Major Socitm report calls for more shared services

By Miya Knights
27 May 2011 View Comments
People working at Hackney Council

A major new report from Socitm, the organisation representing public- and third-sector IT professionals, is calling for the overhaul of local IT-based services.

Planting the Flag: the Strategy for ICT-enabled Local Public Services Reform argues that "collaborate, redesign and innovate" should be the three core principles for reform of local public services.

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It also advises local public organisations to jointly commission ICT and other infrastructure and services, pool budgets and share staff.

But it draws a distinction between sharing services between public organisations and the wholesale outsourcing of ICT components.

The report echoes the findings of Socitm's recent report on ICT outsourcing in stating: "Traditional outsourcing of ICT in some parts of the public sector has been naive – under-estimating costs, risks and the strategic value of ICT."

Joe Harley, government CIO, endorsed the report, writing: "The core themes of sharing and re-using our assets, simplifying and standardising our services and empowering citizens and communities, are also fully aligned with the actions highlighted in our central government ICT strategy."

But analyst firm Ovum only yesterday published research that found that half of European public-sector IT chiefs do not believe shared services will deliver sufficient cost savings.

Socitm spokeswoman Vicky Sargent said that the principle of collaboration was what really counted. "Whether this is formalised into shared services agreements is up to the individual organisations," she added.

The report outlines six key information and technology issues deemed key to redesigning better local public services for less.

Local public service organisations should be moving towards shared ICT infrastructure, contracts and support arrangements, it says, starting with converged public sector networks and the rationalisation and sharing of datacentres.

There is also recognition of the need for "new approaches to risk and value management", while "multi-partner change governance should be explored and best practice shared".

It adds that current information governance practices will need to change, while a common security framework would help to tackle an "endemic" failure to share and tendency to duplicate information across local public services.

Building on the need for more standardisation and greater collaboration, the report calls for common information assurance approaches and standards, especially around health services, and calls for mandates to move public organisations onto the proposed Public Sector Network.

Socitm also calls for a single identity management and verification standard based on associated threats or risks for citizens and all but the highest-level employees to access all government services.

In addition, the report advises that strategies and policies for exploiting social media and networking tools should be developed to support citizen engagement and service delivery.

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