Agenda item

Update on the Council's Digital Strategy

The purpose of this report is to update Members on our progress with the Council’s Digital Strategy and the impact of Covid-19 upon the implementation of the Strategy.


The Assistant Director (Business Systems) presented the report.


Members were reminded that the last Digital Strategy Update report was received by the Scrutiny Board in September 2018 and were requested to review project progress and to support the key priorities post Covid-19 implementation.


  The Digital Strategy was based around 3 specific developmental areas:


1.  The Digital Citizen


2.  The Digital Organisation (internal)


3.  Digital Solihull (business practice)


The project had been successful in delivering a number of key project 

Milestones against the above areas to date, including:


-  Website Re-Design: Close to completion. The re-design will  facilitate access to more timely and accurate information for the benefit of residents, with additional focus on access from tablets and mobile telephones, which will provide an improved customer experience via mobile technology platforms.


-  Northgate e-Revenues Project (Benefits System): A project soft launch was initiated in November 2019. The system facilitates online payments. Covid-19 has had a marginal impact on the project. The system facilitates the production of Non-Domestic Rates Bills and allows the public to view council tax and benefit statements and view payments made.  Information is also layered via GIS maps, rather than using lists and additional functionality has been introduced for the recycling booking system.  Work is on-going to introduce a single sign-on for customers across multiple systems.


-  Liquid Logic / Oracle Reports: Major developments have been taken forward in this area via the Digital Strategy.


-  Microsoft Office 365: Involves 7 projects designed to embed Microsoft Office 365 across the organisation. From an initial 200 users working from home pre-Covid, there are now 1,600 users  working from home. The challenge going forward was to accelerate the MO365 project delivery to facilitate more video conferencing  and provision of related tools to support home working.  Additionally, 600 laptops had been supplied for vulnerable children residing in the borough, for which the Council had received positive feedback from the families concerned.


-  Digital Community / Solihull: Is a 5G project and entails provision of an improved fibre network. 


-  Sprint System:  The implemented Sprint System is a project methodology which requires a number of weeks of concentrated effort and resource to implement a project to conclusion. It has proved to be very successful for delivering key projects. 


Having considered the report and presentation, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised a series of questions, which in summary included the following:

Members queried whether the replacement of Citrix could take place earlier than programmed in 2023 and were advised that Citrix would be in place up to 2023 in order to retain stability during the transition period for phasing in Microsoft Office 365.  During this period, the ‘Bring Your Own’ (device) policy will eventually be revoked.


In response to a Member querying whether the Planning Portal would also be subject to re-design to improve navigability and the customer experience, the Scrutiny Board was informed that there were no plans to replace the current Planning Portal platform.  It will, however, continue to be refined and updated as required.  The Assistant Director (Business Systems) assured the Scrutiny Board that he would follow up the concerns raised about the Portal.


A Member queried whether the Council’s approach to reducing barriers to digital inclusion would also recognise and give consideration to those who were not currently equipped to engage or transact through digital platforms.  The Scrutiny Board was advised that the Council always recognised the requirement to support those residents that did not want to access services via digital channels. 


Further to the above, the Digital Strategy continues to address functionality of the Council website.  The Council has engaged with customers to improve the website as a platform. Over 300 customers responded to a Council survey addressing the website’s functionality..  The new Council website will meet the AAA accessibility standard.



Having considered the report, the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board:




(i)  To note the progress made in delivering the Digital Strategy and to continue to support the key post Covid -19 priorities for implementation; and,


(ii)  To include in the Scrutiny Board’s 2020/21 annual Work Programme a report addressing how the Council through the Digital Strategy will continue to support those residents who do not wish to access services through digital channels.


Supporting documents: