East Renfrewshire Council in Scotland is using Huddle’s cloud-based software to connect with two other Clyde Valley councils as part of its ICT collaboration programme.
Huddle provides the three councils with a collaboration platform to share content associated with the ICT collaboration programme in a fast and secure way.
“The ability to share data, knowledge and information in a seamless and secure way is critical to the success of the ICT collaboration between the partner councils,” said Patrick Murray, head of ICT at East Renfrewshire Council.
The partnership began four years ago with an initiative to connect eight different councils in the Clyde Valley, but Murray said that number dwindled to three. “It wasn’t a bad thing – generally, when sharing ICT services, you start small and grow, rather than starting with a large number,” he added.
The collaboration aims to take a business-driven approach to ICT, to deliver digital public services for users in Scotland. While there isn’t a plan to create a shared ICT service, the councils are looking at how they can pool resources to modernise and share skills among their ICT teams.
SharePoint versus Huddle
East Renfrewshire was already using Microsoft SharePoint for sharing internal data, but the product didn’t offer the security to share files outside the council. The other two councils had no internal or external sharing capabilities at all.
The three councils began by using email to share content at the beginning, but mailbox sizes became a problem when sharing larger project files. Murray said emails were easily missed.
“There was no way to share without firewalls and everything else,” said Murray, who started using Huddle about a year ago. “Where information was previously scattered across systems, with little version control, it is now all in one central hub.”
“We can immediately see the lifecycle of each project – the individual stakeholders, the content they have accessed and edited and the changes they have made. Everything is tracked, managed and processed faster and more simply.”
Murray said he asked East Renfrewshire Council's information security officer to assess Huddle for the risk associated with hosting external data in the cloud. “Huddle is pan government accredited at IL2, used by many central and local government departments and offers an extremely secure approach to data security. There is no question of data being put at risk. This was a view shared by the information security officer,” he said.
East Renfrewshire is now considering rolling out Huddle internally to share documents and information across departments. “We use SharePoint, but we’re looking at Huddle as a tool itself for corporate projects like new buildings.”
First time cloud
This is the first time East Renfrewshire Council has dabbled with the cloud, said Murray.
“As part of the ICT collaboration, we had a review of our ICT and we came to the conclusion we’ve got a reasonably good ICT service,” said Murray.
But the review pointed out the council was struggling with capacity and changes, because of budget constraints.
“We’re effectively looking at changing the model of delivery for ICT,” he added “We looked at the ICT services and said, ‘We need to think about the future, what is best for the council? Are we going to use cloud-based services?’”
After the success of Huddle, Murray can see the council moving to more cloud services in the future. East Renfrewshire Council used the government’s G-Cloud framework to procure the Huddle system, which Murray found simple and straightforward. “It took a couple of weeks to get the contract sorted out with Huddle, as opposed to traditional procurement exercise,” he said.
Murray said he would look for further cloud services from G-Cloud in the future.