At a time when budgets are under pressure, public sector bodies need to get the most from their spending. This applies just as much to IT projects as it does to anything else. Indeed, effective deployment of IT can help to stretch other budgets and make better use of resources overall.
The Government is keen to encourage digital projects and has set up its own G-Cloud digital marketplace to help organisations find the right suppliers and specialists for their projects.
In government and education, just as in private industry, data is often collected in isolation. It exists in silos that are not accessible to other departments, even though the data that they contain that could be useful. This leads to duplication of effort too, as different departments may be collecting the same information without being aware that it already exists elsewhere in the organisation.
The first step towards integrating the use of data, therefore, is to conduct a thorough audit of what information is being collected, where it’s being held and how. You also need to consider the other side of the equation in terms of the information staff need to do their jobs. It’s important to take into account the views of people at the sharp end here, as their views about what is needed may be different from those perceived by management.
Of course there are a number of things that need to be taken into account when looking for ways to integrate information systems. Not least is safe handling of the data and taking proper measures to ensure that sensitive information is kept safe and only handled by those authorised to see it. The requirements of GDPR – which comes into force next year – apply to public bodies just as they do to private industry.
It’s crucial to find suppliers that are familiar with the requirements of government organisations too. Companies such as the W3 Partnership that are on the G-Cloud marketplace have proven experience in working with public bodies and are therefore a good place to start.
Using trusted suppliers also helps to overcome the problem of finding staff with the appropriate specialist skills to undertake the project. These skills are expensive and may be hard to come by, which can be a particular problem when budgets are tight.
Even when using external contractors, however, it’s vital to have someone within the organisation who can oversee the project. This should be someone at a sufficiently senior level to be able to get things done and who can call upon other resources internally if need be. This also helps to reassure staff internally that the project isn’t just being driven by external forces.
Integration of systems can deliver major benefits for government operations at all levels. These are not only seen in terms of cost, but also in streamlining operations, and making sure that data is available as and when it’s needed. In the long term, this enhances the ability of the organisation to adapt and to respond to change.