Best Practice: 3 ways to deploy Open Source in central government

by Gary Flood | July 31st, 2012 -

The Irish Government has cut spending and is raising revenue by using Sugar’s Open Source CRM as an incident management system for its somewhat controversial new household property tax.

The project is part of a series of austerity measures the government has put in place. Launched in January 2012, the property tax affects all Irish citizens with household incomes and is payable online. Open Source Customer Relationship Management software specialist SugarCRM tracks system problems reported by customers related to using the online payment system for the new tax and escalates them to the right local department.

The Republic’s Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), which selected the software, works with local authorities to implement ICT systems, and where appropriate set up national contracts for ICT equipment, software or other related areas of activity.

The LGMA says use of Sugar has led to speedy turnaround times for handling customer incidents and greater independence for local operators. Due to the success of the project, it will be extending the use of the Sugar to other business areas including telephony integration and the administrative support for a holiday home tax, which will be introduced later this year.

Rhoda Kerins, project manager in the Open Source centre at the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), told that SugarCRM offered a cost-effective way of measuring and dealing with customer issues related to using the system for paying the tax.

Sugar offers a complete customer view of the problem which anybody logged into the system can access. Operators can act swiftly to address customer issues without having to call in developers for support. But Kerins warned that resistance to change rather than technological issues were the biggest potential stumbling block to the implementation.

She offers the following advice to readers looking to get such a move right:

Don’t underestimate resistance to change

“Particularly with Open Source, getting people to buy into the product can be a challenge. People have preconceptions about how they want things done. Sit down with users and see how their needs can be catered for with the CRM application. We overcame resistance from operations people by engaging with them from the start and getting buy-in from the very top. The CEO was very much behind the implementation and the change to Open Source.”

Keep it simple – then build on the basics

“You need to have a serious look at your processes then look at how best that can be delivered through the core modules of the software. Then if you need to anything about and beyond that, you can invest in additional modules.”

Offer users some control

“The staff took to the software really well. In particular, they like the way they could adapt their screen to the way they worked. It’s the Facebook/Smartphone generation!In contrast, managers wanted a very structured way of working. It’s important to bear those difference in mind.”