When Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude published the UK Government’s Digital Strategy in November 2012, Havant Borough Council was quick to put some of its recommendations into practice.
The strategy’s vision of ‘digital by default’ — that digital services should be so straightforward and convenient that all who can use them will choose to do so — has a projected benefit of saving the public sector between £1.7 and £1.8 billion per year.
Savings like these were towards the top of Havant Borough Council’s own shared services strategy as it introduced a joint management team with East Hampshire District Council.
Their immediate priority was to break down traditional barriers to collaboration, thereby cutting meeting travel and communication costs. To make this happen, they looked for a digital solution that would help them discover productive new ways of working.
The two councils devised and agreed a matrix of key requirements that any digital solution would need to offer. These included ‘a shareable document repository with workflow, discussion boards, a task facility and access from mobile devices.
The aim was for members of the joint management team to be able to share a digital workspace of some kind, accessible from any location or internet enabled device.
Until recently, sourcing a suitable digital solution could have seen a protracted tendering process, with few opportunities to trial different software side-by-side – and it could have led the councils to be locked into a lengthy and potentially expensive contract.
In contrast, one of the main aims of the Government IT Strategy is to make sourcing software simpler, to the extent of amending legislation that prevents the development of straightforward, convenient digital services. It also wants to broaden the range of suppliers providing IT services, including more SMEs.
One of the main ways it has been doing these things is via the G-Cloud CloudStore, an online catalogue of software pre-approved for public sector use. Havant and East Hampshire turned to the CloudStore to research the most appropriate digital software for their needs.
They used their matrix of key requirements to whittle down potential software to four shortlisted solutions. And because each of them offered a free trial, they were able to quickly put the contenders through their paces, regardless of their current digital skills.
Their research and testing process was quick – it took a matter of weeks – and led them to discover that they needed some form of collaboration software. They made a shortlist of four contenders because they liked the way that this kind of software could be used as a secure extranet, providing them with ‘a shareable document repository with workflow, discussion boards, a task facility and access from mobile devices’.
Removing barriers to digital procurement
One of the great advantages of the CloudStore is that it allows public sector organisations to match their requirements to a wide range of software – and then choose and trial the best candidates.
You don’t even need to know what ‘category’ of software you need – whether it finally turns out to be online collaboration software, a file sharing solution, an online conferencing package or something completely different. So you are more likely to find yourself selecting from a much wider field of services.
You simply match the functionality and usability of different software to your needs, and then take advantage of a free trial to #GiveITaGo. If a solution isn’t what you need, you just discard at – at no cost, other than the time you’ve spent assessing it.
Discovering new ways of working
The CloudStore makes developing a digital by default strategy much simpler. Whether you need Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Specialist Cloud Services (SCS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), there are thousands of options to choose from.
You can source software for a single project, or you can create a broader digital strategy by matching the needs of many different organisational departments to a number of solutions.
When you do this, innovation often follows close behind. For example, South Gloucestershire Council initially chose our own collaboration software, Kahootz, because it needed an online system to help with its Core Strategy Work.
But within a short time, the council realised the system could be put to work in many different ways – and it transformed their way of working by allowing them to share ideas with more people, and to innovate. Before long, the software was being used to power:
A Careers Advisory Partnership
Community Speed Watch
A Carers Support Network
Economic and Tourism development
… and much more.
In these ways, they not only developed new shared services, but they found themselves aligning naturally with the digital by default strategy — by increasing the number of people who use digital services, by providing consistent services for people who have rarely been online, by improving the way they communicate with people, developing department digital leadership and nurturing digital capability throughout their organisation.
But key to this success – as with Havant and East Hampshire – was the ease with which the council could try out different solutions with no commitment to buy.
So if you have plans to put the digital by default agenda into the heart of the way your organisation works, why don’t you just #GiveITaGo?
When you begin to innovate, save time and money, and develop new shared services as a result, you’ll be glad you decided to #GiveITaGo.