This year is set to be difficult for local government IT. The public sector is bracing itself for cuts - job losses are expected in the second half of the year, and budgets will be squeezed.
IT departments can expect to receive their fair share of the cutbacks. They will be expected to show they are cutting their own costs while finding innovative ways to reduce spending in the rest of the organisation.
IT will be challenged in two ways, according to Jos Creese , senior vice-president at the Society of IT Managers. First, managers will need to demonstrate that the costs in IT are as low as they can be. "This will force consideration of new models of delivery and affordability of service levels in some areas," he said.
The second challenge will be to demonstrate how IT can cut costs in other areas. This may not sound new, but many of the easiest and most basic measures (such as designing a good website) simply have not been implemented in some councils.
There are good examples across the country of effective transformation programmes, but there is still potential for millions more per year to be saved through clever use of technology. The pressure is mounting to find new ways to cut costs.
Creese says IT will require a "maturity of leadership" if it is to do this. Local government needs to look hard at self-service for citizens, new ways of working and shared services.
Creese, who is also CIO at Hampshire County Council, said, "This challenge will be harder not because it is new, but because it implies a new role for IT, and a fundamental change in how public services are managed, controlled and delivered."