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Posted on September 29, 2017

Efficiency increases and customer service improves with the introduction of speech recognition at East Renfrewshire Council


To replace manual correspondence processes involving multiple resources. 


A clear, managed workflow using digital dictation and speech recognition to create documents.


  • Resources across four departments are more productive 
  • Correspondence turnaround time is cut
  • Demonstrable return on investment in technology.
“This is an outstanding example of how we can transform day to day work by applying technology in the right way. Our resources can now work faster and more efficiently to offer even better customer service.”
Gerry Mahon, Chief Officer,  Legal & Procurement


East Renfrewshire Council provides education, community and environmental services to a population of 93,000. It employs 3,400 employees in offices throughout the area.

The Council’s Legal and Democratic Services, Environmental Services, and Housing Services departments, as well as the Chief Executive’s Office, generate large volumes of correspondence each year. Until 2017 there was no managed process for producing correspondence. Resources either typed up documents using Word templates or keyed text into emails. Some senior managers recorded dictations onto analogue tapes which they passed to secretarial resources for transcription. The process was time-consuming and turnaround was slow.

Like many other councils in the UK, East Renfrewshire is seeking to increase productivity and reduce costs using relevant technology. As part of this drive, senior managers identified the generation of correspondence as an area that was inefficient and out-of-date. They concluded potential savings could be made by adopting digital dictation.

Two digital dictation vendors were evaluated and Voice Technologies was selected following a successful demonstration and our ability to provide end-to-end support.

Straight-forward system 

Following project sanction from the Chief Executive Officer and the Legal and Procurement Officer, we worked closely with the Business Relationship Manager to identify the different needs for four of the Council’s departments. Once we had a thorough understanding of the users’ requirements, we designed a system comprising hardware and software that enables users to dictate and transcribe correspondence in one easy workflow. We also engaged with the IT team to ensure the new system would comply with their requirements.

Now, users dictate documents using Philips SpeechMike Pros and Dragon USB Headsets. Philips SpeechMikes feature a free floating, decoupled microphone and integrated pop filter for precise voice recording, and a trackball for integrated mouse function which makes the devices user-friendly. The headsets feature a noise-cancelling microphone that reduces background noise along with and a single, swivel-mounted ear cushion that makes them light and comfortable.

Dictations are recorded using Nuance’s Dragon Professional Group – industry-leading speech recognition software for fast, accurate dictation and transcription. Users save significant amounts of time by avoiding the need to type.
No unnecessary knock-on costs were incurred by making use of pre-existing software – Microsoft Outlook and Word. Document templates in these applications, as well as custom templates, help to standardise correspondence and speed up the process.

Our project team installed the hardware and software on-site and provided full training so that the 20+ users were confident in the new system from day one. Individual questions were answered and configurations to suit specific needs were set up. We carried out top-up training visits as requested. We continue to provide ongoing support to ensure the system runs smoothly.

Other departments in the Council have assessed the cost benefit and are now looking to adopt the same system.

“There’s a consensus at senior management level that introducing speech recognition in the way that we have, with a partner who understands our needs and goes above and beyond simply supplying the equipment, has been a resounding success. It’s great to see technology making such a tangible difference to productivity.”
Gerry Mahon, Chief Officer, Legal & Procurement