Two years into its 10-year strategic contract with Microsoft, Newham Borough Council is turning the spotlight on collaborative working systems as it looks to develop the relationship.
Also under discussion at a strategy meeting between the council and Microsoft were staff tracking systems, a possible partnership with the National Health Service through a collaboration portal, and managing the council's next IT upgrade.
Richard Steel, Newham's head of ICT, said he was keen to see how Microsoft's forthcoming Vista operating system could help the council support flexible working. He also wanted to assess how the Bitlocker encryption technology within Vista could support mobile applications by making them more secure.
One of the benefits of the strategic partnership has been the Microsoft Shared Learning Group, chaired by Newham Council, where councils running Microsoft software can share ideas and conduct peer reviews of projects. Participating councils include Sunderland, Kent, Lewisham, Derby, Rotherham, Isle of Man, Bromley and Hampshire.
"The council has not been very good to date at promoting the benefits achieved, such as reducing the time taken to produce performance reports for the Greater London Assembly from weeks to little more than an hour," said Steel.
Newham signed the contract in 2004 after assessing the viability of using Linux in the council. Steel was originally looking to explore whether there was a cheaper option to Microsoft, but ended up not only choosing Microsoft over Linux but also forming a strategic alliance with the software company.
Microsoft said its alliance with Newham had enabled it to improve its approach to local authorities.
Nigel Bates, head of local and regional government at Microsoft, said, "Had Newham not challenged us we would have been a lot slower to adapt. Our understanding of the challenges in working with local authorities is much stronger now."