Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Aberdeen City Council (ACC)-Digital Strategy

In November last year I contacted ACC and asked if there was a digital strategy.  I was told there was one in preparation and in a subsequent email in February 2016 I was told that the aim was to present the strategy to council in March 2016.  Well here we are in September and the strategy is in draft, for the meeting of the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee on the 20th September.

So here is my review of the strategy ( p243-p266 ).

First the bottom line, the strategy will deliver a saving per annum of 5M pounds  on a total spend of 4.5M pounds.  This is in line with other projects:

"Bristol’s digital roadmap includes many more ways of enabling meaningful citizen engagement,including facilitating collaboration between citizens themselves. The council has also achieved“staggering” business results. £3.5m was spent implementing their new digital platform, and the organisation has already saved over £60m. Significant cost savings, exceptional customer experience, and better customer insight can all go hand in hand." (Liferay 2016)

The strategy does not really mention shared services but I believe there are moves to collaborate across councils and other services on  digital transformation.( eduserv report ).

The report does not mention use of open source software where appropriate, which is a big omission.

There is little talk of process optimisation before any technology gets applied although the "emergent plan" does mention business process automation.  It is common knowledge that the process needs to be sorted before the technology is applied:
"Digital Transformation is the process of re-thinking a business model or processes in light of the availability of digital technology in order to meet ever-changing market demands. Such transformation requires coordination across the entire organisation since it applies new technologies to fundamentally change the way business is done, and it most certainly requires a strategy in place to achieve it." (Liferay 2016)

I would like to see a commitment, in the strategy, to creating local jobs for Aberdeen by encouraging local technology companies to get involved in the digital transformation, rather than buy in expertise from major US technology companies.

Nothing is made in the strategy of how mapping the business processes and opening up the council's data can engage citizens and improve local democracy and governance.

Apart from the above, the strategy is a welcome step in the right direction and if the "walk" is as good as the "talk" Aberdeen will catch up with councils such as Bristol and Camden.