Business goal: To make the council more responsive to people's needs and requests through an e-enabled strategy.
Project partner: Adobe
Award sponsor: Vodafone
Councils are often stereotyped as slow, bureacratic and unresponsive – with departments full of ‘paper-pushers'. That was a perception Medway Council in Rochester, Kent was keen to challenge.
Over the last few years the council has been one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the UK's e-government programme, setting a course with its e-forms project to deliver as many services as possible electronically. And that has helped it meet some tough government targets on e-enablement.
"There are about 700 different services that councils offer the public, and the e-government assessment criteria were based on how many of these services we could turn electronic," says Richard Lynn, who managed the project. "Because we have so many completely separate services – from adopting a child to domestic violence to getting your street light fixed – we needed to standardise all such forms so they displayed similar information."
The council's e-forms project had three main objectives. Firstly, Medway wanted to create an enterprise-wide electronic workflow system that could improve processing and delivery methods to the public. This included turning all public service requests into electronic processes. The second challenge was to embed the workflow system in 100 public-facing services so it could link the back office with its customers. And finally, Medway wanted to use the e-forms system to glean feedback from the public.
Medway chose Adobe, the developer of the ubiquitous Acrobat PDF document reader and the Intelligent Document Platform, to provide a system for creating XML-based documents and integrate them into business processes. The system was phased in over nine months, with the project largely complete on March 2004 – well ahead of schedule and within budget.
The system now provides access to more than 240 different services via e-forms, with documents passed securely, via workflow, to the relevant members of staff.
The e-forms system can also accept payments, find addresses from postcodes and attach photographs and related documents. Since the system went live, around 10,000 e-forms have been received – around 200 a week.