Integration to key systems
For many councils, integrating the website with the back-office systems can be seen as complicated and expensive - in some cases giving rise to estimated costs of £1 million of more - but it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive.
First, why do you need to integrate the website with anything? If the website is to deliver self-service facilities for customers, it needs to be able to communicate with the specific computer systems that manage the service areas. For example, it is no good a customer reporting that the tap in their council-provided house is leaking, if all that happens is an e-mail landing in the service manager's in-box. The customer would reasonably expect first of all, help in identifying the type of tap that is leaking, then to be advised when the council team will be calling to fix it - taking account of the customer's own availability. All of this requires a dialogue between the customer (on the web) and the system that deals with housing repairs - to check that the necessary parts are in stock, the availability of the necessary trades, and the match between that availability and that of the customer. If the integration is in place, the customer on the web will receive an immediate suggested appointment, and the ability to confirm it there and then. Without this integration, the web would serve little purpose and be of little value.
Achieving this degree of integration requires careful planning - and information architecture for the organisation can be a great help. But the process of integration need not be expensive. First, provide integration only for those transactions that are high volume or high value - focus on these (and they tend to be the easier ones to integrate) and reap the benefits before considering what else to integrate. Second, don't be persuaded to buy the most expensive "middleware" software - this can cost £1 million or more - but there are much cheaper ways of achieving the same result.
If you do have a CRMS, and plan to keep it, then it must be fully integrated with the website, so that you can track all the transactions for each of your customers, and build up a picture of their needs, and of how well you are serving them. It is often better, though, to dispense with the CRMS and use a plug-in to the website software to achieve the same thing at a fraction of the price.
Integration of the website to the council's electronic documents and records management systems (EDRMS) is also important, if there is one in use at corporate level.
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