risual supported digitising a unitary council.

The Secretary of State announced in November 2018 the creation of a new unitary council by April 2020. The council will be formed from the consolidation five existing authorities.

Relationships between staff and colleagues are changing, which is driving a move towards more collaborative ways of working across the county and district councils, which will form the new unitary council. The way the public communicate and transact with local authorities is also changing at a rapid rate. The take up of mobile technology has created an opportunity to adapt service models.

The issues that the authorities had included:

  • Siloed ways of working
  • Collaborating
  • Sharing of files
  • Merging of files
  • Citizen engagement

risual were the chosen partner to support the council on their digital transformation journey in 2019. The solution was using a Modern Workplace and Cloud Platform structure to support the new consolidated authorities. Microsoft 365 would be the tool that brought all these authorities together, having the ability to share files, calendars and documents as well as allowing collaboration to be easier through access to view calendars as a whole.

Before the solution was deployed the authorities’ systems were completely separate, meaning that collaborating between districts was challenging for all employees, as well as the citizens accessing services online.  

One of the biggest challenges the districts had was to deal with the unity was leadership and ownership, as something which had been sprung on the authorities there was no real leader or external organisation supporting with the project, ensuring that the correct and most beneficial decisions were made for the unity group. Different authorities had different views and opinions on what was the best way to approach the situation, based on their own experience, knowledge and expertise as individual authorities this meant they were often conflicted as a group.

risual played a key and vital role in the project, from a leadership and ownership perspective, as well as the technical expertise. Not discussed in the tender was the leadership skills that we’re needed to truly support this project, but when risual realised the project wasn’t moving in the direction it needed to, or at the speed required they stepped in. Introducing a project steering board meant that the different authorities had the opportunity to regularly discuss the project, air any concerns, and flag any potential blockers. This led to risual being invited to the lead stakeholders project review and starting to have an input in the key organisation decisions the organisations were making.

Working closely with Microsoft in their approach risual put forward 3 concepts to the authorities on how they can become a unitary in the most efficient and effective way. Naturally, working with five different authorities with varied experience, expertise and knowledge comes with challenges. Throughout the decision-making process risual maintained an impartial party providing guidance and outside expertise to support and guide the project. When putting forward their 3 concepts risual expressed their recommended choice, which the council agreed they wanted to move forward with.

The specific technology being utilised for the Council is Microsoft 365 – for the power of collaboration. All but one of the authorities were pro Microsoft with most already utilising Microsoft at a small scale in their organisations. With the plan to combine as districts to create one central hub they needed technology that would grow alongside them, providing with scale up and scale down solutions as and when needed. The technologies deployed, meant that the council were able to work in a streamlined manner, it provided one email address domain ensuring no confusion was caused to the citizens using the service. Calendars were able to be viewed by anyone across the districts to ensure they could easily collaborate amongst each other to make decisions quickly and efficiently with the interest of the citizen always at the forefront of focus.

The council also needed the ability to collaborate much more effectively, sharing files below districts with access for everyone to view and edit with ease – having all authorities collaborating using Microsoft365 allow for simple for effective way of working for employees – sharing, saving and collaborating between authorities was simple with the power of the technology.

This solution was specific to the Council’s due to the request by the Secretary of State. This doesn’t mean that the solution can’t be replicated across councils all over the UK, this solution has a huge amount of broader potential to be adopted by other councils to streamline services and make the end user experience for citizens an improved service.

In 2018 the Government released their Strategy for shared services across the UK (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/844390/Government_Shared_Services_Strategy_Refresh.pdf) showing that this is a key shift for many councils to provide citizens with a better service, as well as making employees working lives easier and more collaborating with the power of technology. The solution risual provided to the Council sits at the heart of this movement and will be a pivotal approach for many councils who will follow suit.

The overall aim for this project had one simple goal, to ensure that the unity council could collaborate between each other much more effectively, providing all employees to work under one email address and be able to share files between each other easily. As complex as this project was, risual delivered, providing the council with a much more user friendly and collaborative way of working. Both organisations carried on working through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the project was a priority at all times. Risual showed leadership across all stakeholders involved in the project, from the Chief Executive of the council to the employees on the ground.

The difficulty of this project derived from the complexity of supporting a unitary council as well as the needs and wants from the different councils. In terms of the results, the organisations have been brought into one function which was key to the success of this project working off the same email domain. With the project being political, different requirements were requested across the multiple councils so it was key to the results of the project that all employees from the different councils were acknowledged throughout this project.

To find out more about this project and others, contact us.

About the author