01 Dec Suffolk County Council Legal Services Corporate Shared Service
Using Web-based Case Management to Underpin Service Innovation
The Suffolk Authorities Legal Project is one of the first examples of shared local government corporate services nationally with full participation and support from the County Council and all Districts. It is a unique and innovative project, set up with the aim of facilitating efficient and effective use of legal expertise and capacity between councils.
Using Tricostar’s web based case management system (TCM) to provide the technology “underpinning” for this Project it has established a virtual team working between Suffolk County Council and its 7 District Authority’s legal departments. This system allows each authority’s legal department to retain, securely, its own case files but also where necessary share files across the 8 authorities along with key workflows, documents and best practice. This has increased capacity, reduced risk and built resilience with consequent savings in the use of external support.
At a time when much is made of “big bang” approaches to shared services, the project has demonstrated the advantages of an incremental approach to transformation. It has embedded an openness to change at all levels and enabled exploration of opportunities for extension and expansion as they have arisen, while remaining focused on clients and excellence in delivery.
As part of Government’s “Doing Business Better” project it has delivered notable achievements in a short time frame, including winning the Public Finance / Cipfa ‘Shared Services’ award, October 2007.
The ‘virtual team’ shared service model has attracted both regional and national interest in the local authority community. Led by a jointly recruited project manager from outside the participants’ organisations and progressed using a project framework, significant steps have been made in measuring efficiency and effectiveness this successful project has achieved all its milestones, many ahead of time.
This web model has demonstrated service innovation by:
1. Establishing ‘Suffolk Legal Interactive’ a secure interactive web portal service for use by all in-house teams, allowing precedents and briefings to be shared and facilitating flexible working.
2. Promoting ‘Suffolk Sourcing’ between authorities as a way of optimising use of expertise and managing workflows in the future.
3. Coordinating monitoring officer activities across the county to harmonise local governance and probity arrangements.
4. Achieving savings in the procurement of goods and services by maximising the buying power of a virtual team of 95 staff; for example the joint purchase of a customer relations management system and on-line law libraries.
Productivity and Effectiveness
Productivity and greater effectiveness has been achieved in 3 key areas;
1. The Alignment of Time Recording though the Case Management System by:
- Harmonising IT systems providing comparable measures of business inputs and costs based on ‘real time’ recording.
- Providing better management information and costs information for client departments and customers.
- Simplifying measurement and logging of efficiencies and savings.
2. Rolling out the web based Tricostar Case Management System based on Sage CRM providing:
- Web accessibility and the ability to apply process improvement to workflows which reduced duplication and inefficiency and increased file capacity for professional staff.
- Electronic file management giving the ability to move work between teams and individuals.
- The flow of seamless and accurate management Information for business decisions.
3. Working as a virtual co located team – supported by the Extranet and on-line library:
- Know-how’ is shared across the virtual team.
- Training is simpler to co-ordinate and ‘one team’ ethos consolidated.
- Effectiveness is improved and we make best use of our in-house experts.
- Staff can work from any location across the county, including working from home as all necessary ICT is web enabled.
- Virtual co-location supports our councils’ green objectives.
The following examples are how this new way of working has provided significant cost savings and benefits:
1. Ipswich Borough Council liaising with the Police on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders on behalf of Mid Suffolk District Council.
2. Suffolk Coastal District Council organising a Public Inquiry on a Rights of Way issue for Suffolk County Council resulting in this compliment from the judge;
‘I think your advocate ran the case and made his points in an extremely effective way – and far better than has sometimes been the case in the past few years. In my view, you might be well advised to continue this arrangement.’
3. St Edmundsbury Borough Council carrying out planning applications for Waveney District Council significantly reducing costs.
4. Sharing the costs of obtaining Barristers’ opinions making a saving of £48k.
5. In-house expert from Ipswich Borough Council providing training on ‘The Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act’ for 60 legal team employees, sharing expertise and making savings on professional training costs.
6. Advocacy services provided for partner authorities at Court, reducing the requirement for more than one authority to attend court on a given day and making significant savings on costs.
7. Monitoring Officer co-ordinating activity across the county, including production of ‘conduct case’ summaries and jointly authored recruitment criteria for an independent member for standards and code of conduct training.
8. Monitoring officer investigations have been conducted for partner authorities. Sharing of expertise in this way has been well received by the Standards Board and acknowledged nationally as a good model for others to emulate.
In addition to all the above internal benefits the main objective has been to improve the client experience by providing first class Customer Care. How has this new working model helped toward this?
1. The project ‘”virtual co-location” provides an innovative improvement whilst retaining local flexibility, responsiveness and closeness valued by clients.
2. Embedding the use of the extranet and good practice workshops allows cross training and shared expertise across the ‘virtual team’, so improving services to clients without increasing costs.
3. The ‘virtual team’ model underpinned by Tricostar’s TCM is flexible and establishing it means that benefits are not limited by structure and geography, and expertise can be shared.
4. Joint procurement and commissioning of training and reference materials uses economies of scale to increase the resilience of the in-house teams and offers a wider range of skills to clients.
5. Establishing the ‘framework agreement’ across all authorities with a private sector firm for commercial work reduces costs to client departments and minimises risks for the organisation.
6. ‘Suffolk Sourcing’ provides a mechanism for work to be ‘in-sourced’ most effectively. This makes best use of the mutual understanding of local authority context and accountability, which adds value to the transactions for clients.
7. Through effective project management Doing Business Better maintains the momentum for on going service transformation and is able to embrace innovative ways of developing the service for clients.
8. The strength of the project is that it builds on the existing shared goals and culture of the in-house teams and good relationships with client departments; ‘buy-in’ from employees has led to milestones being reached ahead of schedule.
By being ahead of the game in delivering shared corporate services Suffolk Councils and the “Doing Business Better” project has been able to contribute to wider service integration strategy from an informed perspective and lead the way in showing the potential of using communications technology to achieve organisational goals.
For more information about how Suffolk achieved success with their Shared Service, or for more product information on Timebase Case Management Click Here.
If you would like to speak to Tricostar or would like to arrange a demo of Timebase Case Management, to better understand how your department could achieve a shared service please contact Tricostar on +44 (0)208 292 2660.