Becoming a digital services hub

Richard Godfrey, Assistant Director of Digital Peterborough details how Peterborough City Council is addressing key challenges through better use of cloud technology solutions

As the UK’s local authorities continue to battle the ever-present financial, productivity, and modernisation challenges of governing today, many have turned to IT – and cloud computing in particular – as a way to gain an edge. Promising to extend the scale, scope and sophistication of their operations, cloud computing may seem a magic bullet to some, but how many have seen such promised rewards actually materialise?

Peterborough City Council is often heralded as a leading light in digital cities have spent the last 2 years undergoing a dramatic digital evolution – as it shifts everything from HR to customer service into the cloud.

This article will guide you through Peterborough City Council’s ongoing journey to implementing a digital services hub, addressing key challenges it set out to solve through smarter use of cloud technology solutions.

A single holistic view

When we started our transformational journey the overarching goal was one of making better connections – of our disparate services, to our community, between issues etc. The council needed a modern streamlined solution which was ready to meet the evolving demands of our communities and allowed us to work as smartly, and efficiently as possible.

To be as responsive as possible, this meant implementing a front-to-back integrated service – where all the products and technologies worked together seamlessly. In an increasingly data-driven world, the service also needed to deliver information in a format which could be cross-matched and used for deep-dive analysis.

With the implementation of a core set of cloud applications, including Salesforce, and an XCD HR system, the council now has systems which work together, giving not only the required front-to-back overview but one that spans left-to-right as well.

For the first time, council employees have been able to see a holistic picture of our services. Three issues that might previously have been viewed and solved in isolation, for example, can now be linked to a single underlying factor and solved as one, saving on resources and time. Being able to mine data through the platform is changing the way we deliver services – enabling predictive analysis and early intervention – the ultimate aim is to get so good at spotting the warning signs that people no longer need to come to the council in the first place.

Adding value not fire-fighting

Implementing new systems in the cloud will fundamentally change the way IT works within the council. Having technology systems that update automatically and communicate with each other seamlessly is removing much of the backend fire-fighting and maintenance activity that took up the IT department’s time. With such tasks increasingly taken care of, the focus for the team can instead turn to add value – spending time within departments to help identify and roll out tools to improve their service, or working with the performance team to make sure it is able to best understand and action the captured data. My vision of IT in the council in the future is of it functioning more as a commissioning service, buying in services and acting as advisers to departments rather than having its current execution role.

Community empowerment

Peterborough has one of the most passionate communities around – something that was a hugely untapped resource until recently. Another goal of our move to the cloud is to find a way to empower local communities, leaning on their strong sense of pride and making it as easy as possible for them to get involved in the day-to-day running of their area.

In the future, we hope to push the community’s involvement even further – using volunteers perhaps to visit some of our lonely elderly residents. In that way, we free up social care to concentrate on those with more immediate needs.

Smarter resourcing through self-service

The final piece of our digital service hub has been the implementation of a central knowledge base to help with consistent communications and drive more automation and self-service amongst residents.

With approximately 300,000 calls coming into the council annually from residents, the pressure to manage each enquiry in a timely and consistent manner was rapidly becoming unsustainable.

The Transversal FAQ system now gives our staff access to a vast knowledge base of information, allowing them to respond to queries quickly and accurately.

It has also been integrated into the website, enabling residents to self-serve rather than having to pick up the phone. We’ve been able to clean up the rest of the website, reducing the number of pages by 75% due to the fact that all the content is being funnelled into the FAQ section.

While the knowledge base won’t stop all calls coming into the council, it should ensure our resource is focused more on complex matters, than (day-to-day) questions.

Summary

It has been a long but highly rewarding journey for the council. Despite the various technical challenges along the way, the main stumbling block we’ve come up against has been the change in mindset needed to go with the new system. Knowing we’re leading the way for other authorities has also brought with it some sleepless nights! In the end, the journey continues to be about making the council as efficient as possible – and the process is always evolving.

 

Richard Godfrey

Assistant Director of Digital Peterborough

Peterborough City Council

www.peterborough.gov.uk

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