context of the change model it has adopted, of setting a strong direction, injecting pace, levering others' experience and expertise, filling in the legacy information gaps as you go, etc. The style has huge advantages, but some distinct risks for you to manage, notably in expectations.
Christ! Sorry for the expostulation, but when the Future Shape process was started back in 2008 I posted a small picture of a guinea pig at the side of my blog. She's there still, and it sounds like, two years on, we are still in total guinea pig territory.

By the way, I don't think that the vast bulk of residents actually want their interactions with Barnet council to be through a CSO. But that doesn't figure in anyone's calculations, it seems.

P.S. I've reached the end of the document and I absolutely love the final paragraph:
6.8 Don't forget the Equalities Impact Assessment. When the council takes a formal decision it needs to be able to demonstrate that it has taken relevant issues into account, and this is one of them.
Yes, sound advice, whoever you are that wrote this. Barnet got caught with that one before, ie, when its decision to axe the sheltered housing wardens was ruled illegal because they didn't take sufficient account of disability legislation. You do very well to remind them!

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