The purpose of this report is to update
Members on the SMBC and SCH Digital Strategy 2022-2027.
The report before the Scrutiny Board provided an update for Members on the SMBC and SCH Digital Strategy 2022-2027. The Assistant Director, Business Systems introduced the report.
Members were informed that the Council’s Digital Strategy was reviewed annually, with a major refresh/re-write being undertaken every 5 years. The Digital Strategy established the Council’s digital vision as well as detailing its support for and relationship with other Council strategies. The Digital Strategy adopted a high-level view leading to a Digital Strategy road map for the duration of the five-year Strategy. The input and comments received from the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board in 2021 had been considered and reflected in the current Strategy before the Scrutiny Board.
The current Digital Strategy placed emphasis towards the Council’s staff and skills programmes, leading to a wider embrace and use of digital technology available to employees. The Council’s Digital Strategy also aligned with national Best Practice.
The new Digital Strategy had led to an improved integration between digital standards and governance arrangements across the Council. Future plans for the Digital Strategy included placing an emphasis on the key themes of supporting improved data capture and management and the use of performance information leading to improved Council services. Improved collaboration with partners had also been identified as an area to explore further, for example with SCH and NHS partners. The Digital Strategy was seen as the means to deliver improved operational efficiencies, facilitating skills and training programmes, supporting inclusive social and public engagement with customers, the general public, businesses and residents. It was also recognised that digital provision / use was improving choices for people, rather than being presented as the only channel available to the Council’s customers.
Having received the report introduction from the Assistant Director, Business Systems, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised several questions related to the report, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor Gibbins queried whether digital security for residents could be reflected within the Digital Strategy e.g. in respect of on-line/digital frauds and scamming targeting the general public and residents.
The Assistant Director, Business Systems confirmed that further emphasis could be added to the Digital Strategy in terms of what activities were already taking place to counter cyber fraud; for example, the joint working taking place between the Council and Trading Standards.
Councillor Parker noted that with the Council’s hybrid working arrangements now established, continuous employee training and greater degrees of accessibility to IT support was required to support the on-going development of the Council’s employee skills sets. Councillor Parker sought confirmation that such a programme would be put in place.
The Assistant Director, Business Systems agreed that through hybrid working arrangements and increased working from home, the volume of help desk calls had increased. The introduction of the Smarter Ways of Working (SWoW) Programme had witnessed more ICT Support Officers assigned to the Council IT Help Desk.
In terms of supporting the acquisition of digital skill sets, Members were advised that there was an existing hierarchy, entailing the Digital Programme Board and Digital Champions Group, both of which reviewed skills requirements and continuous training programmes. Consequently, the feedback from both these groups had fed into the new Council Digital Strategy 2022/27.
Councillor Adeyemo questioned whether the Council had plans to move towards a ‘One Stop Shop’ arrangement for residents to log on to access Council services and whether this would be an area the Digital Strategy would continue to address.
The Assistant Director, Business Systems confirmed that the Council vision was for a One Stop Shop arrangement to be put in place. This would entail addressing system access / user log on arrangements for residents to access an extensive range of Council services across a significant number of different ICT systems and functions, all of which would require alignment. Also, there was some constraint in delivery in the form of available budget, people and priorities; for example, implementation of Oracle cloud, Liquid Logic and the Microsoft 365 Office Suite via the council’s digital programme. All newly implemented systems require a supporting business case with funding then being allocated accordingly to support a business and service led approach.
Councillor Allen queried what alternative options to digital were available for residents. Members were advised that residents had the option of continuing to communicate with the Council through the Contact Centre via telephone, or to visit Council premises in person.
Councillor Moses supported greater emphasis within the Digital Strategy around cyber protection, with the possible inclusion of user guidance addressing cyber security. The Assistant Director, Business Systems acknowledged Councillor Moses suggestion and advised that this area would be taken on board in further detail.
Having considered the report, the Resources and Delivering Value Scrutiny Board:
(i) To note the changes made from the previous Digital Strategy 2017-2022; and,
(ii) Agreed to support the key digital priorities for implementation.