Wakefield council slashes costs with flexible working technology

Wakefield Council expects to save £1m in property costs and a further £100,000 per year in telephony expenditure through technology deployments which will promote flexible working.

Wakefield Council expects to save £1m in property costs and a further £100,000 per year in telephony expenditure through technology deployments which will promote flexible working.

Alan Kirkham, service director of ICT at Wakefield Council, said the public sector is facing tough efficiency targets and at the same time wants to have support an agile workforce.

He said flexible working will allow the council to close down more administration buildings.

By the summer Kirkham estimate more than 25% of office based workers will be ‘flexible workers’, with the figure expected to rise to nearly 50% over the next two years.

“We still have quite a long way to go with flexible working. We want to look at all other services to see which ones could benefit the most from taking a more flexible approach.”

As part of its flexible working programme, the council is working with Siemens Enterprise Communications to support telephony mobility for hot-desk environments and unified communication. 

The council has implemented an electronic document system using SharePoint, which enables staff to scan incoming mail into SharePoint so that staff working from home can process information.

It is also working to integrate a telephony solution with Microsoft Link, which will allow it to see who is available to speak at any given point. “That unified communications infrastructure is just about there,” says Kirkham.

At the moment the council uses a Citrix thin client for home workers, which enables about 1,000 staff to work from home.

“We have some dedicated homeworking, such as housing benefit assessors who go to applicants houses and assess them onsite using a tablet, assess them in-house and give them an immediate idea of their benefit entitlement.

The council is also undergoing a major hardware refresh which will cost £1.5m over the next two years, including end-user devices as well servers and is also part of the council’s virtualisation and datacentre rationalisation plans. By the end of the next financial year Windows 7 will be running on all devices. The refresh will involve a lot more laptops for staff to provide employees with more mobility.  

“We need more powerful servers to move forward with server virtualisation. By providing modern hardware, productivity will increase significantly so that remaining staff have best so can do quicker.”

However, Kirkham says the council is still a long way from implementing a bring your own device scheme for staff.  “We provide staff with equipment, we don’t promote the use of personal equipment. It’s something we can purpose to run securely but there’s a cost in terms of licensing and a cost in terms of IT support team. We don’t want people diverted to purposing personal devices onto the network.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Code of Connection regulations also makes it difficult to allow staff to bring their own devices. “It’s something we will look at in the future, but not until there is greater flexibility in the regulations,” he says.



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