Driving & Vehicle Licensing Agency: Communications Capability Review

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1 Driving & Vehicle Licensing Agency: Communications Capability Review August

2 Background to the review 1. The Communication Capability Review of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is one of a series of reviews across Whitehall. The review fieldwork took place in May Each review is carried out by a combination of peer and external reviewers. The review methodology is based on interviews and examination of supplied materials. The reviewers evaluate capability against business requirements using a framework. This report contains their qualitative assessment of capability and provides recommendations for improvement. 3. Communication is a pan-organisational responsibility. The review s scope covered the breadth of the DVLA s external and internal communication, including but not limited to that undertaken by its communications division. 4. The review team interviewed around 50 people in a combination of interviews and workshops. Interviewees included the DVLA s communications staff, DVLA directors and officials, board members, Government Digital Service staff and key stakeholders such as the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). Organisational context 5. The DVLA is undergoing a period of rapid change and modernisation. The recent Reilly Review (October 2013) identified four key areas for the DVLA to focus on and improve its service offering: DVLA must accelerate and expand its digital transformation; DVLA should reduce the burden of its requirements on consumers and businesses and open up the way for others outside of government to deliver some of its services; the DVLA must have a governance and management structure fit for the new world in which it will operate; DVLA s value as a service provider of government should be optimised. The vision for the DVLA is Simpler, Better, Safer and the goal is to get the right drivers and vehicles taxed and on the road, as simply, safely and efficiently for the public as possible. 6. The DVLA have just appointed a new Chief Executive following a number of personnel changes at board level, and the new leadership has had a real impact on culture. The drive for greater efficiency and zero-cost model has meant a switch in communications channels. There has, and continues to be, a digital transformation. The DVLA is responsible for three digital exemplars: view driving record, personalised registrations and vehicle management. Further organisational change is expected with a new Commercial Director and a new Strategy and Policy Director. Both of these appointments were imminent at the time of conducting the interviews and are expected to prompt a review of the reporting line of the communications function. 2

3 7. The abolition of paper road tax discs and the changes to the transfer of road tax on used vehicles represent significant changes to service delivery, and both were very much the focus of the communications team when the review took place. These changes will take place in October There is likely to be a degree of uncertainty about the changes among citizens and businesses in terms of what they need to do when buying, selling or hiring a car; there is also some uncertainty about the impact that abolition might have on customer behaviour, for example will some see it as an opportunity to evade paying vehicle tax? Summary of findings 8. The reviewers noted that the DVLA communications team contains some real strengths, especially in internal communications, media handling, no/low-cost campaigns and initiatives, digital and social media and in-house design and production. There have also been some positive developments recently, including the establishment of embedded customer engagement managers (CEMs) and closer integration and more collaborative working among communications staff. Issues relating to planning, project and stakeholder communications have been identified and are being addressed. Generally, the communications team came across as innovative, self-reliant and resourceful. 9. The wider business changes that are taking place will undoubtedly have a number of implications for communications. In particular, they are very likely to place greater demands on the agency s external communications capability, and will also require the development of a core narrative to support staff through the transformation. 10. The reviewers questioned whether the communications team had sufficient knowledge and insight about their customers and stakeholders in order to properly inform their communications plans. The reviewers felt there were significant short and long-term risks in lacking behavioural insight and evidence. This was particularly apt given the upcoming changes with the abolition of the tax disc. This provided a very practical and specific lens through which the reviewers could evaluate capability in this area. The reviewers felt major questions need answering: Is everything in place for the upcoming abolition? What are the monthly awareness levels? What is the potential revenue loss in abolition due to evasion? These needed answering before laying out the communications objectives and subsequent campaign activity. 11. Overall the review team felt that the communications team had recently improved in a number of areas and was working on, for example, improving planning and evaluation. However there was a lack of visibility across the organisation of an overarching communications plan which sets out, in an appropriate level of detail and with timings, the main communications activities for the coming year. As a result, some senior stakeholders did not have full confidence that the agency s external communications requirements are being fully addressed. 3

