Archive for the ‘Citizen’ Category

Government CRM - Citizen Relationship Management

Donnerstag, Dezember 6th, 2007

While CRM has been researched and applied in private enterprises for years, it has only recently gained attention as a concept for government. Concurrent with the emergence of eGovernment and the general tendency of transferring more and more business concepts into the government domain, articles and studies started to address the topic. Many articles on eGovernment briefly address CRM when referring to aspects such as one-stop government or a multi-channel environment directly or indirectly. Besides CRM, authors introduce slightly altered terms like Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM), Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Public Relationship Management (PRM) or Citizen Encounter and Relationship Management (CERM) to underline its government orientation and application.

Private sector CRM literature is highly fragmented and lacks a common conceptualization (Zablah/Bellenger/Johnston 2004). It is, therefore, somewhat unsurprising to find the same characteristics in its application to government. Truly sarcastic oberserves might say “garbage in, garbage out”. The literature on CiRM currently lacks a common definition, conceptualization and set of goals. I define Citizen Relationship Management (CiRM) as,

a strategy and set of management practices, enabled by technology with a broad citizen focus, to maintain and optimize relationships and encourage new forms of citizen participation.

Most articles on CiRM review private sector CRM, technological aspects (CRM systems) and expected benefits in government. There is a general agreement that many aspects of CRM are not sector-specific. However, they need to be translated into the context of each sector. Customer segmentation can serve administrators to identify those needing help or who are about to do so. Customer retention strategies can be directed at preventing citizen’s from using a service again. Yet, the termination of unprofitable customers, data mining, broadening the service range and thus choice, the issue of externalities or conceptualizing the citizen as customer are believed to be harder to transfer to government.

Another issue is that term CiRM is applied to describe any citizen-focused initiative or interaction. For instance, public service provision through an online portals are presented as successful CiRM projects. Administrators struggle with the lack of knowledge on CRM, in addition to their discomfort with CRM terminology. Public administrations, which claim to engage in CiRM, connect it to single customer service initiatives, online portals, electronic case management, call centers, physical one-stop service centers and CRM software. However, the literature offers little to no insights into organizational, cultural or process related changes in CiRM initiatives in terms of a holistic understanding of CRM.

King (2007) analyzed the results of the British CRM Pathfinder program (2001-02) and the CRM National Programme (2003-04). The majority of CRM projects focussed on adding CRM capabilities to call centers and one-stop shops. Participating municipalities can be in different stages of a proposed CRM development path which do not build upon each other. Therefore, a contact center and multi-channel environment may be realized without the changes towards a customer centric organization. In addition, there was little evidence for citizen analytics (segmentation, needs analysis), organizational changes (bridging departmental silos) or true multi-channel access. Janssen and Wagenaar (2002) found similar results and concluded that Dutch CiRM efforts are in an “embryonic stage”. Along these lines, in their survey of the status quo of CRM in German public administration, Bauer, Grether and Richter (2002) reported that the CRM elements implemented are far from meeting the holistic concept of CRM. Per-sonalization and a closer analysis of commonly used public services are frequent practices, while segmentation or profitability analyses remain untested concepts. Among the biggest barri-ers to exploring CRM, German administrations mention their lack of human resources and time constraints. In the United States, CiRM is mostly connected to 311 non-emergency number call center initiatives and innovations such as the performance management concept CITISTAT.

Based on some of these facts, I strongly recommend making sure to come up with a clear definition and concept of CiRM before communicating it throughout the organization and attempting an implementation.CiRM is more than a contact center and it is also different to eGovernment although both can certainly enrich each other.

Government Outsourcing - Ask the citizen

Freitag, September 7th, 2007

Saga Prefecture is located on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Facing a budget crisis Mr. Furukawa, the newly elected governor, started one of Japan’s most ambitious reform programs in 2003. It included yearly budget cuts of 15% while at the same time allowing allowing granting departments more flexibility, an organizational redesign and cultural change towards citizen centricity. One of the latest innovative measures was the release of a list with 236 government areas/ processes in October 2006. The public was then asked for outsourcing/public private partnership proposals. Anyone was welcome to participate.

