The Coalition Government recently published its long awaited ICT Strategy – with a clear focus on eliminating incompatible, ineffective and duplicate IT systems from the public sector.

The plans are clearly designed to challenge the increasingly flawed name that ICT has with the public, particularly the botched projects that have cost taxpayers more than £26bn in the last decade alone.  From now on it wants public sector ICT to be open - that is open to the public, open to businesses of any size and most controversially, open source. The ultimate aim is to procure and develop networks and systems on which “agile, personalised and responsive services” will be built to provide citizens with cost-effective public services.

So, where does your intranet fit into your ICT Strategy?  How can organisations with limited communications resources ease the path towards engagement, transformation and boosting efficiencies?

The government’s commitment to ending its “over reliance on expensive consultants, contractors and external recruitment” demonstrates that it sees the need to plug the knowledge and skills gaps across its workforce.  This presents an amazing career development opportunity for many public sector IT professionals but, as is so often the case, there is the risk that jobs will go where skill sets overlap.  Retaining and nurturing your best employees throughout this process is critical.

North East Derbyshire District CouncilA fantastic example of an intranet being used to facilitate change is from North East Derbyshire District Council which has faced budgets cuts of 30% and staff cuts of 15%in the last year alone.  At the same time the Council also formed a Strategic Alliance with a neighbouring council to share a Chief Executive and Senior Management Team. Together, these major changes meant that it had to be more open and communicative with its employees than ever before.

With a limited internal communications budget, NEDi – the Council’s intranet was seen as a low cost/high impact channel to better engage employees. NEDi is an intelligent, easy to use workspace that employees already use to quickly find critical information, locate expertise and collaborate with each other.

Using NEDi to give tips on dealing with stress, diet and healthy eating advice was seen as a way to improve customer service and make the Council an employer of choice. As well as being used as the traditional staff directory and news resource, NEDi also hosts staff surveys, rewards and recognition programmes and idea collections.

One recent survey revealed that 91% of around 600 employees use NEDi and find it useful to their daily work.  More importantly, the survey found a significant increase in the number of employees who enjoy their work and that the quality and reach of communication has improved. These numbers can be credited in part to true management buy-in, in fact the Chief Executive has his own section where he blogs regularly.

Chris Taylor, Communications & Marketing Manager at North East Derbyshire District Council explained how they also use their intranet to anonymously post frustrations they encounter to ensure they deliver speedy responses to any issues:

Recently someone posted a concern that staff hadn’t received an up-to-date timetable about the roll out of the Alliance. It was something that in the midst of all of the frantic comms activity, we had missed out.
We responded within 10 minutes and posted the information on-line – a great way for staff to raise concerns and for my team to be alerted to any gaps in information.”

We also use the intranet as a key resource for managers by using it to host a range of guides and information. This ranges from tips to run a great team meeting, to copies of the latest reports and templates to download, and links to things that can often by hard to lay your hands on e.g. links to the council’s strategic objectives and mission statement.”

North East Derbyshire District Council is using its intranet as a positive change agent during these disruptive times and believes that building the system around organisational and employee needs was critical to its success.