4 12. One of the reasons there is less capability in the area of external communications is that there has not recently been any paid for marketing. However recent developments have acted as a catalyst for change within the organisation and reviewers are concerned about whether in-house training would enable them to achieve fully key objectives around external communications. The external communications gaps are around two points. Firstly there is a need for more forward thinking and awareness of the latest developments in external communications. Secondly the reviewers questioned whether there was a need for agency-side input into creative execution. This is particularly important if there is paid for marketing in the next few months. 13. The drive for efficiency has meant increased pressure on stakeholder relations (mainly due to the changes with the closure of local offices) and efforts are being put in place for planned, regular communications. However more needs to be done to ensure the DVLA works in partnership with stakeholders and that they are engaged, understand upcoming changes and are managed well. This is particularly important and needs to happen quickly if they are going to be used as a communications channel for upcoming changes. Areas of strength 14. Internal communications is highly regarded across the organisation and has made real progress in the areas of engagement and innovation through a broad range of new channels. This has been particularly challenging due to the many changes going on and the closure of local offices. The current head of communications should be given credit for much of this change. 15. Governance of the communications function is improving with good management and oversight. The reviewers observed closer working across the communications disciplines (internal, external, press, digital and the incorporation of a single creative design team). 16. There is a good relationship with DfT, a quarterly group communications board and sensible restructures such as the CEM model and dotted reporting lines to communications as well as the use of a communications planning grid. The CEM structure has been well implemented and the reviewers felt it was the right model for embedding communications throughout the organisation. 17. The DVLA has fully embraced the low-cost model and is a pioneer in the area of digital and social media. Austerity has driven innovation and creativity in creative execution. The review team highlighted examples including use of Twitter for customer service and consultation (this is particularly impressive as Twitter enquiries are handled by the contact centre), use of social media evaluation tools and use of videos, blogs and web 4

5 chats. The low-cost campaign Silly excuses, enabled by a wide range of in-house skills in design and production, led to a 4 per cent spike in payment of vehicle tax. 18. The head of communications is well regarded across the organisation. She is constantly looking to improve and move communications in the right direction. Initiatives include embedding communications managers in projects, leading efforts to improve coordination of stakeholder communications, increasing professional development, working across government and a strong focus on no/low-cost campaigns. 19. Other positives specific to certain teams include: The breadth of skills and resource the DVLA has internally across the design and production suite. This is a real area for opportunity as it fits well with the DVLA s digital transformation and they are a highly-motivated, collaborative and proactive team. This is potentially an extremely valuable in-house resource which clearly has the ability to produce some great creative and could be a centre of excellence across government The press office had consistently high feedback. The reactive media handling is highly thought of within the DVLA, by both the communications and operations teams Areas for improvement 20. The reviewers observed a clear financial and reputational risk presented by tax disc abolition. They also felt it highlighted a number of areas that need to be improved. The three reviewers felt that at the most senior level the key risk scenarios and the mitigation options had not been worked through fully and had real concerns about whether the DVLA has assessed the scale of change for different customer segments, modelling their likely responses and the impact on the business. This was mentioned in the majority of internal and external interviews. The reviewers felt there is not a shared and understood picture of the behavioural impacts and attitudes, awareness figures, current activities, plans and how communications will be evaluated in detail. 21. The abolition of the tax disc highlighted the fact that the reviewers felt the organisation should be taking a more commercial approach to communications and marketing and the impact that this can have on compliance and call centre costs. This means having a clear understanding on how communications and marketing links back to the business objectives with metrics to prove it. The review team believe that changes made to communications to address the issues with the abolition of the tax disc will have long lasting benefits as it will bring communications and marketing closer to the business. The key issue highlighted by abolition is that planning, insight and analysis is not prioritised and integrated into the communications cycle. The main reason for this is that the insight and communications teams do not fully work together to share insight making sure 5

