Efficient processing of cases in central government – A study of how government agencies can work to make their processing of cases more efficient
The processing of cases by government agencies is very extensive and concerns essential services that affect citizens, businesses and society as a whole. Some of the services that require most resources in central government are run by case-processing agencies. Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has conducted a study on the work of agencies to make their case processing of more efficient. The purpose of the study is to produce generalisable knowledge about efficient case processing in central government.
Four general approaches to increasing efficiency
Agencies take many different measures to make their case processing more efficient. Their measures can be sorted into four approaches:
- a process-oriented way of working
- automated processing
- needs-adapted contact paths for customers
- efficient support for staff processing cases.
It is common for government agencies to use a process-oriented way of working so as to increase efficiency, i.e. to increase efficiency on the basis of a survey of the agency’s case processes. This makes it possible to identify bottlenecks, to time processes as well as to specialise case processing, making it possible to increase the efficiency of case processing as a whole. In recent years some agencies have increased the level of trust in their processing so as to be more flexible and avoid overly detailed control.
Automated processing can reduce costs, shorten processing times and improve legal certainty. But automated processing is best suited to regulatory frameworks that do not, for example, require making an assessment. There is also a risk that automated processing will have a negative impact on legal certainty. Agencies therefore need to follow up their automated decision-making and ensure that it is transparent.
Many agencies are working on adapting their contact paths for customers to needs. This can involve developing more digital contact paths that complement or replace physical meetings and the telephone. Another step can be to develop their customer service function so that this function is able to process cases straightaway instead of forwarding them internally. Agencies must have good knowledge of customer needs by, for example, carrying out a life events analysis.
Another approach is to work with efficient support for staff processing cases in the form of case management systems and documentary support that complement one another and enable efficient processing. The forms of support provided need to be uniform, integrated with one another and easy to use.
Success factors and challenges in efficiency work
There are several general success factors and challenges when agencies work on making their processing more efficient. One success factor is following up how efficiency changes over time. Otherwise it is not possible to evaluate the results of the efficiency measures. Another success factor is that agencies ensure that they make use of the resources freed up by increasing efficiency in the form of e.g. lower costs or higher processing quality. General challenges when agencies increase efficiency are regulatory frameworks that impede efficiency measures, outdated IT systems and the fact that increasing efficiency takes time and may increase costs initially.
Risks and challenges in the Government’s governance
Governance by the Government is of great importance for the ability of government agencies to make their case processing more efficient. The Government needs to take account of the existence of risks and challenges in steering its agencies towards increased efficiency. If, for instance, the Government actively requires increased efficiency in a particular type of case at an agency, this may, in practice, lead to the agency giving lower priority to efficiency in other types of cases. The Government also needs to be aware of how regulatory frameworks affect the possibilities for agencies to make their processing more efficient, one example being the possibilities of automation. The Government may therefore need to take measures to change regulatory frameworks.