Cloud? Why not, says Lambeth council

Hand with cloud floating above it raining different currencies
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The public sector, and local authorities in particular, have generally been accused of being IT and change laggards who refuse to embrace what modern technologies can offer.

Not so the London Borough of Lambeth. It’s current mantra is “Why not the cloud” when it comes to any tech implementation, according to Hamant Bharadia, assistant director of strategic finance at Lambeth.

And the council has saved at least £4.5m per year and enjoyed many other benefits as a result of this fresh thinking.

Its existing technology contract was due to end in July this year and that was a key driver for change - change the council set out to form a plan for two years earlier back in 2016.

“It was very clear that as an organisation we needed to do something different, something radical,” Bharadia said, adding that the transformation efforts formed part of a wider change dubbed ‘Future Lambeth.

Future Lambeth being the public facing element and ‘My Lambeth’ being an internal focus on staff, self-service, agility and productivity.

Another driving factor was the budgetary constraints currently looming over local authorities, with many having their spend options drastically cut. In Lambeth’s case, this was a sting of somewhere in the region of 50%.

“We don’t see that changing at all,” Bharadia said, which is another reason the council has tried to make savings. That £4.5m, for example, is being ploughed back into the service side to help ensure the council can still deliver on citizen expectations for 24/7 operation.

With some 320,000 people living in the area, it was important for Lambeth to provide them with a range of options on how they interact with the council as well as ensuring the relevant associated tools and technologies were their for employees to meet those varying expectations.

One aspect of the changes required to get from vision to reality was physical, with the council looking to consolidate the number of buildings it used. It was spread out across 14 buildings - some of which were houses initially designed for residential purposes - and wanted to streamline this to just two for a number of reasons.

Those two buildings are the Civic Centre and Town Hall, which act as hubs for employees who have embraced agile working, with most working on average two days a week for home.

With staff being able to work from anyway, the right technology infrastructure, tools and services became paramount, Bharadia said.

This is where Oracle Cloud acts as a backbone, with other elements such as Microsft Office 365 and Skype playing an important but supporting role.

Leave scheduling is managed using Oracle and 1:1 meetings are recorded and stored as threads for ease of reference, for example.

“It’s also about space. Servers take up room. These are things you can store and secure in the cloud,” Bharadia said, adding that printing has now been centralised too ensuring financial and energy savings in the process.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.