It’s universally acknowledged that local government faces financial pressures and must change the way it operates to continue delivering high levels of service. Thinking and working differently, organisational collaboration and identifying and standardising best practice are key requirements in achieving this, and are particularly true for IT procurement.
With about £2bn currently spent on IT procurement in local government, including £1bn on sourcing and supporting software applications, any efficiencies that can be made will have a significant role in meeting the financial challenges being faced.
The Local Government Association (LGA) recently unveiled a strategy to help councils achieve value for money, economic growth, better service delivery and social value through making the right choices in procuring IT/digital services.
The National Technological and Digital Procurement Category Strategy was produced with input from a number of key partner organisations including both Socitm and the Local Public Services Chief Information Officers Council (LCIOC).
The challenge for IT procurement today, it says, is to create the agility and flexibility needed to meet the unprecedented demand for new technology and new ways of using technology in a way which manages risk and does not compromise probity or value.
Successful public service digital transformation requires a strategic approach to re-design on every level to make councils better and faster at doing things, including being more adaptable and able to share more relevant information.
The strategy focuses on three main themes:
• Procurement practice – spending wisely, working with SMEs and local suppliers, considering the merits and risks of insourcing and outsourcing, learning from past experiences, building more flexibility into IT contracts, adopting strategic IT sourcing methods, and making use of common and shared procurement routes and frameworks.
• IT as an enabler – supporting the development of smart places, securing maximum benefits from IT spend in terms of business, transport, jobs, public services and economic growth from the technology sector in particular, working with suppliers to improve their understanding of local government – its challenges and its needs – in order to improve tender responses and value delivered for suppliers and their local government clients alike, and developing more business-like and commercial models for councils in order to generate new revenue, increase productivity, maximise revenue collection, be easier to work with and improve efficiency.
• Other considerations when procuring IT – making best use of IT and data assets, developing and creating innovative ways of exploiting these, with the necessary level of security and tools for information asset management, expanding on open source opportunities, championing interoperability and greater use or technology standards throughout the sector, promoting open data, and resisting unnecessary proprietary or customised IT solutions and maximising the potential from sharing technology infrastructures across local public services, such as health, police and other councils, by adopting common and appropriate technology standards.
The strategy includes a number of case studies and some learning from other councils. So whether you work for a local council that is already employing these strategies for IT/digital procurement, or working towards them, it’s worth noting that this guidance is aimed at everyone, whether seeking to become a ‘digital leader’ or embarking on the digital journey.