Hiroichi Kawashima, Saga’s CIO, and his team worked together with all departments to identify the outsourcing “candidates”. Their final list consisted of 236 areas/processes but the public was also allowed to make suggestions for the remaining 1791 areas/processes. The submission deadline ended in November 2006. Surprisingly, only 1/5 of proposals are directed at the 236 areas/processes identified by public servants. The team is currently reviewing the 361 proposals from individuals, NGO’s and non recognized organizations. Thereafter, the will announce which proposals have been accepted and will do a public tender. They are also discussing of doing a second round of proposal submissions.

I think this is a very unique way for governments to tap into the creativity and resources of their citizens. I will keep you posted about further developments.

The connected citizen

Samstag, Juli 7th, 2007

The internet made us more powerful as well as making us more transparent. We have access to information anytime, anyplace. We can find, motivate or join like minded people to create something or influence a third party. We also leave our trails on blogs, social networking platforms, newsgroups or buying online. Governments and citizens alike can benefit from this trend.

Hierarchical government structures are the dominant model for public service delivery and meeting public policies. Although desired outcomes are mostly realized, this set-up turns out to have various downsides. Results are a silo like, inward-looking culture, slow decision making, change awareness or knowledge diffusion. While the latter also led to an institutionalized disconnect from citizens it can cause system failures when information and decision making transcends organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. Hurricane Katrina, the Avian Flu, various non-prevented terrorist attacks are such representative cases.

In addition, public administration has become continuously more complex. Economic, social, political and technological developments in the past decades have lead to a growth of the administrative apparatus, its size, power and obligations. Market-based reforms have optimized agency operations and privatized public services through contracting-out (i.e. Public Private Partnerships) or completely conferring them to the private sector. Hence, public managers and policy makers have to work within a sphere of multiple stakeholders and understand interdependent relationships for service provision, regulation and policy making. Knowing whom to hold accountable and a general understanding of this complex system is important for legislators as well as for citizen.

What can governments do?

1. Access
2. Dialogue
3. Transparency
4. Internal change

Governments need to provide access to its services and information by the latest channels (i.e. counter, call center, web portal). Additionally, pervasive municipal WLANs are part of the idea. However, access also means share as much data as possible that was kept within the organization in the past. It is important however to structure and phrase internal information when giving citizens access as they might not be accustomed to the terms, language or procedures. In general, constituents can come up with creative ways of adding value to that data by analyzing or linking it with other information. Google Maps mash-ups like Chicago crime watch are a good example. At the same time it is important that citizens can share their information with their government and fellow constituents.

Dialogues help governments to understand the emotional, social, cultural and government contexts that shape citizens experiences. In an iterative dialogue of equals people can learn from each other. Governments are doing this through focus groups, neighbourhood councils and the like. A centralized call center and number like 311 make it easier for citizens to start that dialogue. In the future, governments could also provide platforms where citizens and governments can form a network on government related topics. Many times though governments cooperated symbolically (Etzioni 1958: 261) usually causing citizens realizing the lack of impact returning to passivity.

By sharing internal knowledge or allowing citizens to track their public services governments create a lot of transparency. In fact they governments loose a level of control while at the same time adding value by decreasing their burden through information requests, using citizen’s input to improve internal efficiency, eliminating gate-keepers or changing daily management. Let’s take the impact of New York’s 311 implementation for example. If any engineer, architect or builder wanted to meet with a DOB building inspector, which was necessary to begin a project, they would have to use the services of an expediter, a person whose job it was to interact with City employees and to facilitate the permitting and inspection process. Each of these expediters had a relationship with an employee in the DOB. As such they were gate-keepers. Typically, expediters would book numerous appointments each day in case they were hired; they would then cancel appointments at the last minute if they did not need them. A building inspector would therefore have his calendar full for several weeks in the future, meaning that anyone not using an expediter would be forced to wait weeks for an appointment. Transparency combined with better access changed this. Now citizens are randomly assigned to an inspector so that nobody can maintain special relationships. Expediters are no longer useful or necessary. The inspectors are working at full capacity and have to meet certain performance criteria (i.e. response time, closing time).

