London local authorities say they are ready to talk to others six months after setting up shared ICT team
The London Boroughs of Brent and Lewisham are aiming to make their shared ICT service available to other authorities after a reportedly successful bedding in process.
Duncan Dewhurst, Lewisham’s chief information officer, told UKAuthority that six months after the launch of the service the councils are sufficiently confident in its operation to begin talking with others about further sharing.
He also said that it is on track to deliver the planned £1 million of savings to Lewisham in its first year, with targets for a further million in the next financial year.
The shared service was launched in April following an agreement last year, with its staff being employees of Brent and governance in the hands of a joint committee of two councillors from each authority. It includes some staff who were transferred by TUPE from Lewisham’s previous outsourcing deal with Capita for ICT services.
“It’s been successful so far,” Dewhurst said. “We took the decision on a big bang approach, putting in a new infrastructure and the shared service with an online support model at the same time.
“We’ve moved from desktop to thin client, rolled out about 2,000 iPads and iPhones to support mobile working, replaced our data centre kit and put in a new storage area network, and now have a shared DR (disaster recovery) capability with Brent.
“We believe we are where we needed to be. The big bang approach has started to pay dividends.”
Mirrored data centres
A prime feature of the service has been the integration of the two councils’ data centres, with Lewisham’s in Slough and Brent’s in Wembley, so that they now mirror each other. This has strengthened the DR capability.
Dewhurst said there have also been fringe benefits in supporting the councils’ capacity for a ‘bring your own device’ approach to technology, and for its staff to work from home.
In addition, Lewisham’s net promoter score, a measurement of its customers’ willingness to recommend its services, has risen from 20 to about 40. It is now aiming to match Brent’s score that Dewhurst said is in the 60s.
While the two councils are not immediate neighbours, being on different sides of London, he said this has proved to be manageable and that it indicates the service could be successfully extended to others. They are already providing an ICT service for the Local Government Association (LGA).
“It would be quite difficult for us to do something with a council in the north of England – not impossible perhaps – but that leaves us with a lot of councils within an hour or two. For us it’s more about the importance of getting the right relationships.
“Geography is not unimportant but the relationship and the trust is more important.”
He added: “We are looking at the opportunities for commercialising the shared service. It could be as we’ve done with the LGA, providing a fully outsourced ICT service, but there are other opportunities and we are now starting to talk to colleagues in other parts of London.
“Others will be in different positions for taking the opportunities. For example, one might need to get out of their data centre, which could be the opportunity for a new partnership. But we’re not tied to that and we have some more thinking to do about how it could work.”
There is also scope for other authorities to add some of their own capabilities to the shared service.
“We have lots of strengths, but there are other local authorities that have other strengths,” Dewhurst said. “Where there is a good match in terms of marrying up different capabilities is important.”
Image: Lewisham Town Hall by Reading Tom, CC BY 2.0 through flickr