What is the future for Public Sector Intranets

Public sector and in particular Local Government Intranets are in my view a bit of a strange thing really – they are supposed to support productivity, knowledge sharing, internal communications and staff engagement to name a few key areas, but most in my experience fail to do a single thing well.

I don’t think we need to ponder the reasons as i think they are pretty easy to point to: lack of dedicated funding – often diverted to the “priority” public website, lack of focus, lack of direction, lack of external review and benchmarking (no Better Connected report for inside the firewall), lack of interaction and a lack of culture around real collaboration (assumed not proven!).

So I asked myself what is the future for Public Sector Intranets?

I actually find this quite an interesting area to talk about – I know i need to get out more – but there is a convergence happening around corporate desktops and Intranets which has to be considered and recognised if organisations want to move forward. They aren’t the same but the capabilities of each do overlap, depending on how you define your intranet of course.

Then there is the IDeA’s Knowledge Hub Project which in my view offers huge opportunities – Any public sector body considering replacing or rebuilding there current intranet ought to at least find out more about this project as i believe it will transform the way the public sector collaborates and could in my view become a public sector intranet – It almost has to, if it wants to deliver some of the benefits it talks about. This model also becomes even more relevant considering the impending cuts across the sector and the drive to move shared services and a reduction in duplication. Intranets seem a likely if not obvious target in my opinion.

The future for intranets may in fact be that we no longer need them at all. If we are being driven to publish data online to service areas such as FOI, being encouraged to collaborate across the sector to reduce duplication and share best practice and learning, increase staff and employee productivity, work in partnership and across the public sector and ensure a skills transfer and knowledge base. Then how can any single public sector organisation justify or even consider developing there own – well at least until they can prove they need one on there own?

Whatever the future for Intranets, one thing I can say with certainty is that they can no longer continue being static, boring, un-engaging, repositories of out of date information.

Do you think there is a need for an organisation to have its own intranet?

What are people doing to save costs in ICT

I suspect many authorities are looking at how they can cut back on the costs of delivering ICT and i suspect that solutions like Google Apps, Open Office and Alfresco are likely to be quite high up on some peoples lists as viable alternatives.

The challenge however is to actually demonstrate that over the lifetime of the solution the costs are lower than your existing solution or upgrade path.

It isn’t as straight forward as simply saying we can reduce our costs by moving from Microsoft and MS Office to Google Apps, and others as we still have legacy systems that require a Microsoft environment or an element of the wider Microsoft suite to operate.

In local government we have some critical business applications that would fit into this bucket and we could only really start to make an impact on the suppliers if along with other local authorities we started to approach them collectively about developing an integration module for Open Office or Google Apps or whatever was required to allow a greater freedom and increased flexibility within our wider infrastructure. Over time of course we need to start buying software that truly adheres to open standards and are compliant with eGIF. (eGovernment Interoperability Framework). But that is a journey and will not happen over night.

We perhaps need organisations like Socitm to starting taking a more proactive lead in facilitating Public Sector Agencies to explore and help cost out the transition from one environment to another. I suspect this is a Consulting Service from Socitm, but it almost needs to be more widely available and in partnership across regions or types of council to start to offer value.

So what are you and your organisation doing to reduce costs in ICT?  I am keen to hear about stories and case studies from other organisations (public sector would be great) who have made radical changes in their infrastructure and realised cost savings and had positive feedback from within the business.