The first generation of knowledge management and workflow systems opted for the stick, rather than the carrot, approach. Compliance was everything: once systems had been developed, people had to be made to use them. This is not a strategy that would have worked for Aon, the ODPM or the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit. The ODPM could not force people to vote, anymore than Aon could have forced everyone to use its new electronic document management systems for all their correspondence. The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit could not argue the benefits of consistency (as Aon could have done), because its initiative was not intended to change what people do, but to provide them with an invaluable source of information on which ideas were more and less likely to work in practice.
One way of encouraging more people to engage with government is to offer them a variety of possible channels, allowing them to select one that is convenient to them, rather than demanding that they go to a polling station in person. SMS text messaging and the Internet both offer alternative ways to vote, and the ODPM is also experimenting with digital television, telephone, and multilingual touch-screen systems in kiosks. Those less comfortable with technology can vote by post, with the counting done electronically. Perhaps it is not so much the range of options here that matters most, rather the choice and convenience it gives the consumer. Choice engenders a sense of control and that, in turn, creates a sense of commitment. Convenience simply makes it easier. As with the ODPM's e-voting initiative, take-up of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit's knowledge management portal was partly going to depend on making the relevant people aware of its existence - considerable time and effort was therefore invested in designing and building up the portal's brand. But this was balanced by the careful consideration that went into establishing exactly how the information could be most effectively presented, so that potential users were not deterred by the volume of material available. Six months were spent in consulting more than 2,000 prospective users and in developing prototypes that could be tested out in practice. The content, too, had to be right - authoritative but accessible. Interactive features - discussion forums and e-mail updates - were added in an attempt to increase the portal's ‘pull' factor.
As those involved with workflow automation at Aon put it, it was not just a case of getting the technology ready for the business, but of getting the business ready for the technology. Good, consistent and regular communication with future users was supplemented by more innovative initiatives, such as a dedicated ‘familiarization' area, which allowed people to see what the final system would look like in practice.