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Case study: How ITIL has helped Essex keep IT aligned with council goals

Essex County Council has undergone an IT transformation to improve the credibility of its IT and achieve ISO 27001 accreditation

Essex County Council has used ITIL to steer its IT strategy, improve IT security and make IT work for the local authority.

The council began its ITIL journey in early 2012, following an IT modernisation programme that started towards the end of 2011 after David Wilde took over as its chief information officer.

Wilde had previously worked for the UK government and was involved in the early design and creation of ITIL.

“When I joined the council, the customer base had little or no faith in the IT department and there was a service report full of red key performance indicators (KPIs),” says Wilde. “We had silos of knowledge without adequate tools to enable sharing and out-of-date documentation.”

At the time, the council’s IT investment had not moved on, so Wilde initiated a large-scale replacement project.

“As the council was, and is, under continued financial pressure, with aspirations to become a truly mobile and flexible workforce, we needed to standardise our estate, meet our service-level agreement [SLA], gain control of the service, get our underpinning contracts into line and capitalise on sensible outsourcing opportunities, such as our networking,” he says.

The ITIL initiative focused on a set of key initiatives that stakeholders agreed would make the most difference.

In 2011, the council set five objectives for IT to focus on: to speed up login time, to enable staff to work from anywhere, to apply secure working practices underpinned by the ISO 27001 security kitemark, to manage forward planning, and finally, Wilde hoped the programme would improve the long-term skills of the workforce.

“You may not use Microsoft, but you need to learn skills for a shifting marketplace,” says Wilde. So, rather than focus on specific Microsoft IT expertise, he wanted the council’s IT team to understand architectural principles that could be learnt and applied to non-Microsoft technology stacks as well as the Microsoft environment.

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The ITIL programme was part of a broader review of the council’s IT function, which included a review of the IT team. Along with ITIL, Essex ran a parallel work stream to change customer experience and governance.

This was needed because the council wanted to look at how it could improve the entire IT service, says Wilde.

To ensure his IT strategy remained current, it was also necessary to understand industry trends, he says. These needed to be tracked to ensure that the future direction of the authority’s IT followed industry developments and innovation.

“We needed to look at the strategic direction of IT and understand what was going on in industry,” says Wilde.

We needed to look at the strategic direction of IT and understand what was going on in industry
David Wilde, Essex County Council

For instance, at the start of the programme, there was a lot of hype around the iPad, which was the world’s first tablet device to capture the public’s imagination, thanks in part to slick advertising by Apple.

Essex County Council has chosen not to deploy iPads to its staff. When asked how IT manages the situation if someone insists on having a certain device, Wilde says: “We make the customer aware of the total cost of the devices. Don’t look at part of the solution, but the whole solution.”

That way, the council does not face a conflict with users over device choice, he says.

“The total cost of iPads is twice as much as Microsoft devices,” he adds. “We want to drive down the cost of provisioning a user.”

So if this cost is set at, say, £980, the council will look at devices that cost £300 and last for three years, says Wilde.

Migration to Windows 10

The programme has now been completed and Wilde is looking at the next steps in Essex’s IT evolution. The council has completed a roll-out of Windows 7 on the desktop and is now planning its migration to Windows 10.  

Among the achievements so far is role-based logon, to improve security by limiting access to applications based on employees’ login credentials, and the ability to offer staff a choice of five devices, from a full-blown workstation-style machine down to a tablet, based on individual requirements.

Commenting on the benefits of ITIL, Wilde says: “Ensuring everyone is trained to foundation level has really helped to gain momentum and increase awareness and understanding. ITIL provides the right blend of service management, infrastructure management and customer focus.”

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