The role of ICT in transformational change projects

Geldards

Service redesign

Technology replacement and service redesign are typical features of a council’s corporate plan for transformational change. ICT will be prominent, and service redesign is certain to extend online access. Successful implementation will require close alignment of a digital strategy with the corporate plan.

The digital strategy should show how ICT can improve both service and financial performance, and the principles for selecting, prioritising and delivering ICT projects. One example is in the Digital Hampshire Strategy, which:

  • helps everyone join in – designing accessible digital services and improving broadband access;
  • supports business growth – maximising opportunities for digital business services, encouraging inward investment and a lower carbon footprint;
  • puts customers in control – maximising transparency and self-service, with service user control over information and access;
  • uses digital by default – accelerating the move to a ‘digital only’ delivery where possible, while reflecting the needs of different groups and allowing for choice, and balancing efficiency with service quality; and
  • puts public services together – sharing insights, technology and services for cost effectiveness and joined up services.

The majority of councils already use cloud computing – the provision of ICT services over the internet, when required and to the level required at a particular time. The growth potential of the cloud is demonstrated by the City of Westminster’s expectation to become ICT infrastructure-free for non-critical applications, and to join up the services of its tri-borough partnership.

The cloud offers the benefits of:

  • cost reductions through economies of scale and better use of resources;
  • ability to connect and integrate several cloud service suppliers together into ‘cloudbanks’;
  • greater flexibility for new ICT capacity and reconfiguration without capital investment;
  • joining up and sharing services;
  • a smaller routine workload for the council’s ICT team, freeing them to focus more on ICT strategy, planning, training and development;
  • downsizing the council’s ICT data centre estate; and
  • driving improved service delivery calls for cross-service working.

Camden Council, for example, has teams dedicated to flexible and mobile working, including channel shift and customer access, business intelligence and open data, and master data management. ICT also needs to be recognised as a central corporate service.

The real challenge of transformational change is not technological but about culture, people, communication, and retuning the council mindset from service provision to service facilitation. It is about training service teams to deliver the redesigned services with ‘agile’ methods: defined as work viewed as an activity not a place; performance not necessarily requiring presence; trust-based relationships instead of hierarchies; people valued more than property. Appointing an ‘agile’ coach for each project will help with this.

To unlock the full potential of the cloud, it is important to see how ICT defines, not just supports, internal council processes and interactions with service users. For citizens, this is about facilitating end-to-end self-help online with assistance for the digitally excluded. Within the council, this is about process redesign for remote and mobile flexible working, and better partnership working using open data, open standards and open source software where possible.

Purchasing cloud services

Good procurement of cloud computing services requires well-defined and measurable outcomes, risks identified and managed, and terms and conditions of contract properly tailored to the council’s short and long-term needs. This means having a clear understanding of what type of service the council wants, the degree of flexibility required, cost expectations, an exit plan, and a procurement plan. The procurement must be underpinned by a robust business case and IT specification developed to the greatest possible level of detail the council can manage.

Areas needing some thought are:

  • what guarantees of service availability, confidentiality and data integrity will the cloud service provider give, and how to verify their effectiveness?
  • is a modular solution needed, with the ability to stop, start and flex different elements independently?
  • will the network used be a private cloud, a community cloud, the public cloud or a hybrid service?
  • what information needs to be provided to end users by the council and how will the council obtain this?
  • how will unauthorised processing in the cloud be prevented?

Preliminary market consultations to assist designing a cloud solution are permitted by the EU procurement rules, provided that competition is not distorted. At the point of invitation to tender, the rules also require the council to be as clear as possible about its requirements. Adjustment of these once the tender process has started is constrained. Where the requirements are not fully ascertained, the council should obtain advice on the most appropriate procurement procedure and what negotiation or other flexibility this allows. The 2015 regulations introduced a new innovation partnership procedure that could be useful.

The procurement rules also set out the principles for future contract changes and when these will trigger a new procurement process. Given that IT requirements can change rapidly, provision for future change in a cloud services contract will be essential.

Any procurement process must address data protection needs as a core consideration. This is both in terms of present legislation and the forthcoming new data protection regulation, expected to be issued by the European Commission in early 2016 and effective by 2018. The supplier’s data security measures should be vetted. Check there is clarity around who is the data controller, bearing in mind there may be more than one. Establish the location of processing, which may not be the same location as storage. Will this be in the UK or overseas? Where deletion of personal data is required, check whether the cloud service provider’s timescale for deletion meets the council’s own time-limited statutory obligations for deletion.

While cloud computing services involve the usual outsourcing risks and other risks specific to cloud computing, these should not be regarded as a barrier to choosing a cloud solution. A council should, however, take professional advice on how best to procure the solution.

Peter Hill
Senior associate
0207 921 3987
peter.hill@geldards.com

Julian Turner
Senior associate
0133 237 8318
julian.turner@geldards.com