Auckland Council: Working to provide customer-centred services online.

The services provided by Auckland Council and its council-controlled organisations affect every Aucklander. These services include, for example, issuing resource and building consents, collecting rubbish and recycling, providing drinking water, and providing public transport.

In 2015, the Council began preparing an organisational strategy for 2017-19 to improve the way it delivers its services to Aucklanders. The organisational strategy focuses on internal culture and processes. It provides the Council with a "roadmap" of 34 initiatives to improve the Council's performance, which are organised into four focus areas.

The Council intends to improve the services it provides to Aucklanders and make it easier for people to use those services. As part of the "customer-friendly services" focus area, many services are being put online and being simplified. The Council called this programme of work the "Customer-centric Transformation programme". For simplicity, we call it the online services programme.

As part of our regular reviews of the Council's service performance, we looked at how the Council was managing the online services programme, and we looked closely at two projects in that programme.

The Council delivered the projects we looked at largely on time and to budget. We saw some good practice, including:

  • using an iterative approach to deliver projects;
  • getting feedback from customers and staff before and during the project; and
  • appropriate management of project risks and issues.

By June 2017, the online services programme had digitised 22% of the Council's most common transactions, towards its target of 70% by the end of 2019. It is now easier for people to access services online. The Council has also achieved additional benefits and learned lessons from the programme.

The two projects we looked at help to improve customer interactions with the Council. Aucklanders can use a single log-in to access all of the Council's online services, and the process for accessing particular services has been simplified – for example, making registering a dog or applying for a licence to run a business quicker and easier for the Council's customers.

However, there are risks to the online services programme's continued progress.

We found that the governance and accountability arrangements for the online services programme and the customer-friendly services focus area that it sits under had become confused. In our view, a lack of distinction between the two has caused this.

We have recommended that the Council review these arrangements to ensure that:

  • it maintains effective governance and oversight of the customer-friendly services focus area and its associated programmes and projects;
  • projects that are intended to deliver customer-friendly services are managed in the most effective and efficient way; and
  • it keeps the right balance between the programme's focus on putting services online and the other objectives of the customer-friendly services focus area such as improving customer experiences.

In our view, the Council needs to improve its reporting on the progress of projects to the relevant governance groups by making that reporting more accurate and including more information about whether projects are progressing as expected. Governance groups need regular, clear, and objective reporting of a project's performance. The risks of poor reporting are that the governance groups do not get the information they need to make good decisions in a timely manner.

During our audit, the Council was working to improve how it could demonstrate that the benefits from projects were being achieved. We agree that there is a need for the Council to improve its reporting and monitoring of benefits, particularly non-financial benefits. This would give the Council a more complete view of the difference the online services programme and individual projects were making .

The Council has acknowledged the areas for improvement that we identified and is making changes in response. Once the Council has addressed these matters, it will be in a strong position to achieve the objectives of its organisational strategy, including making its services more customer-friendly.

We encourage other agencies to consider this report when planning to invest in information and technology systems to improve how they deliver services.

I thank the staff of Auckland Council for their help and co-operation.

Signature - GS

Greg Schollum
Deputy Auditor-General

24 November 2017