Zubair Aleem 19 January 2015

Why slow applications are costing councils millions

While you may be aware of the importance business applications play in driving efficiency and customer service, what happens when applications run slow? Just how much does it cost in reduced staff productivity and impaired service?

To understand the impact slow applications can have on a local authority, consider a revenue and benefits department where applications run slow for one hour per day. When this happens, council staff are unable to do their work, claim turnaround time is pushed up and residents receive poor customer service.

However, without a doubt the largest impact of slow applications is on staff productivity and I estimate it could be costing councils up to half a million pounds. Sounds like a big number? Let us do the maths:

240 working days * 100 Staff (and average department) * 1 hr X £20 an hour = £480K

This problem can also cause problems for the council’s IT department as they often look at the wrong things when trying to fix slow applications. Often server performance or problems with suppliers or networks are unfairly blamed. This inefficiency can be over 25% of IT resourcing costs

There are other knock-on effects when applications run slowly, and some of them can be quite critical. For example when child protection systems run slow, it can delay staff in entering vital information. It could even stop staff from using the application, which is critical in protecting vulnerable children.

But what makes it so difficult to fix slow applications?

The difficulty in solving 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 have 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 council 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.

Zubair Aleem is managing director of Quadnet

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