Southwark LBC embarked on a shared ICT service with Brent and Lewisham in November, taking back direct control of their IT after outsourcing technology requirements for many years.
We began by holding workshops for senior managers in all three organisations to look at the parameters involved in shared services and to try to understand each other’s points of view. This included levels of trust and power-sharing, the change from sovereignty to joint decision-making and from staying unique to converging with other councils.
We felt it was important to start the new relationship with our eyes open. Sharing services can mean areas of disagreement whilst working through the new model of delivery. The workshops helped people to be open and honest and the application of Eduserv’s Readiness Assessment for a Shared service Programme (RASP) helped remove barriers and provide due diligence planning.
It was clear there were gaps between councils in communication, business buy-in, and identity. It really was a lightbulb moment when we realised the gaps we needed to fill were caused by communication and engagement issues. So, a communications specialist was appointed to deal with stakeholder management and communication such as road shows, social media and newsletters. When the shared ICT service was rolled out and telephone communication was replaced with an online helpdesk, for example, people understood why it was being introduced and what the benefits were.
It was a trust-building exercise that enabled all three local authorities to develop into a partnership of equals. Relationships were crucial to the success of this partnership and being able to work through difficulties and conflict. With 600 different services across the councils, there were many directors and heads of service with strong views and varying requirements and it was our job to navigate that sea of opinions in a constructive way through regular meetings and conversations.
We’ve been lucky to have commitment from three sets of politicians, which has helped all three boroughs through the shared service transformation despite different priorities and cultures.
Our aim is just to ‘do what works’ and not try to reinvent the wheel, although there will be a desire for the three authorities to customise the service according to individual needs.
Efficiency and trust are key to the success of a shared service, and combined with a modern and evolving IT service will help us give our residents the highest possible quality services within a limited budget.
Emma Marinos, director of modernise, Southwark LBC
Emma Marinos is a member of the steering group for Eduserv’s Executive Briefing Programme, which developed the RASP tool and launched it with Socitm early this year.
RASP is available to use for free at www.eduserv.org.uk/rasp
To hear more about Emma’s views and experiences on shared services, please listen to the webinar ‘Shared services: Relationships worth nurturing’.