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Civil servants trying to bring investment to the UK don't have an adequate CRM system

DIT staff having to resort to "manual workarounds..."

Staff at the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) are using a Customer Relationship Management system that “does not have the functionality staff need, such as the ability to manage their flow of work.”

That’s according to the National Audit Office (NAO), which said that “the current system is not used consistently across DIT” and that due to the inadequate CRM, staff have to “resort to manual workarounds.”

DIT has conducted research to understand user requirements and it is making short-term improvements to the current system… It has not yet decided whether to build or buy a replacement system” NAO said on January 26.

“In the meantime [it] will continue with the current system until the end of 2023.”

The issue is just one minor (but still notable) footnote among the challenges to a new investment transformation programme from the government department, according to the audit office.

Between 2016-17 and 2021-22, UK FDI projects and the subset of UK projects which DIT supported declined by 30% and 37% respectively: "Measuring the impact of investment support activity is challenging because it is difficult to determine whether investments would have happened without government involvement" said NAO.

UK investment challenges: Inadequate CRM not the greatest…

A 2020 review DIT itself conducted into pan-government challenges in securing inbound investment highlighted issues such as “duplication of functions, time-intensive manual processing, and a weaker online service than similar investment promotion agencies across the government, NAO’s January 26 report flags.

DIT found at the time that it had “limited ability to build a pipeline and target efforts against government priorities, and that the service it offered was insufficient for high-value complex investments and inefficient for straightforward requirements” it adds – with the department since launching a transformation programme.

It’s now targeting a “more differentiated approach to supporting investors.”

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On a more positive note, NAO said: “We found that DIT’s strategy was [now] consistently and clearly understood across the organisation, and that DIT is developing a new operating model, performance measures and targets to reflect the strategy” – but faces digital challenges, beyond the internal CRM one.

“DIT also faced challenges with low use of its online export services” [and] “the capacity of the Digital Design and Technology team, which is critical to delivering important elements of the programme as well as other initiatives across DIT, remains a considerable risk,” NAO said, hinting at underinvestment in not just digital tools but team capacity and saying that despite recent progress, “issues remain with the data DIT uses to measure investment performance. Some data, such as the number of projects with a research and development focus, are not recorded consistently in its project database. It does not yet have a full picture on the value of capital expenditure on investment. In 2021-22 it collected this information for around 77% of projects.”

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