In a summary of its report, Making do with less, Socitm says that while user satisfaction with local authority ICT functions remains above its target benchmark, reflecting ICT’s role in transforming other services, user satisfaction has declined in almost every area.
The summary’s findings are drawn from Socitm’s benchmarking service that assess the performance of council ICT department and were taken during 2011.
While the report warns that there is “no sign of light” at the end of the austerity tunnel, and that no organisation has avoiding reducing expenditure, evidence to date suggests that ICT functions will respond well to unavoidable years of austerity measures.
The report identifies four ongoing priorities for ICT managers who have faced difficulty operating in the face of increasing demands and reduced resources.
The first priority says that ICT managers need to protect ICT’s budget share by promoting the role, achievements and credibility of the ICT function, and by explaining how reduced budget impacts on other services. Only through investment in exploiting information assets will public services survive four years of austerity, the report says, without very significant reductions at the front line.
The second priority, reducing total costs of ownership, highlights how different procurement practices mean variations in ICT costs remain very wide and says that organisations should be working together to increase purchasing power.
The third priority identified that while outsourcers usually provide good services when measured against those metrics that are used as part of contract performance, long term contracts can inhibit change, including the ability to exploit opportunities like cloud computing and shared services.
Finally, the report says that it is essential that information and technology strategies align with and support corporate ones, and that corporate strategy should take advantage of the potential of technology.
Socitm says that benchmarking also plays a key role in preparing for and managing the performance of both shared and outsourcing services, which it says many authorities are embarking on in the search for major findings.
The report adds that benchmarking in advance of outsourcing ensures that suppliers avoid making excessive profits by making savings that client organisations could easily make before awarding the contracts.
The government revealed a pan-government procurement service in June with an estimated value of £1 billion, which would also be used by local authorities, covering areas such as integration, application development, data management and customer relationship tools.
An analysis report on shared services by the Local Government Association (LGA), published in August, found that Local Authorities could experience clear financial benefits by sharing services, achieved by reducing staff, removing duplication and management posts.
The LGA’s report also found that sharing services can mature and evolve over time, resulting in the better use of IT and assets, improved processes and cultural change programmes.