Headlines: February 7th, 2006

Two new reports show that local authorities are transforming themselves in an effort to bring about step changes in efficiency and the services they offer. The reports, “Modern public services: challenge of transformation” and “Modern public services: transformation in practice” are published by the Society of IT Management – Socitm.The reports are the first in what is planned to be a series on transformation, which Socitm believes is emerging as the main thrust of the Government’s drive for modernisation in the public services. The ODPM’s local e-government programme will end next month and there is growing interest in how the investment that has helped councils create the infrastructure for modern services will deliver transformation in the form of better services delivered more efficiently.

Research behind the first Socitm report shows that if transformation is to take place, there must be leadership from the top of the organisation, not least because change associated with transformation inevitably meets resistance. It says people may fear for their jobs and in some cases, the organisation might simply fail to understand the transformational potential of ICT. The report suggests there is no simple formula for success but that transformation demands imagination and innovation. That can mean challenging long-held assumptions or practices and even cutting corners. The mix might also include importing radical ideas from elsewhere and adapting and applying them for local circumstances.

The second report on transformation in practice details 35 case studies of transformations that have taken place in councils of all types and sizes, including whole-council, service-specific and ‘niche’ transformations. They feature councils in urban and rural locations, in single and multi-tier local government organisations, and in partnerships with organisations from the public and private sectors. The cases are analysed by the customer groups affected, the services impacted, technologies used and the nature of the improvement made. The three main drivers for transformation are identified as the desire by councils to use technology to operate in completely new ways, to change the customer experience and to use scarce and valuable resources more efficiently.

Based on the case studies the report says it is the first of these factors, which is strongly linked to the e-government programme of the last five years, that has been the most important driver for transformation. The third driver is probably only beginning to become significant since the efficiency agenda appeared on the scene, Socitm says.

The two reports can be ordered from <http://www.socitm.gov.uk/> and are free to Socitm Insight subscribers.