Agenda item

ICT and Digital Work Programme 2019-2022 Progress Update

To provide an update to Performance Monitoring Panel on the progress of the Council’s ICT and Digital Programme (report of the Portfolio Holder Corporate and Communications enclosed).

Minutes:

Following the Digital Work Programme update to the Performance Monitoring Panel on 18 March 2021, the Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Communications, the Programme Manager – Commercialisation, the Communications Manager and the Head of ICT and Digital (PSPS) attended to present an update on the ICT and Digital Work Programme and answer questions.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Communications gave a short introduction and confirmed that the programme had been signed off in 2019. The request by the Performance Monitoring Panel to review the work programme had been a useful exercise and the strategy would be reviewed further as part of his Portfolio Holder responsibilities.

 

Officers introduced the report and confirmed it had been written from a Programme and Project Management perspective, and included commentary which related to:

  • SHDC and PSPS staff resources. The officer noted that there had been a nine-month delay between the proposed start date and the achievement of agreed South Holland staff resources to undertake the work;
  • the Covid pandemic and associated response from both the South Holland resource and the shared strategic resource which had championed the programme of work;
  • the place-based resilience forum approach taken by Breckland District Council and South Holland District Council. The strategic working process became fully Breckland-focussed and had been place-based at Breckland;
  • an analytical report from South Holland’s perspective of the Programme and Project Management approach taken which reflected the separation of the strategic partnership with Breckland in 2021, which had not been anticipated at the outset.
  • a summary of financial information. The officer noted that the South Holland team had been seconded to the Digital team as part of the interim South Holland management’s formalised approach in response to the pandemic;
  • South Holland’s resourcing challenges: the digital skill set had not existed within the council and there had not been a post in South Holland’s establishment to fulfil project delivery or day to day functionality;
  • an exploration of what ‘digital’ meant to South Holland;
  • commentary on the impact of Covid;
  • an analysis of the programme’s delivery approach. A fully scoped programme of activity from SHDC, which included resources, had not been robust enough which had a negative impact on the programme;
  • The officer highlighted that sections 10.5 and 10.7 of the report had related to South Holland and not PSPS;
  • The report noted areas for consideration and reflection, such as section 10.11, which the Portfolio Holder needed to take forward.

 

Members considered the presentation and made the following comments:

  • the original programme had been drafted at a high strategic level without an accompanying detailed business case or scoping exercise which had negatively affected its delivery;
  • the complexity and resource requirements had not been fully appreciated at the outset;
  • Members expressed disappointment that allocated funds for the digital post had been inadequate, and in addition that the budget had been spent. Investigations were needed to understand why a monitoring process had not been in place. It was appreciated some achievements had been made and that the unforeseen impact of Covid had absorbed resources which had affected delivery of the programme.
    • Officers explained how resources and skills had been utilised during Covid and what had been delivered. This had included:
      • a work model which focussed on web trends, social media analytics and customer relationship management which informed customer need during the pandemic. communication with customers had switched from telephone-based enquiries towards web and social-based enquiries;
      • bespoke content which provided support to both customers and businesses including the distribution of Business Support/Discretionary grants;
      • project working with PSPS which had included website content; Goss updates; and the Northgate system;
      • commencement of the website accessibility programme;
      • improvements made to online contact forms.

 

  • Members queried whether the PSPS Non-Base Contract Costs within  Appendix A related to the member of staff supplied.
    • The officer confirmed that the non-contract spend related to recharge for the web developer.

 

  • Members acknowledged that the Digital Programme had produced some results and queried why reimbursement from central Government Covid funding had not taken place.
    • The officer confirmed that recovery of monies had taken place through the Covid scheme. There had been two elements of funding: the first stream ‘relieved cost pressures’ such as IT work carried out which enabled agile working; the second funding stream contributed to ‘costs above core budgets’ such as overtime paid to staff working in the Grants team. The funding had not been available to cover base costs which had already been allocated in council budgets.

 

  • Members had requested the expeditious reporting of issues when projects had encountered difficulties;
  • Members stated the council’s strategic ambitions relating to digital achievement needed to be transparent;
  • Members asked for clarification of the difference between what constituted digital content and infrastructure.
    • Officers responded that the digital aspect had been cloud hosted on the Goss platform and had linked back to infrastructure already hosted by PSPS, such as the Northgate system. The responsibility of content delivery belonged to respective service managers.

 

  •  It was stated that governance had been missing from the delivery process and needed to be included in future strategic projects;
    • The Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Communications responded that lessons had been learned. Some work had gone well and there had been an aim to improve. Outstanding work from the original strategy would be reviewed to ensure relevance. Governance would be integral to the process.

 

  • Members reiterated the importance of governance and expressed disappointment that comments from the Performance Monitoring Panel had apparently not been influential;
  • Members questioned whether service areas possessed the required expertise to deliver website content. Work had been required to improve the interaction with the general public.
    • The Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Communications confirmed that service areas were responsible for content whilst PSPS provided the infrastructure. It was also confirmed that comments from Scrutiny panels would be considered and that Portfolio Holders were accountable for their decisions.

 

  • Members asked whether resilience had been included in the strategy.
    • Officers replied that resilience had been considered. Mitigations had been in place which reduced the impact of network failure.

 

  • In conclusion, Members stated that a clear route forward for the ICT and Digital Work Programme was required and requested that a paper be prepared by the Council which detailed the following points:
    • a clear explanation of what ‘Digital’ means to the authority;
    • the human and digital resources required to deliver an ICT and Digital Work Programme;
    • the responsible person for the preparation of the paper and a specified timeframe;
    • how and by whom the programme would be delivered;
    • the project implementation timeframe;
    • how the needs and expectations of the authority would be managed during the interim period.

 

 

AGREED:

That the comments of the meeting be noted and taken forward.

 

 

 

 

Supporting documents: