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Publication - Publication

Review of ICT Infrastructure in the Public Sector in Scotland

Published: 21 Jun 2011
Part of:
Public sector
ISBN:
978-1-78045-229

Report by John McClelland CBE on his review of ICT infrastructure in the public sector in Scotland.

58 page PDF

501.1kB

58 page PDF

501.1kB

Contents
Review of ICT Infrastructure in the Public Sector in Scotland
6 Current Landscape

58 page PDF

501.1kB

6 Current Landscape

Before discussing how to move towards the future vision described above it is clearly important that we have an understanding of where the public sector is currently positioned and also of the challenges that stand in the way of delivering that vision.

As is inevitable with a review of this nature views are formed and status identified through a sample of interviews, research and investigations. All efforts have been made to ensure that these activities are as representative as possible of the overall sector in Scotland or where appropriate groupings of organisations within the sector.

This part of the report assesses the degree of penetration of usage of this type of technology within the public sector. It also comments on the way in which investments in ICT are deployed and in particular if they are shared and coherent at a sector or national level.

My overall perception is that senior managers are fully aware of the benefits that ICT adoption brings to the operation of public bodies and are committed to ensuring it does play a significant part both in improving the effectiveness of and satisfaction with service delivery and also as an efficiency and productivity enabler in reducing costs across all operations within their own organisations. That commitment is matched by the realisation that although much progress has been made there is still much to be done.

My overall conclusion is that the public sector is well behind the private sector in the adoption and deployment of ICT and there is clearly some way still to travel to capture the vision described above. In some cases this is because adoption of core ICT support has been later than it could have been. In others the capability has been installed in the past and has been overtaken by new developments. In addition there are some areas of activity and potential activity that are still untouched by ICT.

However, if the existing exemplar projects, already consistent with the vision, were made prevalent across the whole public sector then much of the vision could be delivered.

In general conventional business processes such as payroll, finance and accounting, procurement and logistics are well covered by individual applications or enterprise-wide systems.

However, there are still important business processes and procedures within the public sector that await full automation and translation into a fully electronic state. And, in particular, there is much to be done in the way of adding online capability that as discussed earlier can both improve the quality of services and reduce cost.

At the same time it should be emphasised that in most parts of the public sector there are plans and strategies in place to move individual organisations forward in ICT adoption.

Within the sub-sectors there is some common usage of proven applications but even these applications are mostly installed and run separately by the individual organisations.

Therefore, there are significant and serious shortcomings in the way ICT is deployed. The prevalent model is one of "standalone self-sufficiency" and nearly all organisations have fully and professionally staffed information functions and most also their own data centres or data processing rooms. It is estimated that within the public sector in Scotland there are more than 120 of these. This approach not only sacrifices the opportunity to reduce expenses and capital spend of individual organisations through cross organisation sharing of ICT, it also makes capturing the further opportunity from the operation of other shared business processes highly unlikely. In fact many organisations see ICT as an inhibitor to sharing other internal processes and services rather than the supporting platform that it should be.

There is also very significant scope to make progress in providing to citizens and businesses public services that have been electronically enhanced by ICT and which can be accessed and interacted with online.

There is an unstructured and fragmented approach to the ICT industry and its suppliers and formal procurement function coverage of expenditure seems low.

There is also a deficit in the availability of ICT expenditure data and no central sector or national collection of value spent. There is a mechanism for collecting external procurement expenditure information although at the time of this review the latest 100% complete data set available was for 2008/9.

At a national level and in most sectors there is no overall ICT strategy, high level architecture or consistency of approach to design standards across the public sector.

There is also very little in the way of cross sector seamless provision, data sharing and transfer including in areas where it is most needed such as dealing with the elderly, the sick and other vulnerable groups.

Finally, although there is overall sensitivity to the issue of sustainable development, there was no strong impression that any negative contribution that ICT makes was fully characterised and understood particularly in the context of the proliferation of data centres or that positive opportunities were being fully recognised through the more progressive use of mobile and remote technology.

However, within this overall summary there are distinct differences across the major parts of the public sector.

