SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)
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Need to save will overcome past barriers - including political resistance - to sharing in local public services says new Socitm guide

The crisis in public sector funding will concentrate minds in local public services on the best routes to savings, including solutions like shared services which have tended to fall at the political hurdle when tried in the recent past.

This notion is set out at the beginning of Successful sharing: a practical guide for local public services published by Socitm Insight at the end of May. The report suggests that the gravity of today's financial situation is simply too serious for organisations to protect current ways of delivering services. Sharing services is one of relatively few options for making substantial savings, all of which will need to be deployed if there is to be any chance of maintaining frontline services.

Moves towards shared services will also benefit from the emergence of a new technical solution - itself a virtual shared service - in the form of the public sector network, now moving beyond the early adopters and becoming a serious consideration in most sub-regions. The PSN is a potential delivery mechanism for shared data centres, storage facilities, the public sector 'cloud', remote technical expertise, and customer and employee self-service.

As part of the back office, ICT is a key candidate for sharing, but it also has a role as the enabler for sharing in other services. Successful sharing examines practical arrangements for sharing ICT, draws out the lessons learnt, and asks how to apply them. It covers five topics:
  • Share to save - the economic situation has refocused attention on sharing. Previous Socitm reports have remarked on good ideas for sharing falling at the political hurdle. Not now
  • Who should lead - CEOs and CIOs are both candidates to lead sharing initiatives. The guide sets out how these leaders should prepare the ground to maximise the chances of success
  • Models for shared service delivery - there are several viable models: a key piece of advice is not to commit to inflexible long-term solutions given major ongoing changes in ICT service delivery practice and the configuration of public services
  • Managing the transition - implementing a shared service is an exercise in major change, demanding attention to much detail at the same time as ensuring overall progress on a number of key topics such as people, contracts, systems, equipment and resources.
  • Achieving the goals - implementation is not the end of the process and there needs to be continued focus on achieving the expected benefits and managing performance through the transition and beyond.

The report includes six case studies, which each illustrate different approaches and different reasons for sharing:

  • Forth Valley GIS is an example of how a successful shared service might eventually develop into a company limited by guarantee owned by the partners.
  • Herefordshire Council and Primary Care Trust may be an early example of what will happen as a result of closer working between health and local authorities in the future
  •  The 'tri-borough' proposal (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster City) is notable because of its breadth of scope.
  • The venture between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire County Councils illustrates the time and effort required to develop and implement a successful shared service partnership.
  • The London boroughs of Newham and Havering have shown that opportunity and happenstance can be just as effective triggers for shared services as extensive dialogue and detailed preliminary design.
  • Shared ICT may be a consequence of wider sharing between existing partners such as happened at Worthing Borough Council and Adur District Council.

Successful sharing: a practical guide for local public services concludes that, although shared services come in many different shapes and sizes, and develop from different circumstances,  all share the need to reduce costs. Most of the issues are common to all major change initiatives with long-term impacts. The guide provides a summary of learning from the case studies, and a checklist of factors for success.

'Initiating, planning and implementing shared services is a non-trivial exercise, with organisational politics, people and technology issues to address' says Jos Creese, Immediate Past President of Socitm, writing in the report foreword. 'This report shows what has already worked in practice and is a rich source of advice.'

Successful sharing: a practical guide for local public services, published at the end of May, is available free of charge to Socitm Insight subscribers, and can be downloaded here. The charge for non-subscribers is £195 (£175 for Socitm members).

Further information

Vicky Sargent
07726 601139
Socitm Press Office

Martin Greenwood
Programme Manager, Socitm Insight

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