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Why CRM alone won't deliver a single view of the citizen

Many state and local government organizations are by now aware of the concept of a single view of the citizen. In a climate of cost pressures, population growth and higher expectations of quality services, the value of a single, shared, trustworthy source of citizen data is significant and far-reaching.

Research from McKinsey even suggests digitalization could save the global public sector $1 trillion per year – and breaking down data silos is a key part of that, underpinning everything from advanced analytics to citizen self-service.

(Recommended reading: Solving the data management problem in state and local government)

However, delivering a single view of the citizen is easier said than done. It presents challenges around cost, the use of legacy systems, data security and governance, and user adoption that are complex and difficult to overcome. And there are many conflicting views on the best way to go about it – including the idea that CRM renewal is somehow the answer.

In reality, while CRM can play an important part in the process, it’s far from a complete solution to the data management problems faced by state and local government organizations today. And indeed – Gartner has said since 2014 that CRM needs to take cues from the Master Data Management (MDM) discipline to be truly successful.

Here’s what public sector CIOs need to know about CRM, and specifically why CRM alone won’t deliver a single view of the citizen.

CRM won’t solve data accuracy and completeness problems

Replacing legacy systems with a new departmental or cross-departmental CRM presents an excellent opportunity for state and local government organizations to modernize their IT environments and consolidate many different sources of data, which in turn unlocks benefits like improved collaboration and a starting point for new digital services.

However, none of this matters if the data going into the new CRM isn’t accurate and complete. Most data held in the public sector isn’t just stored in different formats and systems – it may also be out-of-date, incomplete or otherwise of low quality, normally because it was only collected in the first place to support the requirements of a particular department or program, and not to underpin a single view of the citizen.

As such, state and local government organizations implementing CRM to this end need to be aware that it may involve a vast amount of manual data cleansing – increasing their IT overall spend, as well as the risk of new errors cropping up in the process.

Data security and governance may be put at risk

The consolidation of legacy systems raises obvious questions about data security and governance in the public sector, where it may not be desirable for some of the information held by a particular department or agency to be shared with others. You wouldn’t, for example, expect your criminal justice department to share a suspect’s personal details with every other department in the county.

This leaves CIOs either unable to break down that particular silo, or under pressure to implement CRM with sophisticated data security and governance controls to preserve individuals’ privacy without losing the benefits of a single view of the citizen.

User adoption remains a significant hurdle

Finally, as with any significant IT upheaval, one of the greatest obstacles to a CRM-enabled single citizen view is the issue of user adoption. Unless CIOs take steps to ensure either a smooth transition or a seamless user experience (which may be next to impossible where aging legacy systems are involved), the chances of CRM renewal being met with resistance from end-users is high. And, in a large organization like a county or state department, this can be enough to sink the project.

The reality is, some users won’t be ready or able from day one to leave behind their current silos. It’s up to CIOs to decide whether that means forcing the transition through or giving up, for now, on the idea of the single citizen view.

The role of Master Data Management (MDM)

As mentioned above, Gartner has concluded that organizations should look to other emerging disciplines – and MDM in particular – as an answer to the challenges of using CRM to this end. “CRM leaders must understand the benefits of the MDM discipline to CRM and make it part of their CRM strategy,” comments research director Bill O’Kane. “MDM is critical to enabling CRM leaders to create the 360-degree view of the customer required for an optimized customer experience.”

This is as true in state and local government as anywhere else, where the scale of the challenge, as well as the cost pressures, are more significant than in many other sectors. That said, so too are the potential gains – from lower costs, to higher quality services, to improved outcomes for the citizen and community.

To find out more, download Solving the data management problem in state and local government: How to deliver a single citizen view.

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Posted by Rich Fishback on 18 Jul 2017

About the author
Rich Fishback

Rich Fishback

Rich Fishback is the Regional Vice President at VisionWare.


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