Merging Councils' IT Services – It’s all about the applications
Merging Councils' IT Services is all about the applications says Richard Ingram, Cloud Solutions Architect at public cloud consultancy SystemsUp, part of the iomart group
A report to be considered by councillors this week recommends that the London boroughs of Camden & Islington should merge their IT services.
If given the go ahead it will be a big project, with 300 staff being brought together under the leadership of one person and a joint committee of representatives from both councils to hasten the digitalisation transformation of council services in the area.
While much of the pre-decision talk has been around the cost savings that would be made – around £4m a year - one of the biggest efficiencies could be made from a detailed analysis of the applications that both councils are currently using.
For any councils merging their IT systems the benefits don’t necessarily come with the merger of the people but rather the merger of the applications that have been created to help deliver services to those councils’ users.
It can be relatively straight forward to share commodity services like filing, printing, email, internet access and content filtering for instance. This is often where a cloud service can be leveraged to save time.
Where it can prove a much harder challenge is in the bespoke business applications which in most cases have been customised for the individual councils.
Mapping all the business applications that are used and noting which ones are the same or share the same function is in itself a costly and time-consuming piece of work. Then comes the process of merging the ones that can be brought together or cancel each other out and deciding how to tackle the remaining disparate applications over time.
Best benefit and value at this stage is to move to a SaaS based cloud model for all the applications that have been identified as needing transformation.
There are two steps:
1. Merge business application functionality for both councils
2. Use the application merge as an opportunity to re-architect for a cloud SaaS model
The benefits of using a SaaS model will be much reduced integration and development time and faster innovation and iteration of software improvements.
There will be many other challenges – such as addressing the pace at which the change will take place and any skills gaps that existing staff have. Strong web development skills are likely required in order to help facilitate the merger and if those don’t exist within the councils they will need to be brought in.
Simply merging or trying to merge applications based on traditional and legacy application stacks won’t move the councils forward and will result in a severely constrained operating environment that restricts the ability to deliver improved services to staff and customers.
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