Finally, internal change is necessary to provide an environment and infrastructure to make the above happen. Sustainable, top-level political leadership is one of the key success factors.

Cross boundary collaboration and eGovernment: PNG Working Paper

Samstag, Februar 10th, 2007

Administrative and political leadership need to use their growing understanding of
eGovernment to come up with strategies that help them crossing the boundary between organizatonal units for better collaboration and coordination. My PNG working paper “Crossing the boundary - Why putting the e in Government is the easy part” reviews the current status of eGovernment projects and research from around the globe and offers additional insights in how to overcome these challenges.


Figure: Modified Gartner eGovernment Hype Cycle

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part IV: Connecting the cases to the literature

Donnerstag, Februar 1st, 2007

Today’s post ends my entry series on the use of local Social Networking Services by Japanese municipal governments.

Even without knowing the respective research and terms interviewees made the correct assumptions about social networks or tell stories reflecting results of social networks and social support in disaster literature. Drawing for example on the narrative of the family that was helped by many strangers after a the mother of a sons friend (weak tie) wrote about their flooded house in her “Gorotto Yatchiro” blog which supports Granovetter’s weak tie and Burt’s structural hole role in non routine activities (2004; 1983). Those interviewees who joined the local SNS found new friends on the platform and expanded their social network as concluded by Tindall and Wellman (2001). Furthermore, Soiga NPO is a great example how an organization, once brought into existence for one set of purpose (environmental activities), can also aid others for different purposes described by Coleman, thus constituting social capital available for use (1988). The NPO’s blogs were considered a trusted source and can provide an alternative to the mass media which is regarded by many individuals as a more credible source of risk information than government (McComas, 2001). A centralized approach to the provision and publication of local information might not be fine-grained enough to cater to the viral and capillary spread of word-of-mouth information anyway. This informal interaction can only be supported by recognizing the peer-to-peer nature of local interaction which is distinct from the conventional many-to-many, few-to-many, or one-to-many broadcast nature of other online interaction (Foth, 2006). In the past this role was taken by neighbourhood organizations which are already impacted by demographic and cultural change (young generations are not really interested in joining).
Finally, if the majority of the population would be represented on local SNS platform, sociograms could provide snapshots of networks and interaction structures. From these types of diagrams government and citizens can visually identify emergent positrons and clusters of interaction. By examining these patterns of mediated and unmediated interaction they could gain an added perspective on communication structures that underpin explicit community processes as well as those that support affective, less instrumental behaviors (Garton, Haythornthwaite, & Wellman, 1997). Privacy might be a concern for citizens of course. At the moment, local SNS can serve the functions of managing and building social networks. In disasters it covers the areas of “observe and report” and “warn and inform”. Along the lines of La Porte, I argue that the design and rules of the network constrain the character, use and content of member roles and exchanges and the network (1996). Consequently, local SNS could support the community and government beyond its current scope.

Sidenote: As I heard this week MIC is planing to extend their local SNS pilot with 10 other cities. I will keep you posted.

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part III: Some observations

Donnerstag, Januar 18th, 2007

In today’s entry I would like to make some comments on the two Japanes local government SNS case studies I presented earlier.

Mr. Kobayashi, the member of Yatsushiro’s IT department, has a key role for the future development and functionalities of the SNS platform. He started this local SNS completely on his own, inspired by the rise of private social networking platforms and personal interest in technology. His government membership and high level of personal involvement ensure the sustainability of “Gorotto Yatchiro”. By comparison, “Ococo Nagaoka” is managed by an actor outside of government. The NPO, although well connected, has less leverage on the level government support and involvement. Government officials reportedly evaluate success by the quantity of users which influences their willingness of support. Therefore, “Ococo Nagaoka” is in a critical state (only 600-700 users).

Many online activities (i.e. exchanges) are depending on a critical mass for others to be attractive, a criteria which has not been met in both cases (1%< of the total population) and both mostly exclude older generations. In addition, both are competing with big platforms like Mixi.

