The Value and Importance of Automation

May 04 2023

Sitemorse likes to keep in regular contact with their clients, and feedback is essential to them! From many of their recent conversations and, of course, the current economic climate, they’re very aware of the balancing act authorities are playing between budgets, with compliance. This isn’t just an issue in Government at a Local level; Central Government must also keep a watchful eye on budgets. Many authorities are keen to make the case to senior management about maintaining a dedicated web team and evidence the important role a good website can play in increasing efficiency, and how cost effective this is.

The Sitemorse quarterly INDEX is a useful, and tangible way of evidencing improvement but on a broader level. Authorities are reliant on being online for two crucial reasons – to drive engagement and to support citizens, whilst also providing access to services and tasks mandated to function online.

By having citizens utilise these services, operating costs for authorities being online are to the tune of millions of pounds. You are, however, reliant on a website that is always available and supporting the citizen. This website has two jobs:

  1. to comply with and uphold the various standard requirements and, more importantly,
  2. to deliver to the user (generally citizens) working web pages and functioning systems.

Successfully delivering the experience would be impractical without the ability to continually check, test and measure using automation. Authorities must ensure that content is delivered, links work and pages are performing. Without automation, human limitation would incur such costs as the below, and this is without considering the basic need to check the website is actually available all of the time!

To put this into context and to break it down in terms of adding in the realistic costs and time, with manual versus automated testing.

The typical website is 1,470 web pages and has a further 310 pages across PDFs, with 31 pages per month either added as new or updated.

To manage the content, a manual check is essential to confirm links are working, there are no spelling errors, accessibility is compliant, brand is consistent, page loading speed is good, and pages are optimised for search. There are quite a few things that can go unchecked as well, such as image sizes, repeated page titles, heading structures and more. In reality, a manual ‘human’ test typically covers less than 50% of what is required. In addition, manual checking can take between 17 and 31 minutes, equating to just over 12 hours per month.

Monthly checking of the site (the only constant in digital being change), could also be required due to a brand update or regulatory need. This along with general housekeeping or content validation using the available free tools, would take 53 - 86 hours. This covers locating the pages, running self-built scripts (excluding the time to create a testing method) to identify the pages and then the consolidation of the results for management and the prioritisation of actions.

It is also a good idea to check the availability and performance of the site from the key locations your organisation serves – checking this once per day would equate to around 15 minutes per day. There is also the consolidation of the results and then adding these to relevant systems / reports, which would take around 90 minutes per month. Basing this on an average of 20 working days per month, this alone would take a total of 6.5 hours.

The time it takes on average to manually check a page is around 24 minutes, with the average of 69.5 hours a month to review a site and its content and a further 6.5 hours to monitor it. This brings the total manual time required to ensure you’re delivering the best possible experience, one that is compliant with web, regulatory and brand standards and one that is continually optimised, to 86 hours.

In the UK, the average staff member costs £42,220 per annum (all costs including salary, expenses, contributions, and accommodation). To perform around 65 – 70% of the manual testing needed would require just over two full time staff members, and if we add in management time, total costs would be around £98,450 per annum.

At the heart of most organisations is their ‘digital footprint’ and by large it goes overlooked. We have highlighted the issue, and many sites are being prevented from improving due to the lack of manual testing, lack of understanding as to the need and costs, which this means their most valuable asset and the most used communications platform goes unchecked. The value which automation delivers can be looked at as a direct savings (typically over 90% of the above costs are removed), but the actual benefit is much higher, generating improved experiences with visitors spending longer time on the site / pages, which underpins citizens’ confidence and allowing organisations to prosper in the now 'Digital First’ world.

In summary, digital is at the heart of the matter. As more authorities strive to be ‘Digital First’ in their operations, to drive considerable savings and operation efficiencies, it is essential that such systems, now the backbone of citizen communications, are continually monitored to ensure they meet expectations and compliance needs. Automation ensures the value of the services is being delivered and reduces internal costs, but equally as importantly, augment citizens’ confidence in your online capability, encouraging them to increasingly utilise your online services.

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