From: Mark Birch, Strategic ICT manager, Gateshead Housing Company
Sir – Around 18 months ago, the ALMO I work for was placed under review by its parent council. This followed a number of similar reviews across the country. Some had already been taken back into the council, some had remained in place.
The announcement sent ripples throughout the organisation. Forward momentum was replaced with introspection and projects faltered due to the elephant in the room; ‘will we still exist next year?’
This prevailing philosophy could be described as ‘concentrate on the day job’ but how does this approach affect a service like ICT?
I had previously restructured my department and had resolved multiple issues that had led to reactive responses. I now had a proactive service with a wealth of skills, capability and enthusiasm and suddenly my approach was ‘just keep the lights on’.
Rather than going along with this approach, my team and I sought to show the business what could be done, what efficiencies could be made and what services really could look like for customers internally and externally.
We began work to highlight the value of ICT to the business, with measures such as a data quality programme and a refresh of the corporate website. One of the key pieces of work was a forward-looking ICT programme to act as an internal sales pitch and as a brochure of what could be done using the systems and resources we already had. It included simple but effective measures such as channel shift, increased use of workflow, universal contact logging, document management; almost all were options that could be implemented without capital costs using existing capabilities. It served as a clear statement of what ICT could contribute to enable and develop the business.
At a time of financial uncertainty and increased scrutiny, ICT services need to be vocal and show their value to the businesses they support. Not only do they provide a vital function but they can also be pivotal in developing the efficiencies and cost savings being demanded by customers as well as national and local government.