If the local SNS has more users, the load on technology and burden on involved managers will also grow. Mr. Kobayashi would not be able to monitor user behavior without further help if that happens. Although officials claim to learn something from citizens, there is nobody checking the information in the citizens’ blogs.
Mr. Kobayashi is right when pointing to the importance taking a gradual approach of getting more users and introducing the platform. However, government marketing is not helping much and poorly done which reminded me of discussions with administrators who were wondering about the slow user uptake in their eGovernment projects.

Although Mr. Kobayashi added the map feature, functionality and design of existing platforms led to an early framing of his understanding of the possibilities and limits of local SNS. The lack of feedback by other people in the creation process is certainly a reason why its use in disaster or the government citizen relationship is not fully exploited. Administrative members would also be more willing to join, add content and engage with the citizen if there would be a considerable and visible amount of support by executive level administrators. Again, Mixi and Gree formed their perception of SNS so that in their words local SNS is mainly a way to interact with the public and offer it a way to interact with each other. They miss the aspect of building social capital.

Moreover, MIC should have planned a longer pilot phase since the tendency of a slow user uptake was already visible in the data for Yatsushiro. Central government is still influential in Japan so MIC could have also done more to inform and motivate the public and administrators alike.

Germany announces 311 solution: einheitliche Behördenrufnummer 115 (Bürgertelefon D-115)

Dienstag, Dezember 26th, 2006

Citizen Relationship Management - at least the contact center aspect of it, has made its way to Europe. The other day I have been in touch with somebody from Sweden which is looking into the matter. Dutch ministries also showed some interest. Apparently, the same is true for Germany. Shortly before christmas Angela Merkel, the German chancelor, announced the “Behoerdennotruf” (could be translated public agency emergency number) while participating in the “1st National IT Summit” between government and IT industry representatives. The N-11 type contact center would be available through the unified number 115 and available 24/7/365, probably realized by 2009/10. It is supposed to be modelled after New York’s 311 solution. The results of a first survey among citizens showed mixed to negative opinions towards the initative. I think the term coined for the initiative is misleading for many people after reviewing some of the discussions on blogs and boards.

A feasibility study is planned to start in March 2007 by the ISPRAT institute, a collaboration between industry and academia (Hertie School of Governance, Frauenhofer, WHU). The institute was founded by Harald Lemke, CIO of the Germany’s federal state Hesse. Industry members include Cisco Systems, CSC, Deutsche Telekom AG, Fujitsu-Siemens-Computer, HP, IBM, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft and SAP. You can find the research proposal here (Unfortunately in German only).

Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part I: Yatsushiro City

Mittwoch, Dezember 6th, 2006

As I wrote in an earlier entry I am currently in Japan doing research in 2 areas. First, I look at local SNS (social software) and how this could be useful for disaster management. Second, I will do another case study for my research on Citizen Relationship Management.

Yatsushiro is the second largest city of the Kumamoto prefecture and is centrally located about 40 km from the Kyushu west coast, the southernmost of the four Japanese islands. As part of the eGovernment efforts in 2002/03 the city started “Gorotto Yatchiro”. It offered a bulletin board, calendar, link posting and email form functionality. However, it never got quite of the ground with a final community size of 600, 40 truly active users and 10.000 page views per month. Usage decreased over time and since membership offered anonymity some members did not stick to accepted conventions of online behaviour. As for Japanese culture, this keeps a lot of people critical of such initiatives paired with general mistrust in government and public administration in Japan. More than 900 local governments around Japan had set up citizens’ virtual conference rooms by 2004 as part of their eParticipation efforts. Though, most of these projects met the same fate as the one in Yatsushiro city.

Meet Mr. Takao Kobayashi who had/ still has the biggest influence on local government social networking services in Japan with his ideas and “Open Gorotto” platform which is available free as openSource software (click the above link to download the latest version).


In response to the decline of the bulletin board and inspired by bigger and popular social networking platforms such as Mixi, Mr. Takao Kobayashi, a young member of the Yatsushiro IT department, decided to design and program a new version of Gorotto in 2004. Interestingly, he was neither ordered to do so nor did he ask for permission. Within three months the first version of the “Open-Gorotto” SNS using openSource software as Free BSD, PostgreSQL, and PHP was developed. Except being inspired by existing social networking platforms no additional surveys on user needs were conducted. As the platform is hosted on government servers and development was done in work and free-time costs can be considered insignificant. Up to this day there is no additional budget set aside or significant recognition of political or administrative leadership except that that there is no interference.