6 everyone who needs it has access to it. There is a clear issue with the relationship and integration with customer evaluation, the customer focus team and the data teams in policy/strategy. Currently, the policy team focuses on evasion and error detection and the operations team focus their analysis on awareness and operational effectiveness of the DVLA service. There is also work on a segmentation run by the customer focus team. However the communications team are not able to fully utilise this data and insight to support their objectives. There does not appear to be enough capability or resource within the communications team to conduct their own insight, analysis and evaluation. In the short term there needs to be a clear way of working and resource available to change this; either by seconding people from the insight team into the communications team (and up-skill them in communications evaluation) or external capability needs to be brought in 22. Long term, several issues need to be addressed: The issue of joining-up insight and analysis with communications The communications roadmap against outcomes needs to be developed further, to be widely in use and disseminated across communications When using the insight team, the turn-around of requests and the reporting cycle is too slow and needs to be addressed There is a problem with briefing and commissioning insight which should be looked at in more detail. The insight resource appears oversubscribed and under-resourced There is a qualitative, exploratory research gap around attitudes and behaviour change which is highly relevant to communications. There is a history of doing this internally, however the DVLA should consider whether there is a case for bringing in external support There is a lack of pre- and post-campaign analysis and benchmarks and limited message and campaign testing Finally there is limited reporting back to the business on the success and value-add from communications 23. The communication strategy is not embedded across the DVLA and there is confusion around the overall communications plan. Few interviewees were aware of it and its contents, and the communications team felt the plan was not promoted or visible across the organisation. There are a number of reasons for this. The Executive team had not fully engaged with the strategic role of communications across the organisation and cascaded this throughout the organisation. There does not appear to be a widespread understanding of how communications is contributing to business metrics overall. The reviewers felt the vision of simpler, better, safer is a good opportunity to link communications to the business objectives Work is underway on this, however the reviewers felt it would help to refine a single, shared and agreed communications strategy that sets out the role of communications, the business and communications objectives and main milestones 6

7 and plans as best practice. Involving the business in creating it (as the DVLA is doing already) but then sharing and communicating it, and constantly referring back to it, will ensure it becomes embedded. There are more detailed plans in place for each element and this should continue as the overarching strategy and plan should be reasonably high-level. However the strategy should not be generic and without any specifics on what communications should be about and the key milestones 24. Linked to this, the reviewers noted that communications are not managed at a programme level but at a project level. This has led to some confusion around the overall communications roadmap, at both a project and at an organisational level. The development of agile methods is an opportunity to devolve communications responsibilities and increasingly communications specialists are being embedded in projects, however more work can be done to ensure the overall communication objectives are filtered through to those working at a programme level. 25. The process within the corporate communication teams and the CEM teams needs to be matured so the engagement with the business is more effective and better structured. Particularly: CEMs need to be more strategic and senior within their directorates There needs to be a more structured and clear CEM interface with the business, including agreeing the role of communications and the associated areas of expertise; who the go-to people are and any other appropriate protocols There is a need for higher-end training for CEMs, specifically around being more strategic. The Leadership Programme was mentioned as being successful that had been run within the contact centre 26. While the reviewers acknowledge that a business case for paid-for marketing of personalised number plates is currently being considered, they wanted to stress a number of different opportunities around this. As well as the commercial opportunity, increased revenue and customer satisfaction there is a key opportunity for the communications team to develop new capabilities and skills. 27. The communications team is in the process of tackling stakeholder communications and there are more planned, regular communications as well as plans outlining the stakeholder strategy. However the stakeholder management and engagement process is not where it should be, particularly as stakeholders are a key communications channel for the DVLA. New capabilities and coordination is needed to take stakeholder management to the next level, to address stakeholder concerns that they do not always feel properly informed or listened to, or that the DVLA understands the impact of its changes on them and their customers. This applied to all stakeholder sectors, however particularly the motor trade when it comes to the abolition of the tax disc. 7

8 28. There are issues around the studio and design team management: There is a capability and communications issue around briefing and role of the brief. The reviewers felt it was vital that the organisation understand the importance of the communications design brief There are issues with resource management. There are not always enough staff or staff available to carry out production and work structures and plans are not clearly visible The team also lacks account management structure There is a need for a more senior level head of project management to manage process. The reviewers also felt they lack a champion for professional development and recruitment, to resolve IT issues and to ensure they are fully integrated and understood amongst communications colleagues and the business There is a need for further training as there is a real opportunity for a centre of excellence in the area of information design and infographics 29. The reviewers were advised that work is underway to produce an overall communications narrative. They considered this essential given the big changes underway, so that leaders and managers can explain, clearly and consistently, what the changes mean for staff, customers and for stakeholders. 30. The confidence of the communications team and awareness of its capabilities among the business could be improved, potentially through an internal marketing push, and by involving colleagues from DfT to demonstrate their support for the DVLA communications team. 31. Finally the press office is aware of the need to be more proactive. The current split of coverage is 70% reactive, 30% proactive. Recommendations 32. This report has six main recommendations: i. Ensure the imminent changes with the abolition of the tax disc are fully explored and understood from a communications perspective. There is a need for the communications team to work closely with the policy and customer focus team to ensure all figures around abolition are collated quickly and in one place. Furthermore, there is a need for a behavioural change and customer insight piece of work on this (as well as comprehensive pre-testing). Following on from this, the communications objectives and strategy needs to be re-assessed to ensure they are the right ones for a change of this magnitude 8

