Latest Public Sector News

20.02.17

Birmingham’s unique approach for redesigning ICT and digital services

Andy Fullard, interim information and technology director at Birmingham City Council, outlines how the local authority’s ambitious new five-year ICT and Digital (ICTD) Strategy will support the way in which local services will be provided in the future, as the organisation continues to undergo major changes between now and 2021.

Although Birmingham City Council is embarking on a period of radical change, it remains committed to understanding people’s needs and putting them first, with ICT and the latest digital technology being powerful tools for understanding what people need to make their lives better and easier. Our new ICTD Strategy (2016-21), therefore, plays an important enabling role in supporting key objectives for meeting the needs of stakeholders, as well as helping to address our enormous financial challenges and the implementation of our evolving operating model. 

A combined approach 

ICTD, as with all services across the council, must achieve major savings, balancing the need for tactical, short-term savings against the need for strategic long-term investment in technology. 

A new, combined ICTD Strategy has been developed to define how we will address these challenges. This combined approach will enable more strategic investment decisions in technology, based on the ‘Simplify, Standardise, Share’ design principles of the Local CIO Council. These principles set out our vision to speed up better outcomes and savings for local public services through service redesign and digital transformation.

Our combined approach will also enable the delivery (together with partners and suppliers) of cutting-edge ‘best of breed’ and integrated ICTD services, as well as embedding the cultural change needed to benefit from best practice, improve workforce performance and manage service demand more effectively.    

From a review recently conducted by Socitm, it has been recognised that we have developed the only combined strategy that they have encountered to date. It is also the most robust, complete and logical ICTD approach it has seen, even when considering the strategies of other local authorities separately. This independent validation inspires confidence that we can successfully deliver our strategic ICTD objectives. 

Digital agenda  

Through our digital agenda, we’ll work in collaboration with local and regional partners and communities to develop improved access and greater use of digital services. This creates the potential to increase productivity, drive economic growth, create jobs, connect individuals and reshape how services are provided. 

‘Digital’ therefore has an important role in the council’s transformation, and developing a smart-city approach will enhance the quality and performance of urban services, as well as encouraging innovation, greater entrepreneurship and citizen participation. 

750 Victoria Square Birmingham at dusk c. Cristian Bortes

Strategy delivery 

To support council objectives and those of the ICTD Strategy, the redesign of ICTD services must provide innovative, reliable and flexible systems. Efficiencies also need to be achieved from improved control of ICTD projects and a more strategic approach for investing in technologies that will deliver savings. 

Our vision for future ICTD services has been influenced by many factors, both internally and from consulting with several external organisations and suppliers. This work has led to the development of six key themes via which our ICTD service will be redesigned. 

Each of these themes is linked to the council’s core values, and supports the key aims of its business plan and future vision: 

  • Integrated ICTD services
  • Digital facilitation
  • Insight
  • Commissioning
  • Governance
  • Innovation

In addition to the importance of maintaining the efficient, day-to-day running of our ICTD service, two major programmes of work are now underway, which focus on designing and transitioning to a new ICTD operating model to support the council as it undergoes radical change to meet its financial challenges. 

Our existing ICTD service is run by Service Birmingham, a partnership formed in 2006 between the council and Capita, the contract for which ends in March 2021. One main programme of work will implement an alternative ICTD service model by 2021. This has now commenced and it’s envisaged that the new model will incorporate features of the Service Integration and Management approach (or a hybrid of), rather than recreating our existing single supplier model. 

The transition to a new service model will also need the right ICTD foundations in place. A second, concurrent five-year investment programme will design and implement the future ICTD infrastructure, making best use of new and emerging technology.

This planned approach for transition will achieve key savings and help to maintain a cost-effective, fit-for-purpose ICTD service that will be best placed to support the new ways of working needed for the delivery of future council services. 

Continued development 

I strongly believe that a successful strategy should become an ethos, not merely a document sat on a shelf. This approach will help ensure that the ambitious strategic objectives for ICTD continue to be reviewed and developed over time (with partners and suppliers), in conjunction with the evolving council’s requirements and the fast-moving nature of technology.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Click here to access the ‘Information Communication Technology & Digital Strategy’ document.

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