Local councils to lead the open source movement

Local councils are under enormous pressure to simultaneously cut costs and deliver even more services in the face of long-term austerity.  Bristol City Council, for example, is having to manage a portfolio of fourteen different change programmes simultaneously, out of necessity. This ‘burning platform’ for change and efficiency has stimulated more councils to start seriously considering open source solutions and greater pragmatism, like pooling together with other councils to share common services.   

Gavin Beckett, Chief Enterprise Architect at Bristol shard his thoughts with us at the Zaizi & Alfresco hosted Open Gov Summit that took place last month in the heart of Westminster. We wanted to share key findings from Gavin thoughts on how Bristol City Council are meeting the new demands and changes that are occurring in Local Government today.  

Setting the scene

Gavin set the scene by talking about the council and the boundaries it covers, highlighting the critical role it has to play in the area’s development. Responding to financial pressures like all parts of the public sector have had with their operating budget cut by almost 50% since 2010. Gavin discussed how the way in which they currently operate won’t support their ambitions or cope with the demands they face, with rising demand leading to uncontrollable costs or reduced quality, which will itself generate ‘failure demand’. Therefore he felt the need to transform their way of working to meet ambitions and reduce costs.  

Defining the Target Operating Model (TOM) 

Their response was to define a Target Operating Model (TOM) that sets out how the council will work in the future. Gavin explained how it sets out how they can apply consistent shared approaches, defining and designing solutions to problems across the whole council. Technology services and systems are the underpinning layer that enables the working practices required to support all other aspects of the TOM.  

Gavin talked about how they are delivering the TOM through a portfolio of change programmes and breaking away from traditional silo based council IT to move towards common services and sourcing the ICT products and services in more innovative ways.  

One of their key decisions was to set up commissioning groups to source new ICT products across the council, as well as aiming to meet the target of allocating 25% of ICT spend to SMEs by 2015.  How did they go through the selection process?  

Gavin talked through the rigorous evaluation process they followed to identify the best solution, which involved defining their requirements (scalable, able to sit inside legacy infrastructure, able to handle different types of case management), identifying and creating the shortlist and finally choosing Alfresco.  Gavin pointed out that the main differentiators that set Alfresco aside from the others were:

Internal expertise is very important Gavin shared his thoughts on the importance to have the right expertise within the organisation to create a sense of internal ownership, which can then be combined with external expertise.

Bristol City Council is now using their knowledge and experience they have gained from this to help other organisations who are looking for a similar solutions. They feedback to the Alfresco community, continuing the cycle of improvements to ensure that their experience and knowledge is shared. Watch and listen to Gavin’s full presentation here from Zaizi’s annual Open Gov Summit that took place last month.

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