Plymouth City Council is facing a big social challenge - a 16-year life expectancy gap between the east and west of the city. Addressing this issue requires all services - including social and health care, policing, and housing - to work closely together. To achieve this, the council needs to update its disparate systems and standardise on a single platform for information sharing. Microsoft Dynamics AX is the central component of this solution, along with other Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.
Plymouth City Council has two main obstacles to overcome in improving its services. The first is finding specialist staff. Neville Cannon, Chief Information Officer, Plymouth City Council, says: “In Plymouth, we have some geographical challenges. The motorway doesn’t extend past Exeter and the airport is closed, so we’ve got a train ride of over three hours. Trying to get people with the right skills is difficult. In a city like Plymouth, we can work better with our public sector partners if we start to standardise the applications and technologies we use. This is where Microsoft Dynamics AX will help.”
The second challenge is customer service, which relies on a multitude of disparate systems that are time-consuming to use. “We provide up to 300 different services - ranging from street lighting to benefits payments. As a result, we have to deal with millions of customer interactions every year. The nature of these varies significantly so the more we can standardise what we’re asking, how we do it, and how we reuse information, the more we can cut down on the different databases - up to 60 of them - that contain customer information,” says Cannon.
Plymouth City Council needed to:
- Develop a better, shared understanding among all areas of the public sector
- Create applications and sectors that could communicate with each other
- Provide an easy-to-collate single database
- Reduce maintenance and contract costs
To achieve this, the council is updating the myriad of disparate systems currently in use and will standardise on a single platform, which everyone can use to share information. Microsoft Dynamics AX has been chosen as the backbone of this solution, along with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, and other Microsoft technologies. Its aim is to go live in 2014.
Microsoft suppliers 2e2 and KPMG are helping the council and its partners switch to Microsoft Dynamics AX. “Both 2e2 and KPMG have worked hard and been extremely supportive. I can’t see how it could work without them,” says Cannon.
Microsoft Dynamics AX will help the council move forward faster and on a wider scale, making its aspiration to become a centre of excellence a real possibility.
Better skills resource. Standardising on Microsoft infrastructure will help encourage relationships with Microsoft specialists, in turn leading to a higher level of skill in the Plymouth area. It’s also good for the council because partners will be able to share knowledge and help each other more readily.
Improved collaboration. All areas of the public sector need to work together to reduce social problems. The Microsoft solution will form the basis of this collaboration, developing a common resource shared by everyone—resulting in less duplication, greater cohesion, and fewer mistakes.
Increased productivity. With access to a central system containing all data, staff will spend less time logging on to different systems and gain more time to spend with customers. “When a customer comes to us with a simple request, such as a change of address, rather than trying to update a number of different systems, council staff can enter the change into the central database,” says Cannon. “Employees’ main focus will be dealing with customers, rather than the many systems we currently use.”
Improved staff recruitment and retention. Because of the familiarity of Microsoft products, there will be a larger recruitment pool from which the council and its partners can draw. “Because of Plymouth’s geography, access to skilled resources is sometimes limited. So the idea that we can standardise on Microsoft products and Microsoft Dynamics AX across the wider public sector helps both the city and all the public sector partners in general. We’re building and expanding the talent pool available to us within the region and therefore helping the local economy,” says Cannon. Using a familiar, standardised system will also go a long way to improving morale and retaining staff.
Enhanced customer experience. With all council operations running through a new single system, customers will start to see quicker responses and greater efficiency. “By using Microsoft Dynamics within our customer interface, we can improve the customer experience,” says Cannon.
Better financial controls. The opportunities for shared data collection and management from all areas of responsibility will result in clearer financial control for the council and a better use of public resources—a good outcome for all stakeholders.