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PERSPECTIVES - CHAN BADRINATH

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Few information projects succeed, and the public sector's record is mixed. So, when I suggested Waltham Forest LBC ...
Few information projects succeed, and the public sector's record is mixed. So, when I suggested Waltham Forest LBC should disband the three project teams planning the new finance, payroll and procurement systems and opt for a single system instead, the reaction was one of shock and disbelief.

My proposal came at a time when different services, even within the same directorate, made decisions about what systems they needed without consulting colleagues elsewhere or considering the benefits of a common system across the whole organisation.

Persuading other managers took time and energy. I used a tried and tested method - hosting presentations about the benefits and drafting in like-minded individuals from other organisations to help argue the case.

But the only way forward was to stick my neck out. I knew I had a winning argument - the promise of significant savings and an integrated information system.

With this in mind, a financial case was prepared explaining why the council should over 10 years take£11m from its already tight budget to invest in a new computer system.

It was a tough decision for the council, and I spent time convincing colleagues of the benefits. And it wasn't just officers - councillors also raised concerns about such an investment.

The system was introduced on time and within budget. The managed service contract is working well and cost reductions are flowing. So what did we do right?

First and foremost, the council had to adopt a different mindset. It became a change project, not a systems project.

Champions were chosen for each of the modules - people hungry for change and passionate about standardisation.

Structured project management was implemented for the first time, and the project team was drawn from across the council, making it a corporate project rather than one imposed by the centre.

The benefits are impressive. After low-grade, out-of-date information, we now have online real-time information on budgets and people - essential for good financial planning.

Not bad for a council once deemed as failing.

Chan Badrinath

Executive director, corporate services,

Waltham Forest LBC

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