Know your customer

The London Borough of Brent is working on a Customer Data Integration (CDI) programme to transform the way it handles its customer data. The project is part of a wider strategic aim to make the council a centre for excellence in the management of information and data.

Customer service improvement
Looking to support the council’s strategy of improving customer service standards, Brent is creating a single view of residents’ data. Currently, data about residents is held in numerous back office systems and this hinders the council in providing a joined up and proactive service.
    
An additional challenge is to ensure Data Protection Act compliance by making sure that all customer information is kept up-to-date. The quality of customer data directly affects the efficiency of council services and a great deal of manual effort is currently required to keep the information in the multiple systems accurate.
    
A single index will link all data about customers in one place and match data across the council, while informing each back office system where it finds inconsistencies. It will also provide a single trusted view of the council’s customers across multiple sources.

Index benefits
So what will the benefits of the index be?

  • It will reduce the number of times a customer is asked for the same information or verification.
  • It will allow the council to profile its residents so that services can be better targeted.
  • It will allow any change to residents’ circumstances that are picked up by any of the council services to be notified to all the other areas of the council.
  • It will help deliver a joined up council response to a customer’s needs by identifying where information about a resident is held.
  • It will improve customer services through the improvement in customer data quality.

Northgate Information Systems, which is the partner being used to implement the CDI programme, is using the Identity Hub software from Initiate Systems. This will link the core council IT systems, including the CRM, housing, benefits, adults, council tax, children services, electoral register, e-forms and library systems. The index itself will not hold all the information contained in each system, but just the contact details and sufficient information to cross check this data. The Identify Hub software will match the data across each of the systems and report on inconsistency and duplication.

A proactive council
By pulling its information assets together the council will be able to provide a more proactive response to customer requirements. This system will enable the council to automatically detect when a new resident becomes known to one of its systems and customer services staff will be able to proactively contact the relevant person and offer them a bundle of council services in one transaction.
    
The index went live in November last year. The first phase will establish standard data extracts from each core council system, load them onto the index and match the data across each system. This will lead to an ongoing data clean up exercise to resolve the inconsistencies in information held across the systems.
    
A new application being developed called CAR will notify each back office system if there has been a change of circumstance or any inconsistency with data. It will enable the council to be ready for the government’s Tell Us Once initiative through the change of circumstance processing. It is estimated that there are approximately 34,000 changes to households each year in the borough.

Rationalise information
A master data schema of information available is being compiled leading to the identification of trusted sources of information. For example the date of birth in one back office system may be deemed to be more accurate and trusted than another system where recording and checking the date is not essential. It will allow the council to rationalise the information it holds and the amount of data it asks of its residents.
    
The council is in the process of replacing its Onyx CRM system with Lagan, and the new CRM system will interface directly with the CDI to identify and validate customer IDs. The CDI will also interface with the Government Gateway to provide enhanced self service facilities and provide a single feed to national projects. The project is part of a wider Master Data Management (MDM) strategy where the council aims to enable service improvements through the efficient use of information and data. The same technology used for the customer CDI project will be used in the near future to create similar rationalisation for information held about staff, businesses and partner agencies.
    
If we look at how the private sector has realised the value of the data it holds it’s obvious the UK public sector has a lot to learn. Data should be seen as a strategic asset instead of being the proverbial problem. Until you know who your customers are and where they are you cannot make the next step up to providing high quality services. We know it’s a massive task but we will get there.

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