Q&A: Using digital communication platforms to work smarter – part 2

Leila Dewhurst, Digital Content Officer at East Herts Council and Colin Stenning, Digital Services Manager at Bracknell Forest Council, tell us why they’ve implemented a new intranet platform


How can tech be used to deliver efficiency savings for local authorities?

Leila Dewhurst (LD): Whilst there are often financial benefits associated with moving to a digital solution, choosing to implement a new system has to be around improving and meeting customer experience and needs.

Working in a busy local authority, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that everyone is kept up to date and has access to the right information at the right time. When implemented correctly, technology can deliver a collaborative and informed workforce.

Using technology can also automate some of the manual processes, delivering efficiencies through time saving and better user experience.


You’ve recently introduced a new intranet platform with Invotra. What are the key benefits of this to your council?

LD: For us the key benefits have been around creating an intranet that is easily accessible, with powerful search functionality. Like most other local authorities, we have a huge amount of information and processes that staff need to access and organising this centrally in a way which is logical can be a challenge.

As well as standard content templates, we used Invotra’s manuals template to create our policies. This has meant that we have been able to move away from using PDFs, and that all the content within policies is searchable, not just the name of the policy.

We have also been impressed with the people information and the way this can be used to build an interactive org chart, teams and individual profiles. Staff have already been utilising this functionality and have found it easy to use and useful.

Staff have also been enjoying using the groups, message wall and blogging functionality and are excited about the how these apps can be used to aid their work and communications.

Colin Stenning (CS): Our existing intranet had been in place for over 10 years and needed to be modernised to fit into the Council’s new ways of working, in particular the need to enable staff to self-serve. The previous intranet was essentially an information resource based around the structure of the organisation. It provided one- way access to information and provided no opportunities for staff to collaborate or communicate with each other. It also used a system which needed to be decommissioned as it is no longer supported software. The previous intranet was also quite labour intensive to update and maintain, using up time and resource. The software used to create new content was also not very intuitive, meaning that training and ongoing support was required.

The new platform provides a self-service facility with clear signposting to information and easy to use apps. This immediately reduces pressure on service teams who previously received service requests via phone or email. The collaborative tools such as blogs, feeds, message walls, forums and polls allow staff to interact online and solve issues with the help of others within the organisation. The new platform also provides an intelligent, tailored search meaning staff can search for people, teams content and locations independently.

We conducted a Council Wide Support Services project review, which outlined proposed new ways of working, and the new intranet fully supports those in that it achieves savings in how various services are delivered.


How has it benefitted staff?

CS: As outlined above, they have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with each other much more efficiently and find any information they need in a more seamless way. They are not having to spend time as previously, on labour intensive content creation as the new system is much more intuitive.


Why choose this system over others?

CS: We sourced a new supplier via the G-Cloud Digital Marketplace. We were attracted to Invotra because:

  • The platform has been developed with Government in mind and is already being used by 45% of central government
  • The Council needed to be able to implement a new intranet within two to three months and Invotra’s ‘Software as a service’ (SaaS) platform enables an intranet to be rapidly implemented and deployed
  • Its social and collaboration tools enable staff to work together and interact with each other on an individual and group basis
  • It utilises existing people data to drive a range of directory-based features that will help staff to connect with each other and exchange information, skills and experience.


Where does this intranet fit in with your wider digital transformation plans?

LD: Our new intranet is an important part of our digital transformation journey and allows us to optimise our internal processes and facilitate collaborative working. The great thing about the Invotra platform is that there is continual development, meaning that as our requirements develop and change the platform will grow with us.

Intranets are often overlooked within organisations or left to languish and get out of date. By including our intranet as part of our digital transformation we’re able to embrace digital right at the centre of the organisation, creating a ripple effect and motivating other areas of the business to consider a digital first approach.


What advice can you share with other councils looking to implement a similar system?

LD: I think the best piece of advice I can offer is to do your prep work thoroughly. Gather any reports or analytics you have on the existing solution, get staff feedback on what they like and don’t like, carry out soft marketing testing so you get a real idea of what’s out there, map out any dependencies and make decisions on the primacy of different systems you already have, and then use all of this information to build a comprehensive list of key requirements.

In terms of build, we went with a content led approach with a clear focus on IA and consistent user journeys. We have phased our launch so that now the basic structure and content is in place and we can work on developing some of the more collaborative features while staff familiarise themselves with the new platform.

My last piece of advice would be not to put it off! It has been really exciting for us to see the way staff are embracing our new intranet and the difference it is already making.

Like this? Then don’t miss our interview with Fintan Galvin, founder and CEO of Invotra, all about how local authorities can reap the rewards of going digital with a suitable digital solution – click here to read more.

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