Interaction with senior executives and other representatives of the local authority sector left a clear view that those in leadership were acutely aware of the substantial value that a sound information and communications technology strategy can bring to organisations.

I also sensed a strong commitment to using ICT not only to deliver savings within organisations but also to exercising its capabilities to improve the quality of access to local authority services.

However, there is general recognition that this sector is only part of the way through a transformational journey.

One of the exemplar initiatives being pursued is the Customer First Programme which has been developed, facilitated and has its overall governance supported by the Improvement Service. This project which has had Scottish Government financial backing involves councils pursuing a standard approach to customer-facing services. As well as targeting significant cost savings in its first few years of operation its goals also include the delivery of more convenient, responsive and higher quality public services. The promotion of online access is an essential part of the agenda.

The programme for National ICT Infrastructure incorporates the shared investment of a primary data processing location and all 32 councils have a network connection to this infrastructure and use at least one of the applications hosted there.

One of these is a "Citizen Account" concept which provides a secure environment for citizens to register for and have access to services. The Account creates a single online personal record that can be securely accessed and updated using online authentication thus allowing councils to maintain a definitive record for their citizens.

Another important project is "smartcard" which employs a shared card management system to support the national concessionary fares scheme and the Young Scot partnership card which allows access to school transport, libraries, cashless catering and leisure facilities. This National Entitlement Card is used by all 32 councils for concessionary travel and by a significant proportion of the 32 for leisure, libraries and school meals.

As an important foundation for the work of the Improvement Service is the understanding from a multi Scottish council benchmarking study that a single "face-to-face" transaction can cost up to £11.28 whereas an equivalent contact centre episode expends £6.35 yet a similar transaction online incurs just 46 pence of cost. This approach and these cost assumptions are reinforced by an external study that showed similar differentials between the different types of service transactions 1 .

This has been part of the motivation for councils in general to embark on programmes to transition their practices from traditional enquiry practices to the use of contact centres and then moving onwards to online electronic interaction. However, many councils are still at, or just moving to, the second phase and achievement of the ultimate goal of providing all access online to all services is some way from being a reality. However, in a Customer First Programme Report for 2009/10 it was shown that estimated savings from this transition project for the 5 years to 2009/10 were £27.4m from a sample of just 16 of the 32 councils thus confirming not only progress but outstanding future opportunity.

Therefore, savings have commenced and the potential of capturing efficiency improvements from this style of transformation at an individual council level is typified by Renfrewshire Council's programme to modernise customer services which is anticipated to save a recurring £10m by 2013/14.

Maintaining and improving customer and citizen satisfaction during this type of change is vital and North Lanarkshire's "Service and People First" initiative has demonstrated through surveys that residents in that council's area are satisfied that it is becoming easier to access services and that the quality of most services is improving.

Amongst leading exemplar initiatives described in more detail in the appendices to this report are projects such as the SMART homes initiative at West Lothian Council which brings technology into 3000 homes to radically change the community care of elderly people and the "textshire" service which allows residents to text about problems and faults to Aberdeenshire County Council.

Many councils are adopting technology to support remote and mobile working which offers many advantages including saving workspace and transportation costs and offering employees a more flexible way of working. It is also a trend that is good for sustainability and at Fife Council the QUAD pilot has deployed leading edge collaboration tools which allow remote staff to communicate as "virtual teams" and participate in "virtual meetings".

Although there is considerable momentum underway across local authorities it is important to recognise that most of this progress is still taking place at an individual organisation level as managements strive to improve their own ICT platforms and make savings in the cost of overall operations while at the same time engaging only in partial participation in shared ICT initiatives.

In addition to having many unique internal systems developments there has also been a fragmented and mostly unstructured approach to the use of standard applications and other technologies available in the market place.

For example 11 of the 32 councils have selected and separately installed and operated the same benefits application and 19 are using the same customer relations system. While in the area of environmental services and roads management six councils separately use the same provider's application. One single supplier has applications running in 28 of the 32 councils yet there is no coordinated approach to engagement with the supplier across this range of commercial activity.

