Newham's controversial Microsoft deal bears fruit

Six months after signing a 10-year strategic partnership with Microsoft, Newham Council has implemented a Microsoft-based portal...

Six months after signing a 10-year strategic partnership with Microsoft, Newham Council has implemented a Microsoft-based portal designed to help local authorities share software.

Richard Steel, head of ICT at Newham, said the Open Application Sharing Portal was being used to share software connectors to simplify links to back-office council systems.

He said, "We have also developed adaptors with Microsoft's help to link via Biztalk to the Local Land and Property Gazetteer and are working on a few other systems such as housing and social services, which will be available through the portal."

By sharing software via the portal, Steel hopes to reduce the risk of pioneering technology that no one else adopts. There is also a financial benefit. "Other local authorities' investments can help with the cost of developing software for the portal," said Steel.

Microsoft is working with Newham to develop further adapters for the portal.

Newham has also rewritten the CRM system it developed in-house in 1998 to run using Microsoft’s .net technology and SQL Server database. The previous version was written using Microsoft’s ASP programming framework.

The rewritten CRM uses integration functions in Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 and forms part of an ongoing process re-engineering project at the council to join up services.

The aim is to give members of the public a single point of access for council tax, housing allocation, corporate and commercial debt, environment, social services and education, as well as some central government services.

Councils can buy Newham’s CRM for £20,000. Steel said Belfast, Leicester, Pembrokeshire, Redbridge, North Somerset, Barnsley, Rochdale, Wolverhampton, Hertsmere, Portsmouth and Denbighshire had already purchased it.

Kingston Council is using Newham's portal to offer its e-payment system, which is based on Microsoft’s .net framework and Commerce Server 2002. System integrator Ciber UK worked with Kingston to develop schemas, page templates and integration tools to help councils across the UK implement the system.

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