With the current squeeze on local authority budgets, and with staff needing to do more with less, developing shared services makes sound financial and strategic success.
The key to doing it successfully is breaking down traditional barriers to collaboration. Meeting, travel and communication costs all need to be kept to a minimum, as do the demands on officer time.
Cloud collaboration software allows councils to overcome most of these problems at a stroke, providing secure online workspaces in which officers can collaborate with colleagues from any authority — cheaply, simply and from any PC or mobile device.
Two councils that have transformed their work via cloud collaboration are Devon County Council and Havant Borough Council. They recently talked to the UK Government’s G-Cloud team about why they chose cloud software to develop shared services.
Two different reasons to collaborate
The two councils had different requirements. Devon was about to develop similar pensions literature and documentation at the same time as a neighbouring authority, so it made sense to share resources and avoid duplicating effort. They needed to find a solution within a couple of weeks.
Havant, on the other hand, had introduced a shared management team with East Hampshire District Council, and the two authorities were looking for a collaborative extranet to ‘enable sharing, increase productivity and reduce the confusion caused by duplicated document stores and attachments’.
Havant and Devon turned to the CloudStore — the Government’s new online shop for G-Cloud supplier services. Both were looking for intuitive software that would allow them to collaborate easily, and both wanted to avoid lengthy and costly procurement.
The major advantage of using the CloudStore was that it enabled the councils to select from a range of pre-approved services, all of which not only met approved security standards, but also offered free trials.
Both authorities analysed the service descriptions provided by potential suppliers, whittling them down to a shortlist. They then put each solution through its paces — with Devon testing two for ‘capability and ease of use’ and Havant using a selection matrix to assess four for key requirements, including ‘a shareable document repository with workflow, discussion boards, a task facility and access from mobile devices.’
After rigorous evaluation, both councils independently decided that Kahootz was the best solution for their needs. Devon’s Mike Germon remarked that “Cost was a big factor, as was usability. The system chosen by our users actually scored the best marks in both of these areas so the decision was very easy for us to make.”
Havant reached the same conclusion for similar reasons. Projects Officer James Mackenzie explains: “With regard to price, we assessed not only the initial cost of user licenses but also what the cost of success would be should we decide to expand the collaboration software to support other council shared services. The outcome is that we have now placed an initial order.”
The G-Cloud CloudStore made procurement fast, cheap and effective for both authorities and they have both brought growing numbers of users into Kahootz to develop shared services that deliver high value at a low cost.