With local authorities’ finances as they are, council services and systems are under scrutiny both internally and externally.
IT is no exception, and its procurement is an easy target for spending cuts. In some local authorities, the regular refresh cycle of essential IT appears to have stopped.
Until these basic facts change, councils must rely on legacy equipment. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be smarter in using it.
Even looking at the digital essentials of modern working life – video conferencing, instant messaging, or even emails – the gap between current systems, software and security compared to more recent iterations is the tip of a potentially disruptive iceberg.
Finances aside, it is often impractical to replace these systems wholesale to update their functions to the level required. A lot of IT suppliers’ current work is based around creating cost effective products and services that give full functionality across legacy and new equipment, while keeping costs down.
Many of the larger manufacturers have only one goal: sales. Councils and authorities will need to look outside the current model to get viable, cost effective solutions that are flexible enough to work.
This can only be achieved with partners who understand the inevitable complexity of integration. Box shifters will not suffice.
As part of a procurement review a regional council asked us to advise them on a plan, specifically around IT, UC and their customer meeting facilities. They had many rooms, but they had not been updated for over six years. The staff had laptops from multiple manufacturers, with the all the issues around no single connectivity standard.
After an audit we recommended deploying wireless connectivity system for the meeting and presentation rooms. For the cost of refurbishing one room the client now has 10 fully functioning rooms with the same user interface and experience. This gives users the tools to present and work in the any of the rooms in the same way with any device – without the need to call IT.
For local authorities looking to adopt this approach, they must be open to innovation outside of the framework or e-auction tick box procurement model. There are companies who are genuinely able to help create and drive savings through knowledge and experience, and not just sell you a box.
Given the spending cuts facing many local authorities, it is not a question of whether the new approach is affordable. The old approach may soon be entirely untenable.
Barrie Guy, vendor alliance, Carillion Communications