Yesterday, I received a call from a friend. He works as an (IT) consultant to a department in Government of Odisha. We usually chat about IT interventions in governance or e-governance. I sarcastically told him that at least your consulting is bearing fruits. Now Odisha government has woken up to champion social media in governance. He was not amused.

Years ago, we both used to work together in one of the famous Odisha based IT (System Integrator) company. Famous in government circles, not very known outside of it since typically in G2C the company’s role is limited to background work only. But this company did lot of software outsourcing projects for the government and supplied IT manpower to the departments. We had a larger-than-life CEO (our reporting Boss) who was also very famous in Government circles and secured a sizeable business purely out of his connections!

Back then, we used to have a office policy that restricted usage of any social media in office premise and during office hours including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But conveniently every project, every team was monitored 24/7 365 days via WhatsApp, probably because it was free than paid BBM service in those days. I remember getting admonished many times both in person and in internal team meetings for wasting my time on social media. [Lead generation & networking via social media was an alien concept to explain for a Sales guy to his boss back then!]

Back then, IT sales was a simple peddler’s job [I will explain how typical business operates]

  1. Identify the budget availability in a particular department to be spent
  2. Identify the most pressing factor(Requirements) that the department faces 
    [Analogy for now would be, connecting with people, listening to their complaints, resolving them, achieve the perception battle that this government is responsive!]
  3. Design an IT solution (Software, social media solution etc etc) and match it with the requirements
  4. Ensure that you incorporate Change management, training & handholding so that 
    a. additional avenues of profit is kept open, 
    b. project is stretched, 
    c. get creative with billing the customer 
    [For example, instead of billing a project one-time cost of Rs 100, Either you bill by Man-hour & deploy 10 people @ Rs 10 each for 12 months, i.e. Rs 10 * 10 * 12 = Rs 1200; a mix of one-time + Man-hour billing]
  5. Use your connections within the department, take him in loop and give them an RFP (Since no govt purchase can happen without tender process) that suits your winning chance.
  6. Orchestrate a fair tender process
  7. Bag the order and distribute the cut

Is it any wonder that, every government department has a Project Management Unit (PMU) outsourced to typical consulting(Con) companies like PwC, E & Y or Accenture etc. You will also have System Integrator (SI) companies like TCS, Wipro or CSM etc. And everyone has few manpowers deployed at client site i.e. the government departments.

Not to discredit any of these companies or the kind of work they are doing. In my opinion this industry is a very closely-knit industry with players both Con & SI and the purchaser together in connivance scam the system and work for their self-serving goals. Tenders are staged. There are cartels. RFP is rigged. Imagine the ROI. E-governance is more of manpower supply business with inflated scope, inflated manpower requirement & inflated timelines. Bill @ X amount to the Government and spend @ X/3 and enjoy the rest.

So with this background and understanding that we share, I was sarcastic with him. I said so, because for IT companies this is a good opportunity to make money. Avenues of making money from software is fast drying up since everything is on cloud. It is but obvious these companies have now become peddler of ‘social media solutions’.

Funnily, the same CEO now has become the chief evangelist of social media in government circles. And by the time I left that organization, he picked from where I left, came on Facebook, made a profile himself and posted albeit with the help of his software developers! 
[Would you believe it, he had to be coached. Although it’s different matter that he then floated another office policy thereafter making it mandatory for everyone to like, share & comment anything that he posts!!! :)]

Equally interesting is that, the same company has now become an important player in doing social media projects of various government departments. So to win government business, you need connections more than anything! Unfortunately in India that is the core competency of successful companies in India esp in e-governance.

Anyways coming to the point, my friend was unresponsive. On probing he had to say this. Now that government wants to project a perception of being responsive and connect with youth, they will open social media channels.

But who will operate these? The over-burdened officer? No. It is the IT PMU people. Now IT PMU is basically outsourced to these Con & SI companies for its original mandate. But now they have been added with another burden. More so, social media as a customer service is not about deploying one resource to operate a handle and thats it. Because in Government departments, the resolving authority is somebody else and there is a fixed process for it.

For example, if someone tweets to the CM Twitter handle complaining about a bribe case in RTO office Berhampur. The person operating the CM handle can only revert the complainant with an acknowledgement tweet. Then he has to forward it to the concerned authority of RTO Berhampur and expect a resolve and then update the status to the complainant. Now Imagine the scale here. If there are 1000 complaints in 38 state departments, 30 district offices, 500 line offices and so on every day, how long would it take to simply acknowledge the receipt of complaint? How will they know who is complaining? How will they know who would be the resolving authority for whom? Who will track the complaint and its status? Who will update the complainant? When the volume shoots up, will the manpower handle it? Wouldn’t it require automation?

On the face off it, it seems great idea to have Government presence of social media. But do they have the manpower to sustain it? Do they have processes to execute it? Do they have the right automation tools to execute it?

I could understand him. I am afraid typical egovernance companies which essentially drive technology adoption in Government are driving this in a wrong way. They want to drive this initiative as a manpower-based intervention partly because of their own self-serving goals & partly because of their ignorance in understanding social media. In Fact, social media intervention in customer service especially in Government domain is more of an automation project with listening tools, automation tools and less about manpower manning the social media handles.

So he asked me, how do we get things done now? I can’t spend time on social media 24/7 but unfortunately it is 24/7? I have to find complaints about my department from social media jungle, but how because in most cases it will be directed to the CM or some minister but my department itself? I have to respond to it efficiently, given that I have no access to any automation tools?

So I thought about it and made a simple social media CHEAT-SHEET. This cheat-sheet is dedicated to my friend and to all those people working in IT PMUs of various Government Departments of Odisha, who are now carrying the mantle ofresponsiveness’ of this Government and are mighty constrained with unavailability of neither tools nor their employer’s foresightedness!

Business case(Assumptive):

John is working as an IT consultant in the department of Health, Government of Odisha. His employer is E & Y. John is assigned with managing the Twitter handle of the department. i.e. @ DoH_Odisha His job is to identify complaints pertaining to the department on Twitter and escalate the case to its concerned authority and track the status and update it back to the complainant.

Challenge:

Since he has the credentials of the @ DoH_Odisha handle, it is fairly easy to know the complaints and attend them. But in case, the complainant tweets a complaint tagging the CM without tagging this account, how he should get to know lest CM handle forgets or delays in forwarding it to him. This could be any handle not necessarily the CM.

Solution:

  1. Use a social media listening tool
  2. Use applet to automate the trigger event

Turnaround:

  1. Go to Twitter advance search

2. Give the date lines

3. Tweets containing any of the words (Here I will use one ‘Space bar’ so as to trick Twitter to return all results as I am not sure which words my complainant would have used!)

4. Mention the accounts that I would monitor. (You can make a list of important people that is close to your department)

5. Hit enter and go through the search results

6. You can fix a particular intervals in a day to do this exercise and keep track of complaints. Repeat this for all important handles identified for your department.

7. Not the difference in Mention vs Replies, accordingly fill the handle in People tab

8. There are cases of Retweets, Quote tweets & About replies sent from accounts with protected Tweets. Let’s park it for future discussion.

9. You can even search by location

By combining fields in advanced search, you can tailor your search results in a powerful way.

10. If you want to automate the notification part. Try this: https://ifttt.com/

Hope this will help.

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