In conversation with Maryvonne Hassall: how Aylesbury is using cloud as a multi-channel value for money service

How has cloud enabled your workforce to operate differently and more effectively?

We started our change programme by understanding what our customers wanted; which was really to allow customers to contact us how they wanted, when they wanted. Starting with the customer journey allowed us to develop systems and services that in parallel make our staff more efficient and effective.  If a customer calls us something has probably already gone wrong and they want it dealt with quickly and efficiently.  By allowing staff to access real-time information from joined up services our people can offer the best response possible.

Our My Account allows customers to access to their own data and we’ve added web-chat to phone and email so customers can choose how to interact with us.  All this has reduced phone calls into customer services on average by 25%, web-chats have increased to nearly 2,000 a month which are more efficient for us to respond to. More recently we have deployed AI and it’s now used in 27% of our web-chats. Two thirds of our direct debits and all taxi and vehicle licence requests go via My Account with minimal AVDC staff involved in processing.  Our digital changes allow us to provide customers with an always on, multi-channel and value for money service.

Can you explain how Aylesbury has successfully saved over £6m with the deployment of cloud?

Our savings have come from many different sources.  A significant one was convincing our staff they didn’t need a PC each, and implementing hot desking.   That actually saved us a third floor on our building; you probably can’t get much more significant than that.  Other savings are probably more typical of a cloud solution such as moving from physical to virtual environment with Citrix desktops and other infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) solutions.  Our staff can access their systems securely from anywhere improving our ability to work flexibly.  SaaS allows us to flex our resources depending on staff levels. Our phone service is delivered over our network and we are reducing the number of handsets in the office, people just have an app on their mobile phone. We have upgraded our public wifi so that everyone – staff and visitors – are on the same high quality wifi service.

Our digital transformation saves money by making us more efficient. Customer self-service allows our staff to focus on those that need help and we have been able to deal with increases in service demand with the same or sometimes less staff.

If any, what challenges have you experienced transitioning Aylesbury’s data to a cloud system?

Legacy systems were probably the greatest challenge.  Some suppliers didn’t even offer a cloud solution when we started back in 2010 so we created a three strand process for taking our systems forward.  Cloud first was our overriding principle but where this wasn’t possible we worked with suppliers to move in that direction.  The crucial aspect for us was putting in place a strategic platform which we are building innovation and commercial activities upon.  It is this platform that has allowed us innovate with services like AI and will move us towards our aim of the golden customer record.  There were some security concerns, of course, but to be honest I would rather put my money on a cloud service provider being able to deliver first class security and greater resilience than on premises infrastructure that’s mine to keep running.

What are you priorities for the remainder of the year and 2019?

More of the same really.  We have a new HR and payroll service that extends our  strategic platform and we continue to move remaining ICT assets to more agile, cloud consumption models.   We want to extend self-service options and add new services for customers as well as extending the use of AI and increasingly voice-control to our services.  We want to make flexible and remote working the norm for our staff allowing us to reduce our office space requirements further. We also want to be part of new, innovative projects taking technology forward to continue to improve our services and create new opportunities for the council.  It’s exciting times to live in.

Maryvonne Hassall is the Director for Digital Strategy at Aylesbury Vale District Council, and will be speaking on procuring a partner to manage your data to the cloud, at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November. To register or find out more, please click here.