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Collaboration between a group of local authorities is to bring a key piece of software for e-government to market a...
Collaboration between a group of local authorities is to bring a key piece of software for e-government to market at a fraction of the cost of other systems currently available.

The Local Authority Shareware Club, whose 35 members include county councils, London boroughs and smaller authorities, has announced that it will be making available from January 2003 a customer relationship management (CRM) system suitable for local authorities. CRM systems are essential for the provision of the call centre and one stop shop facilities that many councils are installing as part of their e-government plans.

The Club's CRM system is a generic version of a product developed by Newham LBC. Information Services Belfast (ISB) part of Belfast City Council, has been appointed by Newham LBC on behalf of the Shareware Club, to adapt the product for general use, and to supply assistance to other authorities implementing the product. They will also provide a maintenance and support services and ongoing development of the product as required by the Shareware Club.

The cost of the system will be far lower than that of competing systems. This is because Newham LBC is making its system available at no cost and because enhancement development costs are based on a share of the actual costs and the licence is provided on an 'unlimited seats' basis. A site licence for the system, including three standard interfaces will be£12k, implementation assistance will be charged on an as required basis and support will be approximately£10k per annum. For a large authority with, say 300 'seats' licence costs for a similar product from one of the major commercial suppliers could easily exceed a quarter of a million pounds.

The Newham LBC CRM system is tried and tested. A PWC audit and a MORI poll have recently verified that its 300+ users are achieving 95% first time resolution of calls without reference to the back office as well as 96% customer satisfaction. While these figures reflect good staff and organisation, they would not be achievable without efficient and appropriate IT systems.

The Local Authority Share ware Club was set up in 2001 under the auspices of the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) and has been facilitated since its inception by Society's Consultancy arm, Socitm Consulting. The Club is 'owned' by its local authority members.

According to club chairman Mike Tuck, head of ICT strategy at Cheshire CC, the Shareware Club was conceived when colleagues began to consider how they might capitalise on the excellent software written by many local authorities and through collaboration, reduce councils' individual and collective spend with commercial software suppliers.

Says Stephen Hill, Socitm managing consultant: 'We had a big response to the shareware concept, and many difficulties to overcome in setting up a mechanism through which software adopted could be supported, enhanced, and promoted to other authorities. Having solved these problems, the Club can start delivering low cost high value software and services, and huge economies of scale, with authorities instead of suppliers in the driving seat'.

Tuck adds: 'Particularly exciting is that the Shareware Club is a suitable vehicle for implementing many products, which are now being identified. We would consider too delivering Pathfinder developed products via the Shareware Club, though key is that local authorities, not the private sector, drive this as the means of making dramatic savings.'

Socitm's President, Jim Haslem says: 'Socitm is right behind this concept and is delighted that local authorities are moving down this route, facilitated by Socitm Consulting.'


Shareware Club members include the local authorites for: Aberdeen, Ashfield, Barnett, Bristol, Buckinghamshire, Carlisle , Cheshire, Cumbria, Devon, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hastings. High Peak Inverclyde, Leicester City, Leicester County, Merthyr, Neath, Northampton, Orkney Isles, Portsmouth, Sedgefield, Shetland, Somerset, South Kesteven, Wansbeck, Warwickshire, Wealdon, West Dunbarton, West Sussex, Wirral, Worthing, Westminster, Isle of Wight, North Tyneside

Information Services Belfast (ISB) is a service within the Corporate Services Department of Belfast City Council. ISB are responsible for providing appropriate services to meet the information systems needs of the Council and for the information technology infrastructure to support those systems. They also provide services to a number of external customers. These external customers include a range of public sector bodies, for example, Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Local Authorities in England and Wales and Prison Services in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. ISB currently supply a Further Education Awards system to over sixty local authorities in the UK.

Socitm Consulting provides ICT management, e-government, procurement/partnership and technology consultancy to local authorities. Formed in 1987, it is a not-for-profit business stream wholly owned by the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), the professional association for public sector ICT managers. In less than five years, Socitm Consulting has become the ICT consultancy most used by local authorities (IT Trends 2001). Independent of any hardware, software, services or infrastructure supplier, Socitm Consulting aims to help local government organisations transform their businesses to become more efficient customer service delivery organisations and to enable democratic regeneration. See for more details.

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