One of the consequences of this approach and mode of deploying ICT is that each individual local council has its own standalone and largely "self-sufficient" ICT function and its own data processing centre nearly all of which are in-house.

With this approach it is inevitable that overall local authority staffing levels would appear to be high and it is estimated that there are 2400 employees within ICT functions. This staffing cost is a significant part of the estimated in-house operating cost of £200m per annum.

Adding external procurement cost of £325m (2008/9) indicates that that total local authority expenditure on ICT is in the region of £525m per annum.

While the Improvement Service, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives ( SOLACE) work consistently to coordinate sharing, the field of ICT is particularly challenging in that context. Specifically the absence of an oversight function or group is a major disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the issues of having a multiplicity of data centres, standalone ICT structures and fragmented unstructured procurement and this very low level of sharing and coordination is adding significant cost and inhibiting shared operations of other business processes.

That issue has been recently addressed by a consortium of local authorities in the Clyde Valley collaborating in an initiative aimed at optimising their combined operations across a number of activities common to all authorities. One of the workstreams is focused on shared services including ICT and the group has developed a business case which demonstrates that significant savings can be made in the coming years over five different business processes while recognising that shared ICT can also be a platform for sharing in the other four processes.

During my review I did not find within local authorities evidence of widespread outsourcing although there were some exceptions to this. One of the most notable of these is the major project undertaken at the City of Glasgow Council where a joint venture company between the Council and an external service provider performs a number of services including the provision of ICT support.

The health service compared to the public sector is somewhat more advanced than the public sector in general in its adoption and deployment of ICT for enabling internal processes and in areas of service delivery.

There is a strong track record of sharing ICT and other capability as evidenced by the existence of
8 special boards which support the 14 operational boards by providing central services and support. This avoids duplicated activities within individual boards.

There is a well-founded e-Health Strategy (2008-11) which incorporates a vision and lays out the challenges with a strategy and the actions required to move the use of ICT towards the vision.

NHSScotland has also established important principles for ICT adoption. They refer to how ICT solutions are obtained and recognise that in order of merit the preferred option should be firstly to "re-use" existing capability, the next alternative is to "buy" solutions externally and the last resort should be to "build" them internally.

The strategy and approach to ICT is developed and facilitated by the centrally based e-Health Division which plays a lead role in both progressing and monitoring implementation of national systems and also in investing in funding the establishment of standard specifications and common applications for development within the sector.

Another advantage for the NHS is the existence of a central services delivery organisation for ICT. The National Services Scotland ( NSS) Board is responsible for the hosting, support and management of a significant number of applications commonly used by all health boards. The same organisation also provides a central procurement service including coverage of some ICT spend.

These important activities and structures are further strengthened by an overarching system of governance. The ICT strategy and its implementation is overseen by the e-Health Strategy Board with a membership that includes the chief executives of some health boards and senior medical and clinical representatives.

As a result of new activities and prior investments the existing landscape within NHSScotland is populated with examples of good progress in the adoption and crucially the shared deployment of ICT solutions.

For example, there is a single core wide area networking capability with the entire sector in Scotland using the N3 broadband service.

There has also been as part of the national strategy a focus on a number of key initiatives across the sector.

One of these is a new Patient Management System ( PMS) which sponsored by the e-Health Division has been procured by a consortium of five separate health boards. This system was the subject of one single contract and is now installed in separate instances in each of these five boards. The investment in the PMS was £44m.

A similar type of central coordination was involved in replacing the existing single and centrally hosted GP system ( GPASS) with two more advanced alternative offerings, i.e. EMIS and VISION. The decision as to which of the two to select and install locally is made by the individual health boards and GPs will utilise the specific system being adopted by their own local board.

Work is progressing for a Clinical Portal. An incremental approach is being pursued in developing this portal which will provide a single online entry point through which various elements of information related to a single patient can be accessed by authorised users. Centrally sponsored within the e-Health Programme three separate consortia of health boards have been commissioned to examine options for delivering the Clinical Portal.

