Peterborough City Council is one among many local authorities migrating services to the cloud, but its head of IT also sees the move as a chance to transform the way it delivers services across the board, using predictive analytics to nip problems in the bud before they develop.
Local authorities across the country are coming under huge financial pressure thanks to cuts mandated by the government, and many of them are looking anew at the way IT is delivered in order to find cost savings.
At Peterborough, the council is not only looking to downsize its infrastructure through cloud services, but use them to break down silos and share information between departments, as well as making better use of collected data to inform decision making.
The latter should enable issues to be dealt with before they turn into a costly problem, according to Richard Godfrey, assistant director of Digital Peterborough.
However, to start with the council is moving its IT infrastructure to a commissioning rather than a building out model, using cloud services to meet requirements, Godfrey said.
"I don't want anyone in IT doing any infrastructure. We should be commissioning those out so that provisioning and upgrading is all done by service providers. People pay their council taxes to get services not so we can pay someone to patch servers," he said.
As part of this remodelling of IT services, Peterborough is moving much of its IT infrastructure onto Amazon Web Services (AWS), as Godfrey detailed earlier this year at Amazon's AWS Summit.
However, this itself is just an intermediate step to an entirely software as a service (SaaS) model, Godfrey explained in a session at the Data Centre & Infrastructure Summit hosted by V3's sister title Computing.
"I don't actually want any servers, I want SaaS, so Amazon is a stepping stone for what we're doing. We've signed a two-year contract, under which we're doing lift-and-shift from the server room at moment, but then we'll look at moving them on, shifting to a SaaS provider to look at rebuilding them in the cloud," he said.
The IT department is also looking at implementing predictive analytics, enabling what Godfrey refers to as the "performance team" on the council to better see where money is being spent, and where we should be spending it in future.
"We want to know what things are costing us and why. If someone is off sick, is it because their workload is too high? If so, how much is that costing us?" he said.
Predictive analytics can also be used to better target council services and make overall better use of resources, such as social services.
"If we intervene early, we might be able to keep people out of social care, which may benefit the local NHS. In that case, if we join up with them and share data, maybe they can fund some of this as well, because we can't fund everything," he explained.
Other examples even extend to the Internet of Things (IoT), or as Godfrey prefers to refer to it, the internet of data, using information gathered from weather monitoring stations around the district to analyse the impact of the weather on events.
"We're interested in the effect of the weather on crime. Does it go up when it's hot, because people leave their windows open and so on? By sharing predictive modelling with the police, they might know where to focus their own scarce resources," he said.
In doing so, the IT budget may actually go up rather than down, but that should lead to bigger savings in other areas such as social housing, according to Godfrey, which is his business case for the whole transformation scheme.
"This is why we're trying to break out of the model of a traditional council. We are trying to work on new things, be innovative in the way we deliver new services. We're talking to other [councils] following us or working on similar projects," he explained.
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