UK Councils Use Content Management To Boost Efficiency

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Two major councils in England are using content and document management technology to play a central transformational role in process efficiency

While cloud computing, shared services and virtualisation may continue to grab the headlines, two major enterprise content and document management (ECDM) implementations are proving just as key in public sector efficiency drives.

Birmingham City Council and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council are both using Documentum ECDM software from EMC as the basis from far-ranging change transformation projects designed to streamline processes and enable greater information sharing and efficiencies.

“ECDM is a strategic enabler of change,” said Glyn Evans, Birmingham City Council corporate head of business change and chair of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) Futures Group. “We’re running an information-enabled change programme because improving the way we access information allows us to re-configure the business process.”

Like Redcar and Cleveland, Birmingham has over a hundred line of business applications, which Evans said was increasingly presented as a “joined-up front office,” through increased web-based service delivery. “It needs the information joined up at the back end to improve the efficiency of the workforce,” he added.

Anne Wright, Redcar and Cleveland ECDM project manager said the need for systems was apparent from the need to reduce manually intensive, paper-based or data duplicating processes. “We identify an area and what content management can achieve in terms of both cash and softer benefits,” she said.

“Staff love the fact that they can leave on time, because they don’t have to claw an hour back at the end of every day that was spent looking for files, and six people can share a document at the same time, while there’s the obvious savings on other resources, like files,” she added.

Both Evans and Wright were quick to stress the importance of winning over staff, as the changes to procedure can have a profound cultural affect on the business. “Transformation is a business continuity issue really,” said Evans. “People do tend to see the world from their perspective and can feel challenged by change.”

“And the amount of data in any organisation is growing,” pointed out Wright. “The council wants everyone signing from the same song sheet and we do that by controlling the structure of documents, so creating them takes less time. And information can be shared across sites and departments electronically through the automated workflows.”

Mike Davis, Ovum senior analyst said it was not surprising councils had looked to improve the way they manage content. “All councils now have to compete with higher citizen ‘customer’ expectations, where they have to be potentially better than the private sector in terms of the frontline services they deliver,” he said. “Yet every local council department is an organisation in itself.

“So they have the double whammy of less budget and lower revenues during a recession and more call for their services, so the content management early adopters will get the benefits, but also be able share their mistakes.”