As indicated earlier the NSS organisation provides a central service for common applications. There are 26 separate applications centrally hosted and operated just once for the whole sector by NSS's outsourced service provider. The extent of this use of common applications together with their shared central deployment is unique within the public sector in Scotland and the list of applications includes many that provide support to 24x7 critical front-line services.

The health service is sensitive to the opportunities that special technologies offer, not only to reduce cost but also to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of services. This includes initiatives such as telemedicine and telehealthcare and the Telecare Development Programme is making a £16m investment that allows people to receive care in their own homes by using a range of technology and devices including sensors. Also the Picture Archiving Communication System which through the use of digital technology allows the transmission and storage of images benefiting patients through shorter waiting times for results of x-rays and scans.

Although it is clear that ICT is playing an important role in reducing costs and in delivering better quality services there is much progress still to be made in facilitating electronic online capability for patient access to and engagement in delivering services.

Also there is untapped potential in providing seamless systems to citizens and patients in areas of overlap and essential interlock between health boards and local authorities.

Despite the progress that has been made particularly in shared deployment the health service, in keeping with other parts of the public sector, is still structured in a way that means that each board has its own standalone ICT function including some local development and self-sufficient data processing facilities.

In this context there seems to be a need for reconciliation and then clarification of an agreed NHS approach on whether and when central hosting, regional or local hosting is the most appropriate approach. Related to this there also seems to be inconsistency in understanding as to whether single common applications or multiple choice alternatives offer best value.

It is estimated that there are at least 1700 ICT staff across the NHS in Scotland. The cost of this staffing together with other internal infrastructure costs would indicate that internal expenditure is around £135m per annum. If external procurement spend of £215m (2008/9) is included then total ICT annual spend for the sector would have been approximately £350m.

There are more than 100 major separate units within the domain of the "wider Scottish Government". This includes the integrated SG departments, Agencies and non-departmental public bodies ( NDPBs). Their interests and responsibilities vary from organisation to organisation.

Information Service and Information Systems Division ( ISIS) is the formal ICT services provider to the core Scottish Government departments and directorates and ten government agencies. It has its own in-house large-scale data centre which is not fully utilised and capacity and associated services are being offered to other organisations across the public sector.

ISIS staff includes the Scottish Government's Chief Technology Officer and the organisation also oversees a broadband network capability which is contracted with one of the large telecommunications providers.

In January 2009 it published internally a technology strategy which set out a five year plan for technical infrastructure.

The plan recommended use of thin client workstations, storage area networks, open source software, consolidation of servers and the use of more recent and emerging technologies such as video-telephony, voice over internet protocol and wireless capability.

The strategy emphasises the objective of centralising provision and management of services and the consolidation of hardware and expects this to reduce systems and support costs and provide data security at a lower cost.

ISIS also offers technical and other services to the wider Scottish Government organisations such as SCOTS, a fully managed and supported service that enables customers to access a set of desktop tools and other facilities including connection to the Government Secure Intranet. Other services include managed telephony, electronic records and document management and information assurance.

ISIS officers play key roles in representing Scotland in UK-wide groups and have been especially active in engaging and working on the UK Public Sector Network project which is part of a UKICT Strategy.

The ISIS organisation has scale and competence and its services are widely used especially by units within the core Scottish Government. However, some organisations including many NDPBs are not consistent users and adoption of ISIS as ICT provider is not their default mode.

A number of NDPBs have indicated that they are willing to receive additional services provided the cost of service demonstrates the value of sharing and an appropriate provider/customer model can be developed. Although NDPBs do not participate to a significant level in shared ICT services there are a few initiatives and one of these is where a consortium of NDPBs including Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise has engaged an external provider to supply and support a single core network and service platform. This project has significantly reduced ICT resources within the individual organisations and delivered significant cost savings and other bodies are likely to join.

There have also been important developments in the use of ICT to improve access to and the quality of services and Learning and Teaching Scotland has shown outstanding leadership in using ICT to support its mission through a quite exceptional development.

