We all depend on councils, governments and local authorities for the critical services that enable us to go about our daily lives, from social care to planning applications. To deliver these services, local authorities must manage a myriad of data sources alongside a prudent data management strategy which are vital in aiding decisions relating to where resources are allocated, so they can make the most impact.
Given how crucial data is to local authorities, there is naturally a focus on how efficiencies can be made coupled with better decision making through shared data. However, these organisations face several challenges which should be considered as part of a data management strategy.
Often within local authorities, the IT estate will have grown significantly over time with lots of departmental applications and databases. This sprawling set of systems results in both high support and license costs, ending up with operational challenges due to the need to support multiple technology versions.
- Consider: A review of the estate will often identify opportunities to consolidate the systems into a smaller environment, which will reduce the operational overhead and the infrastructure / license costs.
Due to the number of applications and databases within local authority environments, data often ends up in silos which makes it difficult to get a single view of critical data (for example, council tax collection and debt management). In turn, this makes decision making slower and more cumbersome, directly impacting how effective local authorities can be.
- Consider: With the advent of Modern Data Platforms such as Azure Synapse, it’s now possible to quickly build a cost-effective data warehouse so data can be ingested from multiple sources and then transformed for high quality analytics.
Many of the databases and applications within local authorities are running critical public services, and as such, need to available to the public on a constant basis. This results in stringent availability and performance considerations, as the systems will need to be optimised around the clock – that means investing in high-quality technical skills and monitoring systems to ensure consistent performance and availability.
- Consider: A managed service with a specialist MSP is an alternative to address this challenge, although the local authority should do extensive due diligence on operational and cultural fit to ensure a successful partnership is formed.
The spending cuts and budget challenges within local authorities have been widely publicised over recent years, and these issues won’t ease due to a combination of housing needs, an aging population and heightened inflation costs. The knock-on effect for local authorities is compounded, as it makes it increasingly difficult to attract and retain high quality skills with private sector salaries typically higher than their public counterparts.
Consider: Aligned to the previous point, an effective managed service provider will alleviate a lot of pressure on the internal technical team and will be able to provide a cost model which significantly reduces the operational cost model.
As local authorities are effectively run through responding to information, the security and compliance controls relating to the data sources is of paramount importance. This is especially relevant to local authorities due to the vast quantity of personal data which they hold and manage. Ideally, all local authorities would have an experienced CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) managing their security, but since these skills are in high demand and are often cost prohibitive, maintaining a strong security posture is a significant challenge.
- Consider: Working with a services partner that provides a virtual CISO service and associated security management services. Allied to this, it’s vital the partner has the highest level of security credentials including a dedicated SOC and relevant ISO accreditations coupled with Cyber Essentials.
Node4’s Virtual CISO (VCISO) is a cost-effective way to ensure your business achieves its desired level of tailored cybersecurity protection.
Finally, pertinent to all the above points is the need for local authorities to modernise their environments and to reduce down the high number of systems sitting within private infrastructure. This is resulting in a drive towards public cloud platforms which is unwittingly amplifying the skills gap that often exists within local authority IT teams. The challenge is only increased due to these skill sets being in high demand across the industry, making it harder to find and retain relevant expertise.
- Consider: Working with a partner that has in-depth real-world experience in migrating systems to public cloud is beneficial but should start with a pragmatic assessment of which systems should move and which would be better remaining within private infrastructure. This will likely lead to a hybrid platform model, but will significantly ease systems management alongside future proofing the technology and service models that local authorities need to maintain.
These challenges exist within all businesses to varying degrees – crucially, they’re often amplified within local authorities due to budget and resource considerations.
Local authorities will almost certainly need to look to partnerships with specialist MSPs to help alleviate some of these pressures, meaning the key is then making sure the selected partners are able to deliver effectively, within an agreed framework and provide the right cultural fit for a successful partnership. If any of these points resonate with your organization and current IT planning, please contact us to discuss how we’re delivering these services today.