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Norfolk County Council Sees the Light of Information Management

In early December, Norfolk County Council and HP Enterprise Services announced a £26m, five-year contract to develop a cloud-based information hub for service integration and multi-agency collaboration in Norfolk. The ambitions go beyond the information hub with NCC having seen the light of good information management for achieving lasting operational efficiencies in the face of continuing budget cuts. NCC is aiming to reach a state where multiple agencies in Norfolk, e.g. NHS, Police, Fire and the council, can share information to get that all important single view of the citizen, to support the delivery of joined-up services. The focus is on preventing problems rather than fixing them; this is particularly important to care for vulnerable citizens such as children and troubled families.

The program of change, called Digital Norfolk Ambition (DNA), involves a partnership with HP ES, the lead supplier, Vodafone and Microsoft. Overall objectives include:

  • Building an information management service model to generate a net saving of £10.7m over a five year period from 2014/15 to 2018/19
  • Providing for an additional investment in the establishment of an information management service of  >£6m over 2018/19
  • Implementing a high bandwidth networking service to provide access to the internet and cloud
  • Developing the Norfolk Information Center to allow the collation, sharing and linking of data
  • Transformation of  IT to support the above model through cloud computing, and other measures such as a desktop service that provides choice of device (tablet, laptop etc) and modern collaboration and office tool.

While NCC has had a people first strategy, its information management capabilities have been limited to its own and not always integrated due to difficulties in integrating data from multiple-systems and legacy applications.Today those problems are being tackled from different directions. Tom Baker, the council’s CIO, is working on an information management architecture for the entire county, one that works across the organization as well as with partners' capabilities. Key components of the architecture include:

  • Records management (HP’s)
  • Search and big data capabilities through Autonomy IDOL
  • Data integration and analytics through HP Vertica
  • Master data management using Visionware
  • Federated identity and access management (IDAM).

Another approach involves process integration with data audits and modelling currently underway.

The geographical boundaries of different types of services, such as NHS, Fire, etc. are aligned reasonably well to the boundaries of Norfolk. Tom Baker believes this alignment will boost attempts to join-up service delivery among local agencies when the information sharing capabilities are put into place.

The partnership with HP ES and its partners Vodafone and Microsoft is aiming to try and do things differently. Some joined-up activity exists around an educational support portal where NCC provides single sign on for 20k users. HP ES will be implementing the transformation to cloud, using its data centers and government cloud. It will be bringing information management expertise to the table and its experience of working with the DWP and MoJ, government departments contribute lots of  funding to Norfolks' social care and justice budgets. Vodafone will be delivering networking for mobile environments, and Microsoft its Windows 8.1 and Office365 software.

Longer term objectives include:

  • Innovation in data management to enable Norfolk to become a five star open data council, targeting a £5m research grant for data innovation through a partnership with local universities of East Anglia and Essex
  • Helping its towns benefit from smarter city technologies.

HP is contributing to these objectives by funding a degree course in information and management analytics at the University of East Anglia, to train the workforce of the future. HP ES has been intending to diversify from central government in the U.K. This contract award, to support a major local government change programme, gives it a high profile reference client. The award also supports HP's stated goal of targeting new style of IT opportunities. 

NCC has recognized that continuous budget cuts require long-lasting change. It has opted for vastly improved information management and sharing to reduce duplicated effort and increase productivity. We have anticipated this kind of program of fundamental change by local authorities for some time. When it came to cuts in response to the governemnt's auterity agenda, many councils went for low hanging fruit such as service and headcount reductions.

NCC will face challenges in implementing this complex program of change. Typical challenges for programs of this nature include getting all stakeholders to deliver their part of the bargain, and instilling a culture that values accurate and reliable information. NCC seems to have gained consensus among stakeholders and there is the potential for additional funding to help push the agenda for change.

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