Glow was reputedly the world's first national schools intranet and provides a range of tools and resources for pupils and learning practitioners. A similar use if ICT is incorporated in SDS's new online service for careers guidance "My World of Work" which will support and enhance the current service level through ensuring that all interested in learning and work can engage interactively in planning their careers and potential next steps to understand and improve their prospects.

Also Visit Scotland in supporting the tourist industry is planning to deploy a new "open platform" website which will connect with millions of internet users across the world so they can engage with Scotland's 26,000 tourism businesses.

However, despite the existence and use of ISIS and other sharing initiatives the trend is still for organisations to have their own "self-sufficient" ICT functions.

As indicated earlier the Scottish Government and its associated bodies have widely varying responsibilities and work content so the pattern of proportions of income spent on ICT also vary widely from organisation to organisation.

However, overall, it is estimated that the wider Scottish Government has an annual spend in the region of £280m per annum 2 including an external spend of £185m (2008/9).

Although universities and colleges in Scotland are autonomous bodies the majority of their funding comes from the public purse and the arrangements in place with the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) include a requirement to demonstrate best value. In any case institutions and their representative bodies embrace that principle and have worked to pursue and demonstrate their commitment to it.

For many years the university sector in the UK including Scotland's universities have participated in central ICT offerings provided by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and its associated organisation Janet. Funded by government and through the various UK funding bodies Janet is an association which manages the operation and development of a network linking the UK's educational and research organisations. It was used by all of Scotland's universities and also now its colleges so that for broadband there is a shared service approach.

The total investment by the Scottish Funding Council in the JISC/Janet structures was £8.6m in 2007/8 and £6.1m in 2008/9.

Other sharing initiatives include adoption of the UK-wide Universities and Colleges Admission Service ( UCAS) system which deals with learner applications for places to study at higher education institutions.

The adoption of ICT solutions and their use as internal productivity tools is generally quite advanced and ICT is also used in electronic-based learning such as "virtual learning environments" which include a range of different applications and technologies.

However, although there are some progressive initiatives, such as at University of the Highlands and Islands ( UHI), there is still the opportunity to use technologies more extensively in addressing the need to deliver a better and wider offering of further and higher education provision in remote and rural areas in Scotland.

In the area of business systems all colleges and universities have a modern application for financial processing and although generally procured and operated separately there is some commonality in the usage of standard applications.

A recent survey showed that 15 colleges used the same procured package and the next most frequently used application featured in 10 colleges. Also across 17 of the Higher Education Institutions there were only 4 different standard applications in use.

However, despite this commonality in selection of applications the situation in the further and higher education sectors is similar to others in that nearly all institutions have their own dedicated ICT support and data processing facilities and less than a third of the institutions had at least one shared service.

In recognition of the opportunity to improve this status the SFC has provided in financial support to a project developed by the Higher Education Information Directors Scotland ( HEIDS). This is studying the feasibility of opportunities for shared ICT services.

Recent mergers involving nine separate colleges and universities have included in their business cases recognition that sharing ICT services can offer benefits including important financial savings.

It is estimated that total annual ICT spend by universities and colleges is around £150m including more than £100m (2008/9) of external procurement spend.

Scotland's Police Forces have already progressed along the shared services route. In 2007 the Scottish Police Services Authority ( SPSA) was established. This unit combined the support resources from the eight regional forces into a shared services organisation of 1600 staff with a current budget of around £100m 3 . The services it provides ranges from forensic capability and related resources through to ICT support to the eight forces.

The sharing of ICT services is a key priority and since formation the SPSA has saved an important proportion of its peak ICT resources.

At the Scottish Fire Service there is a sound policy of ICT adoption. There is also a "virtual" central procurement organisation within which a selected lead authority focuses on specific categories of spend on behalf of all the others. ICT is one of these categories. While individual Fire services are not opposed to sharing there are at present no major projects in the area of shared ICT.

It is estimated that the overall annual spend on ICT by the two services is approximately £95m including external procurement spend of £50m (2008/9).


Contact

Email: ceu@gov.scot