Meeting with the director of finance this morning. His e-mail said he wanted to explore opportunities for leveraging our IT investment to realise greater business benefits.
Now local authority accountants are not especially literate people, but they do know the difference between nouns and verbs and would be highly unlikely to use the noun "leverage" in any context. Moreover, the only "business benefits" they recognise is cost reduction. I was therefore forewarned that there would be a consultant involved.
At the meeting I was introduced to Mr Urboots, who asked to be called Phil, from Angst and Jung, who would be working with me to see how we can get rid of some staff. Lots of them, preferably. Not IT staff, mind... provided I can show how we get rid of some others.
Dave and I brainstormed IT things we can do to cut local government service costs.
When we added up the savings we found they exceeded the council's total budget. Perhaps I could get a job with the Office of Government Corruption?
Urboots liked many of our ideas, especially Dave's one about replacing classroom teachers with videoconference links to $2 a day lecturers in Cambodia. Indeed, he asked if we could write them up as draft business cases and e-mail them to him.
Clearly he was already planning his next assignment. However, his main theme for Bogcaster City Council was something called channel migration.
Once we had worked out that channel migration was not a Eurostar special offer, we thought of persuading citizens to make more use of internet self-service, and calculated how many call centre staff we might fire as a consequence.
Mavis suggested self-service would only work for men if they had a secretary to actually do the form-filling for them. She has a point. I have no idea how to pay a bill, never mind apply for council tax relief. Not that Bogcaster IT staff pay council tax. It is not an official exemption we just have access to the system code.
Anyway, maybe we could redeploy the redundant council staff as "citizen secretaries", positioning them at convenient points around the borough, say every street corner. That might work.
Citizen secretary trial today. We put Mavis on a street corner and she approached men that came along. In retrospect the scripted introductory line, "Would it be a relief to you if I showed you how and helped you fill it in effectively?" may have been an error of judgement.
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This was first published in January 2007