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19.06.15

Cardiff embarks on a journey to the cloud

Source: PSE June/July 15

PSE speaks to Cardiff’s Ross Maude, senior enterprise architect for IT at the council.

The City of Cardiff Council is facing £124m in budget cuts over the next three years, but rather than simply look at stripping back services, the authority is using the challenge as an opportunity to transform itself and how it deals with its service users. 

The council is working with SAP, a cloud computing company, to embark on a digital transformation to streamline services and introduce more self-service options for residents while also moving its IT systems into the cloud. 

The scheme is intended to improve customer services, streamline council processes and deliver significant cost savings. 

Ross Maude, senior enterprise architect at the council, who is leading the transformation, told PSE: “One of the things we’ve been looking at is how we can better interact with our citizens to make it as easy for them to interact with the systems of Cardiff as possible. We want to start working a bit smarter, a bit cleverer and work with our citizens to help run the city. That’s part of how we’re using the technology to transform ourselves.” 

One of the main challenges faced by the authority is that its legacy on-premises IT system does not allow for collaboration across council services and functions, leading to inefficiencies and duplication. 

“[As with] any organisation that delivers 700 services across a wide section of functions, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all IT system for that – there never has been,” Maude said. “So what you have is groupings of IT systems that work well for their own areas but don’t particularly work well integrating across an organisation.” 

Working with SAP, the council has identified the factors that would save money, improve integration and deliver better services to residents and partners, such as online access and greater flexibility. 

The council plans to create a digital self-service portal that will let residents interact online quickly rather than in-person, greatly reducing admin costs. It will include a new personalised online citizen account, which will allow people to track their activity with the council. 

The new portal will be designed to ease adoption and appeal to the increasingly young population in Cardiff – Europe’s youngest capital, with over 40,000 students. 

It will also be integrated into the CRM system and back-end platforms, allowing the council to view the customer journey between channels – call centre, online or in-person – significantly reducing call-handling times and improving customer satisfaction. 

“The key in transforming it is getting all those three groups working on the same information in the same application, so it stops a lot of the hand-offs you tend to have in any large organisation, which leads to things like failure demands,” Maude added. 

In addition, the council will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the community’s needs through enhanced data analytics, resulting in better and more informed business decisions. According to Maude, this could be the biggest step change in how the council works. “In the future we can be a lot more proactive and ask why it is we’re getting all these reports of a particular problem in a specific area, at this time of day or year. We’d like to start doing a lot more proactive work so we can actually put people out there to prevent the issues arising before they arise.” 

The council has a long history of working with SAP, with a number of products already being used on site, including its CRM. It was the deployment of this system that actually led to the authority looking at cloud options. 

Maude said: “As we were in a position to start pushing the button on that, we started looking a bit harder at cloud products – as they’d become a bit more mature. We made the decision that even though we’d be first movers, we’d take the investment from our CRM on premise and use that to access the cloud-based product.” 

He added that the business case for the new systems means that the scheme will cover its own costs for setting up the platform and getting the component parts working. The next step is taking all the other transactional services and pushing them through the platform, which Maude says is where the real savings will come. 

Work on the new systems has already begun and the council expects a successful roll-out by 2018.

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