Mr. Kobayashi mentions four points that motivated him to create the SNS platform: First, citizens are much better at sharing government information, so each citizen’s network serves as a multiplier. Second, the platform helps the community to grow stronger, meaning that people who share mutual interests can get together in a pleasant atmosphere. Third, the platform presents general and government information in a different way. Finally, administrators can interact and learn from citizens. Disaster is missing here but was picked up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) as a goal. MIC conducted empirical testing of SNS communities in the City of Nagaoka which will be described in LINK and in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in early 2006.

The SNS platform exists parallel toYatsushiro city’s website which links to the former. “Gorotto Yatchiro” functionality includes a blog, networking, personal profile, picture/media library, calendar and newsgroups (see picture below). Its uniqueness compared to sites like Mixi, Gree, MySpace or Xing lies in additional features as GIS/Google maps mash-up, a fire alert or open architecture with allows for integration of other features. Besides that the platform is mobile friendly. Although everybody can use the platform registered users can invite contacts. In order to prevent a development similar to the bulletin board “Open Gorotto” includes the “Alien” or “Grey Person” feature. This automatically scans for swearwords and the like and also sends a quick note to the administrator (Mr. Kobayashi) and another person supporting him with this task.


Since the new version was made available online by end of 2004, member expansion was left to invitations of users only. Mr. Kobayashi thinks that this allows for a healthier online community and avoids the objections citizens might have towards government although it is much slower. Advertising was only done through links on the city website, flyers and ads in the city magazine. Additional public attention came through press articles first in the regional and later in national press which is visible in higher website traffic after key interviews. By now the platform has around 2800 members with 70% being from Yatsushiro. Average age of members is 39 with males tending to be more active than females (ratio: 7:3). 400 users can be counted as truly active in terms of their blog, commenting or in forum behavior. The most used features are the diary followed by the internal email system and forums. 400 users have also subscribed the RSS feature. Smaller forums are managed by citizens; bigger ones are managed by the admins. 100 members of the community belong to the local administration or politics. When asked, Government officials see the local SNS mostly as another communication channel. They are still thinking about further use, especially with regard to disaster though.

Mr. Kobayashi is currently promoting the idea of having local interconnected SNS in all of Japan’s municipalities that also mirror each other in case of a failure/disruption like a disaster. Modifications of “Open Gorotto” are already used by other local SNS throughout Japan. However, many times Mixi is able to attract more people from the same area as the local SNS. This relates very much to questions raised by Ines Mergel regarding individual social networking platform online behavior.

In any case, the actions of Mr. Kobayashi are unique. It is proof of an individual’s impact on a smaller and ultimately broader scale. I could not find similar projects of government SNS in the world with regard to eDemocracy or disaster management. Hence, “Open Gorotto” is an innovation for local government worthwhile spending more time thinking about.

Social Networking Services and disaster management in Japan

Freitag, Oktober 6th, 2006

Apparently, the government in Japan is promoting the use of Social Networking Services (SNS) as they are hoping to take advantage of this for consultation and during a crisis like a disaster. As I will take a look at the attempts in my case studies of Yatsushiro-city, Kumamoto prefecture and Nagaoka-city, Niigata prefecture I will keep you updated in the upcoming weeks.


Let’s take a look at one of the big social networking platforms in Japan the meantime. Its called Mixi and has some of the following features:
- Invitation only
- It includes a sort of diary or blog which can be shared only with the people directly connected.
- Users review goods and services
- Miximusic / iTunes integration
- You can see who visited your profile
- Anonymous profiles mostly.
- Groups. Mixi has up to a million groups that users have created
- Heavily mobile-based / friendly. Japanese people spend a lot of time commuting on the train so there is plenty of time to take advantage of the 3G network and advanced phone features like chat, mms or GPS.

I begin to wonder when we will move into the mobile SNS world. Imagine when vast ammounts people start tagging their environment with the integrated GPS or connect with their direct or in case of dating, interested “peers”. This will also allow for new types of government citizen interactions with regard to disasters and everyday management.