9 ii. This more immediate recommendation has long-term implications for improving the use of planning and insight within the communications team. There is a real opportunity here for the communications team to build its reputation, and earn the trust and confidence of the business. a. The communications team must work more closely with the strategy, policy and customer focus teams to join-up insight and customer data intelligence and communications b. The role of data within the simplification agenda needs to be understood. This data source should be available to communications planners and strategists to inform customer engagement with this message c. Longer term it is vital communications are part of the agile delivery process from the start iii. The overall communications strategy needs to be embedded so the whole organisation is aware of the value of communications and how it links to the overall business objectives. In cascading this strategy, the communications team need to be creative in explaining how they add value to improve understanding and credibility. Workshops and presentations to improve understanding of what the communications can offer would be effective. There is also an opportunity to improve the way communications and marketing is perceived as well as increasing capabilities and confidence through the opportunities around marketing and in particular personalised number plates. Communications should be seen as a central point that also clearly deals with marketing for the agency iv. Stakeholder management needs to be improved through: a. A thorough understanding of the audience b. An organised programme of contact with stakeholders c. Clear plans for stakeholder engagement d. Clarity around ownership, which is then agreed across the business e. A broader range of communications and alerts v. The design team needs to be re-assessed. Key areas for investment include: the briefing and approval process and account, project, resource and asset management. This includes what the team stands for with a focus on information design, infographics and creativity. Training should go beyond the Government Digital Service to help build a centre of excellence vi. There is a need for training for the CEMs around communications strategy and the reviewers recommend leadership training such as Blue Sky performance improvement Actions 33. To achieve the outcomes intended by the report s recommendations, the reviewers have suggested some specific actions for implementation in six and twelve months Item Action in six months Action in 12 months Use the upcoming Ensure all figures around Establish a better working 9

10 changes with the abolition of the tax disc to drive better communications planning Communications strategy Internal communications abolition collated within the next couple of months within one place Conduct a behavioural change exploratory piece of work Ensure all creative are pretested Establish key pre- and postawareness tracking and ensure this is disseminated within the organisation Reassess the communications objectives and strategy Develop a programme to communicate and embed the communication strategy Consolidate strategies as much as possible to have a single, agreed communications strategy with specifics on what communications should be doing and key milestones Develop an overall internal communications narrative; especially linked to the changes happening at the DVLA External communications Develop an overall external communications narrative narrative Corporate information in the change programme needs more information at a programme level CEMs Now model up and running, review skills and grading of relationship with the strategy, policy and customer focus teams through regular meetings and sharing of information Ensure the role of data within the simplification agenda is understood and available to communications planners Develop a better briefing and commissioning of insight system Develop capability and resource in the area of behaviour change and attitudinal analysis either by seconding people from the insight team or through external help Ensure all metrics are reported back to project and programme boards on a regular basis and monthly to the board Evidence of a communication strategy dashboard being used at a board level Evidence that staff continue to understand the organisational objectives and feel that change is managed well in the DVLA (up from current 29%) A clearer sense of objectives across the piece 10

11 Personalised number plates Stakeholder management CEMs to ensure they play a key strategic role within their directorates Reassess the ways of working and confirm the role of CEMs with clear protocols. Drive forward the business case for personalised number plates Conduct further work to understand stakeholder audiences Ensure there is an organised programme of contact with stakeholders with clear plans for stakeholder engagement Design team Reassess the team including the briefing and approval process and account, project, resource and asset management Training Training on strategy for CEMs creating a sense of purpose/singular direction. If Blue Sky training too ambitious, then continue and expand where possible on training currently underway (GCS and CIPR training) Opportunity for further Cabinet Office support around implementing evaluation best practise Ensure all communications staff are linked into new competency framework to ensure continuous improvement. and a sense that they all work collectively directed by the communications team at the centre Evidence that communications and marketing has driven revenue Evidence that this has increased capability and confidence of the communications team Consider a broader range of communication and alerts Build capability to make a centre of excellence within government 11

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