CRM systems are essential for the provision of the call centre and one-stop shop facilities that many councils are installing as part of their e-government plans.
From January 2003, the Local Authority Shareware Club will offer a generic version of the system developed by the London Borough of Newham.
Information Services Belfast (ISB), part of Belfast City Council, is adapting the Newham system for general use. ISB will offer advice on implementing the system and provide maintenance and support services for ongoing development.
The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), the local authority IT directors' organisation, said the shareware system will be far cheaper than its commercial competitors. This is because Newham is making its system available at no cost while development costs will be based on a share of the actual costs.
In addition the licence is being offered on an "unlimited seats" basis. A site licence for the system, including three standard interfaces will cost £12,000. Implementation assistance will be charged on an as required basis and support will be approximately £10,000 per annum. A large council with a 300-seat licence would normally expect to pay around £250,000 for a comparable system from a leading CRM vendor, according to Socitm.
The Newham CRM system is tried and tested, according to Socitm. A recent audit by management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers and the MORI polling organisation showed high levels of satisfaction.
Newham's 300-plus users are achieving 95% first time resolution of calls without reference to the back office as well as 96% customer satisfaction. The results depend on good staff and organisation but would not be possible without efficient and appropriate IT systems, Socitm noted.
The Local Authority Shareware Club was set up in 2001 under the auspices of Socitm and its work has been facilitated since its inception by Socitm's Consultancy arm, Socitm Consulting.
Club Chairman Mike Tuck, head of ICT strategy at Cheshire County Council, said the Shareware Club was conceived when colleagues began to consider how they might capitalise on the software written by local authorities and how they might collaborate to reduce council spending with commercial software suppliers.