Features: September 5th, 2003

Business Transformation at Braintree District Council

Located on the borders of Essex and Suffolk and covering three market towns a number of rural areas over a wide geographical area, Braintree District Council provides Local Government Services to some 132,500 citizens. The Council has 800 employees.

As a result of the Modernising Government Agenda and in recognition of the Government’s backing for more innovative use of new technology, Braintree decided to examine its existing business processes and IT infrastructure. The aim was to improve service qualities, accessibility and to generate business efficiencies.

Like most organisations in the South-East, the Council faced capacity problems with its in-house IT service team due to difficulties with employee recruitment and retention. Realising that it would not have adequate capacity to develop or manage an in-house E-Government programme to transform the Council, Braintree began to discuss outsourcing the E-Government programme to the private sector.

Rob Atkins, corporate director and E-champion, Braintree District Council, explains, “We had lost several key members of staff and in the South-East of England saw little or no chance of replacing them. Indeed, we faced the prospect of losing even more staff.”

The Council identified their key internal drivers for outsourcing and a negotiated procedure for the outsourcing contract followed. ITNET, a leading IT, business consulting and business process outsourcing company, was invited by Braintree, in a shortlist of three, to tender for the IT contract. Each of the three short listed companies was presented with half a day’s access to Braintree’s senior management to discuss key concerns and pressures, plus the opportunity to gain a week’s hands-on experience at the Council.

Atkins continues, “We gave each organisation a week to come in and get under the skin of the Council. This enabled them to find out what we were really like so that they could then make a proper judgement on how best they could support us.”

ITNET was appointed by Braintree as its partner in the IT management partnership following successful performance against a series of criteria. These included: professional competence, financial health, clear awareness of Braintree’s business needs, an indication of how they could support the Council in developing its overall approach and the provision of satisfying and rewarding job roles for the in-house IT team to be relocated under TUPE.

The solution

The nine year IT management contract was made up from two components: the ongoing provision and maintenance of Braintree’s IT activities and customer and desktop support services and the E-Government programme. In the change process eleven Council employees relocated to ITNET under TUPE.

In order to evaluate and achieve Braintree’s E-Government vision, a series of workshops was held to determine the basic business and technical architecture required to drive the Council forward.

The outcome from the workshops was that the traditional hierarchy models were replaced by a four-box model of interdependency for the key organisational functions of Customer Service, Field Service, Professional Services and Corporate Governance. The new structure focused on a customer service based model, placing the citizen’s needs at the heart of the Council. Key technical specifications included new CRM software, citizen and employee databases, a property database, a GIS system and a document management system, all of which were required to integrate with Braintree’s back office.

Atkins comments, “We currently provide our services through traditional, departmental models, for example Planning and Housing. Our market research highlighted that our citizens would prefer telephone or direct contact so our on-going strategy needed to strongly reflect that. The result was a move towards a customer service based model through the provision of customer contact and walk-in centres.

Rollout of the E-Government technical architecture will be carried out on a service by service basis over the next three years. This will primarily focus on the planning department, housing and environmental services followed by the revenues and benefits service.

Atkins comments, “We’ve chosen to do it on a service by service basis because it to some extent contains the activity within separate units, rather than creating a massive explosion across the whole organisation at the same time. One thing we have learned through the initial planning phase is that E-Government is not just about technology, that is just an enabler, but what is important is to make a real difference to the way the Council works right across the board.”

The results

Braintree has already seen a huge improvement in the IT service since the very start of the service with:

  • 100% availability of BACS, Creditor payments and payroll
  • 99.7% availability of overall Applications Support services
  • Data network Key Performance Indicators have all been met

The E-Government programme, valued at £2.8 million, will result in the transformation of Braintree’s existing business processes and overall technical architecture. A year into the contract, ITNET and Braintree are finalising the technical architecture of the E-Government programme within Braintree’s specific budget requirements. Braintree now has approved business cases for the first stage of the contact centre rollout, for a new intranet/Internet, for the Local Land and Property Gazetteer and is at an advanced stage on a number of other business cases. Investment decisions are not only based upon each business case, but also on how the component fits into the overall business transformation programme.

Examples include quicker throughput, more satisfied citizens, ability to be able to answer citizen enquiries in a more straightforward way because the information is more easily accessible, financial savings due to the electronic transformation, shorter transaction times due to automation of processes and fewer staff required.

Atkins comments, “It’s a very attractive model from our point of view because we avoid what is a serious problem in the IT industry, paying for the technology and then fishing for the benefits.

The Future

The rollout of Braintree’s E-Government project is expected to occur in the next three years, which will essentially be four years into the contract.

Atkins concludes, “All of our services should have gone through this major transformation within three years from now. We very much see our relationship with ITNET as one of long-term partnership, indeed the contract is for nine years. We are working closely together on multiple issues and ITNET is regularly invited to attend both our Corporate Management Group and Members Meetings for their valuable input. “