Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Strategic Transformational Change in view

This afternoon I was invited to attend a meeting in County Hall presenting the new Strategic Transformational Change programme. This initative proposes a new way of working between the public and private and voluntary sectors that manages the procurement of all kinds of public services in order ensure best value through competitive tendering for good and services. It's a complex idea to grasp. Local Government and big public service bodies, hospitals and emergency services, for instance, serve the public on so many different fronts - land, buildings, roads, social services, leisure, education, social services. All have evolved in different ways in managing their own assets, and any grand overview will spot areas of duplication - use of road vehicles is one instance. Different bodies have vehicles that are not in use constantly, some spend a lot of time parked and idle, when they could be time shared with other organisations.

The use of state of the art information technology can assist in managment of highly complex administration. We've seen this well deployed in the re-construction work in the city centre, and the efficient way new shops get fitted out and readied for opening while everything else around continues as usual, without getting in the way. Getting whole sections of large organisations to change their way of working and enter into new working agreements with others is an immense challenge, entailing a complete change of work culture and an end to the self-contained 'silo' mentality often identified as an obstacle to change in big organisations with many departments.

The process starts with the Council doing a deal with the Indian Tata Corporation to manage all its I.T. services. Tata not only does steel, cars, investment etc, it has its own stake in the world of computers, with a huge consultancy business. Council I.T. is not being 'outsourced' to India, but Tata's I.T. experts will become part of the City's home team, and assist local experts to develop new administrative systems in situ, if I understand things correctly. Most contracts for services and supplies run on a three year basis, but this deal is set to run for up up fifteen years, with built in reviews en route. This gives an idea of how long it is expected to take to bring about change on this scale, that will touch upon all the Council's communications and information infrastructure. There's a lot more at stake here than changing hardware and updating software. It's about a re-design of ways of working with far reaching effects and cost benefits.

I just hope that a piece of recent research published on the use of computers in American hospitals will be taken into account

The name of the programme is deliberately a bit way out, one might say pretentious. Rolling out a programme that is destined to span decades that will inevitably include changes of political leadership is ambitious to say the least. To have obtained sufficient cross party support to get this far is quite something. No doubt, when it comes to change, the devil will be in the detail - as we have discovered at St John's in attempting to achieve a transformation of the building that moves beyond making it all shiny clean and bright, to opening up the West entrance in ways that will make it safer and more visitor friendly. Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? A. Change? What change?

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