No company or institution can avoid digitisation. That includes municipalities. Most citizens want to have everything available digitally so they don’t need to visit the town hall in person. That is time-consuming and inefficient, whereas things could be so much easier. We are now used to dealing with all kinds of things digitally which would have previously required a visit to an office. For example, it is easy to open a bank account online or arrange a mortgage via Skype. We would also prefer to handle many municipal affairs online, but various facilities are required for this.
In the Digitale Agenda 2020 (Digital Diary 2020) as drawn up by KING (now VNG Realisatie), three ambitions are defined: ‘Open en Transparant in de Participatiesamenleving’ (Open and Transparant in the Participation Society), ‘Werken als één efficiënte Overheid’ (Working as one efficient government) and ‘Massaal Digitaal, Maatwerk Lokaal’’ (Widespread Digital, Tailored Local). A municipality that achieves these ambitions gives residents and businesses control over their own data, has an accelerating infrastructure and cooperates effectively with implementation partners in the chain.
One of the key points in the ambition ‘Massaal Digitaal, Maatwerk Lokaal’’ (Widespread Digital, Tailored Local) is a robust, secure and efficient information infrastructure. That is the foundation for the provision of digital services. It is almost impossible for a municipality to tackle the digitisation process independently. It requires a focus on the core activities, which in turn requires activities that do not belong to the core to be carried out differently. One example is ICT, the leading facilitator of digitisation. However, a municipality is not an ICT company. An ICT infrastructure is essential, but this has now become so specialised that municipalities are no longer able to keep up. In that case, outsourcing is a realistic option.
Saving costs or accelerating digitisation
When considering outsourcing, a number of questions immediately arise. As a municipality, do we want to save costs or improve quality? Do we want to accelerate digitisation or do we want fewer concerns about day-to-day ICT operations? It is often a combination of various elements, but they are sometimes incompatible. For example, saving costs and improving quality. Accelerating and simultaneously maintaining an existing ICT infrastructure are also incompatible. That is why determining the journey from A (what do we have now?) to B (where do we want to go?) is so important when outsourcing.
When outsourcing, a municipality largely determines for itself which targets it will set and which strategy it will follow. The question of which services will be outsourced comes later. What are we able or willing to retain from the current situation, and which new functionality is necessary in order to accelerate? To what extent can you outsource, and which roles will then cease to exist? How do we ensure that the IT system is continuously protected in accordance with the latest standards and frameworks? Fortunately, there are standards, norms and frameworks, such as the Gemeentelijke Inkoopvoorwaarden (Municipal Purchase Conditions, GIBIT) and a software catalogue, but the questions and implications extend further than the technology alone. The current ICT employees have knowledge and experience of the municipal organisation and must be guided in their personal development in a changing environment. Outsourcing ICT can increase and improve their field of activity, provided that the organisation of ICT with a clear description of duties, roles and responsibilities is included in the outsourcing process.
Outsourcing and maintaining control
Fully committing to digitisation requires a clear vision of the future and a firm foundation. Automating municipal processes increases dependence on ICT, while ICT is becoming increasingly difficult to control. Is the robust, secure and efficient information infrastructure referred to above actually feasible? With an increasing number of links in the ICT chain and ever-changing applications and technologies, that is a major challenge. If municipalities want to change from first gear to second or third gear with ICT outsourcing, they need to feel confident behind the wheel. They also need a reliable co-pilot.
Would you like further information or do you have questions or comments in response to this blog?
Please contact Rob van Ewijck, Business Development Manager at Solvinity or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read also our blogs about digital transitions of municipalities and how municipalities can maintain control of ICT, the importance of control for digital municipalities, how ICT outsourcing affects people and how municipalities can deal with this and how municipalities can make their digital strategy future-proof.