6 November 2018

This is how a digital municipality maintains control of ICT

More and more municipalities are considering outsourcing their IT activities to external specialists. New technologies offer attractive new possibilities but also require knowledge and experience that existing teams are often unable to provide. As a result, small and medium-sized municipalities in particular struggle to implement these changes smoothly.

Digitisation presents municipalities with a challenge. The central government is trying to encourage local governments to undergo digital transformations. Unfortunately, the executive authorities remain unimpressed. State Secretary Knops of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) declared earlier this year that the government programme Digitaal 2017 has been ‘effective and efficacious’. However, in a recent study by I&O Research commissioned by Binnenlands Bestuur, over three quarters of officials indicate that the programme has only partially lived up to its promise. The reasons given by the officials are that digitisation is becoming ever more difficult because of the changing legislation and that existing agreements with ICT suppliers make transformations more complex rather than easier. They also mentioned a lack of control, a lack of guidance, too little knowledge and insufficient willingness to change.

The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) offers help in many forms. Initiatives such as Common GroundGIBIT (Gemeentelijke Inkoopvoorwaarden bij IT, Municipal Purchasing Conditions for IT), GGI (Gemeentelijke Gemeenschappelijke Infrastructuur, Municipal Common Infrastructure), GDI (Generieke Digitale Infrastructuur, Generic Digital Infrastructure), GGU (Gezamenlijke Gemeentelijke Uitvoering, Collective Municipal Implementation) and the GEMMA (Gemeentelijke Model Architectuur, Municipal Model Architecture) have been designed to organise the municipal digital landscape. Support from external parties is also required, if only because new technology requires knowledge and experience that is not only specialistic but also scarce. The most important question is how do you outsource in such a way that you, as a municipality, remain in control. How can you continue to deliver the service that is expected of you when you are no longer in control of everything?

“In a situation in which IT is increasingly outsourced, the ideal partner operates as an extension of the company.”

Stay flexible

Many organisations tend to confuse control with strict agreements about processes and procedures laid down in watertight SLAs. Of course, it is important to establish good and clear agreements, but this in itself is not enough. Rules can cause the human dimension to be forced into the background – such as insurances that, when push comes to shove, rely on the rules to avoid helping you. Or ICT service providers that are in practice an obstacle rather than a driving force for innovation.

That is why, at Solvinity, we find it important to organise our services in such a way that on the one hand our mutual expectations are very clear, and on the other hand there is still room for flexibility to respond to situations (such as changing legislation and regulations) that are not always predictable. We work with customer teams, which means that our customers work with a fixed group of people who develop in line with the municipality. This way, our people forge personal ties with the internal IT team and get to know the organisation through and through. In urgent cases, the best way to get help quickly and effectively is to contact the own customer team directly.

Maintain an overview

Another condition for the successful outsourcing of IT activities is to give our customers the greatest possible insight into and overview of the outsourced activities. We attach so much value to this that, thanks to our cooperation, many customers have a greater insight into their business architecture than they did before, and we are constantly working on methods to improve this insight even further.

This also means that we pay considerable attention to Service Integration. One of the consequences of the emergence of new technologies such as Cloud is that a growing number of services and applications are purchased from different suppliers ‘as a service’. This has great advantages, but it also makes it difficult to maintain control. Solvinity makes sure that all of these services work together optimally and are managed centrally. This leads to a better user experience and prevents security issues and unnecessary costs. Solvinity even groups all of these services in one invoice via CloudBilling.

Continue to communicate

IT never revolves purely around the technology; it exists to support an objective. A good IT retained organisation harmonises the IT possibilities (the supply side) with the wishes of the officials (the demand side). In order to work effectively, a retained organisation should preferably be compact and familiar with the latest ICT developments, as well as with the set objectives of the municipality and the wishes and requirements of the central government and other bodies. The digital government, legislation and regulations such as the GDPR and initiatives from bodies such as the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) – it takes quite a bit of effort to make sure all this runs smoothly. It helps if, through outsourcing, IT can devote less time to maintenance, management and security and can focus more on governance and strategy. 

Even so, in our view an external party to which IT is outsourced must always be aware of the strategy and organisation structure of a municipality, and must therefore always be in close contact with the IT retained organisation at the municipality. Short-term technological choices potentially have great consequences for future possibilities and limitations.

A strictly controlled and future-proof IT environment is only formed if all parties involved communicate well about what a municipality wants to achieve, how the organisation operates, which services the municipality offers its citizens and employees now and which services it wants to offer them in the future. That means that, as a supplier, we report regularly and clearly about what we do, but we also continue to consult with our partners to ensure that our efforts continue to meet the plans and expectations of the municipality.

Maintaining control in a situation in which IT is increasingly outsourced calls for firm and clear agreements but also for flexibility, overview and communication. The ideal partner operates as an extension of the company. Solvinity actively participates in discussions about essential issues but also provides all the tools needed by a municipality to maintain control over an IT environment that is increasingly developing outside the organisation.

If you have any questions or comments in response to this blog, or if you would like to know what Solvinity can do for your municipality, please contact  our Business Manager Anil Ozdemir (06-82119991 / anil.ozdemir@solvinity.com).

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