Councils struggle with business side of shared services

Shared services and information were top of the agenda for delegates at the Socitm Conference for local government IT managers this week.

Shared services and information were top of the agenda for delegates at the Socitm Conference for local government IT managers this week.

Local government IT managers attending the conference said joining their IT systems with other authorities and organisations is one of the main issues on their agenda.

The conference's theme was the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, with IT chiefs looking for ways to combat the expected budget cutbacks.

Colin Shand, head of finance and IT at East Lothian council, said, "We are looking at joining everything up. The computer systems need to get better - they tend to be OK on their own, but they do not integrate."

Kevin Powell, head of IT at Broxtowe Borough Council, said it was the business side of shared services that is causing difficulties.

"The main issue is trust with other organisations. We are trying to encourage take-up of certain security management standards. The ICT side is easier. By the end of this financial year, the infrastructure will be in place and we are hoping for standards compliance with at least four organisations," he said.

Duncan Nisbett, IT business support manager at the Scottish Borders Council, said he is focusing his time on transformational government and modernisation.

"Each department here has its own IT staff, and we are looking to bring all IT staff together under one metaphorical roof. There is a lot of staff resistance to it, but at the same time we have got pressure to provide more shared services.

"We have also just completed a large virtualisation project, and we are looking at thin client technology."

Rose Crozier, head of information services at Belfast City Council, said she is concerned with how we use and share information.

"We need to do much more of that. We need to remove barriers, particularly if we are looking at sharing services across organisations.

"We also need to understand the community we serve, before looking at the practical side of how we actually make it happen. There is a lot of good work going on, and it's about making it more widespread," she said.

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