Socitm tells councils to think beyond organisational IT boundaries

There needs to be a “root and branch overhaul” of the role and use of IT in delivering digital public services that goes beyond a single organisation, the society representing IT professionals in local government has said.

Councils must broaden their IT thinking – Photo credit: Flickr, Doug Waldron, CC BY-SA 2.0

In its latest briefing paper, Socitm argues that senior IT managers should be planning their future strategies around both platforms and places, saying that they need to think beyond their own council.

The briefing defined platforms as being all digital skills, networks and infrastructures related to services, while it said that place was “much more than the immediate organisational ICT estate”, extending to the development and use of innovative applications that involve communities in service design.

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Socitm said that there were four elements that all IT leaders should consider when planning a platform approach: ensuring processes work for users, choosing the right new technologies, attracting and keeping people with the right skills and experience, and making the most of data.

On the last point, the briefing said that “ppen, accurate and accessible data and information are foundational to the platform for the future”.

It said: “Internally, its liberation and study can help to break down organisational silos and help facilitate new organisational and process designs. Externally, transparency and availability can help build closer and tighter linkages between service delivery partners and the communities they serve.”

But, Socitm said that councils need to ensure they use data and information management practices “that facilitate rather than impede” the other elements of their work.

Where possible, the briefing said, the more open the data is the better, which it said would help encourage the development of innovative apps and services in the wider marketplace – beyond the public services providers.

Socitm also uses the briefing to promote its call for councils to “simplify, standardise, share” – saying that the aim is to get councils to work across larger regions and think beyond their institutional boundaries.

The society’s briefing repeatedly emphasised the need for broader thinking than just a small environment.

This includes the relationship between Place as a Platform and the Government Digital Service’s push for Government as a Platform, which aims to make departments’ digital platforms use the same systems.

“In detail they do have similar broad objectives and means to achieve them, but they aspire to operate in very different environments,” Socitm said.

This, it said, was because GaaP focuses on Whitehall departments, while Platform as a Place focuses on government as being just one principal stakeholder in a “place”, along with other technologies and culture.

“The form of Government 2.0 that is Place as a Platform is arguably a more pure and ambitious expression,” the briefing said.

Socitm said that a good example of the concept of Place as a Platform is the collaborative project that has seen 27 Scottish councils co-fund a Scottish local government digital office and appoint chief digital and technology officers for the whole group.

“The high level objectives are to re-engineer systems to deliver as good as or better public service outcomes and significant public service cost savings simultaneously,” the briefing said.

It called on other councils to “act now” and start using a similar approach to improve public services.

“Competition as well as collaboration will increase in future and the characteristics of the vision that we see are such that those who do not make progress could well fall to services provided by someone else.”


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