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Why slow applications are costing councils millions

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You must already be aware of how reliant you are on business applications, for driving efficiency and customer service, but what is the impact when applications run slow? Just how much does it cost in reduced staff productivity and impaired service?


Do you know the real impact of slow applications?


Consider a revenue and benefits department with a 100 officers where the application starts to run slow for 1 hour a day. When this happens the staff cannot do their work, pushing claims turnaround up. When residents cannot get queries answered they complain, impacting the cost of customer services. Brand will also suffer undoing all the good work the PR department has done. But without a doubt the largest impact is on staff productivity which could be could be up to half a million pounds.

Sounds like a big number? Let us do the maths:


                 240 working days * 100 Staff * 1 hr X £20 an hour = £480K


There are other inefficiencies. The IT department when trying to fix slow applications are looking at the wrong things. They are looking at server performance rather than seeing how slow the application is. They attribute the problems to suppliers or networks and conduct meetings on finding a solution to a problem that cannot be fixed with the information they have. This inefficiency can be over 25% of IT resourcing costs


There are other knock on affects when applications run slowly, some of them can be quite critical. One of the biggest systems, that we consistently hear are running slow are the child protection systems. When these applications run slow staff are delayed in entering information, or stop using the application, which of course is critical in protecting vulnerable children and the organisation.


What makes it so difficult to fix slow applications?


What makes it difficult to solve this problem is not the complexity of the systems but the lack of joined up thinking. There is no denying that IT systems are complicated, involving many technologies, suppliers and human egos but we had enough time to adapt.


When the IT department tries to solve this issue, they start by looking at the servers and networks. When this fails to produce a result the supplier is often blamed. The supplier in return blames the IT department. This often leads to status quo with the service heads being piggy in the middle.


There is also a disconnect between the business and the IT department. This was demonstrated by the results of an FOI to over 30 councils which asked the question “How do you measure the performance of your IT”. The responses showed performance measures of server availability or the number of help desk calls closed. Obviously when applications are running slow the business outcomes are suffering, it therefore makes no sense that the IT department can state the servers are running well. Also people just give up logging help desk calls, often due to the lengthy hold times that cause staff further disruption.

Implement simple management practise and concentrate on productivity


I work with the simple philosophy "Manage what you can measure and measure the right things to create better performance".


Take the example of a finance department whose responsibility is to collect debt. We know for better money collection, aged debt turnaround is a good measure and the number of phone calls made to customers is a bad measure. So why not measure the IT department on the speed of the application as this directly impacts business outcomes rather than server availability!


I have visited over 30 councils over the last 3 years and these issues were present in many departments in all the councils. I have met with IT directors, Finance Directors, service heads, officers and technicians. This problem is universal.


Now how do I believe you could be saving millions?


Take the figures above for a 100 user department, and you could probably find at least 5 departments in your organisation with this issue. That’s half a million pounds a department x 10 departments makes 2.5 Million pounds recurring efficiency savings. That's a conservative estimate, the potential for bigger savings and improved efficiency is far greater.


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