Some insights and key observations from a June 2023 Freedom of Information Data request – I polled 420 local councils, of which 330 responded by the time this was published.
This article gives some of my observations about the data obtained, unveiling findings that challenged and surprised (my) preconceived notions… or something like that at least…
Ok, so what does a local council do? According to Wikipedia
“Local government is responsible for a range of vital services for people and businesses in defined areas. Among them are well known functions such as social care, schools, housing and planning and waste collection, but also lesser known ones such as licensing, business support, registrar services and pest control.”
Would it be reasonable to expect then, that across these organisations that are, essentially, fulfilling the same role in society, that their operational structure would be relatively similar if not the same? Would one local council differ significantly from another within the UK? After all, they are performing the same services (road management, welfare and community engagement, refuse management etc) AFAIK the majority of council services are broadly similar in nature and that there isn’t one that is doing something wildly different to any other – so it would seem to follow that their service management needs would likely be highly aligned and similar also…
I was curious as to whether there were any common denominators in terms of the solutions used to manage their support and service management functions and, if there were differences, what could be inferred from this.
Luckily, we have the Freedom of Information act which allows curious individuals like me, to ask all kinds of questions (within common sense and public interest boundaries) and have a relative expectation that they will get answered and within a timely fashion.
In polling the 400 odd Local Councils we have, with the question of ‘What ITSM solution do you use?’ I’d half expected most to come back with the same answer,
Same challenges, same responsibilities, same solution right?…
There are some ~30 different ITSM solutions in use across all councils, some In House developed platforms (Excel/AccessDB?) and some Enterprise standard such as ServiceNow, Freshworks and BMC and a variety of others in between.
Some have a greater footprint than others, granted, but nonetheless, still quite the spread.
So, what does this mean, are some councils vastly different than others, are some facing challenges that require a specific feature from a specific toolset, are some more ‘digitally enabled’, is it geographically biased? Is it a ‘we’ve always used X so why change’ mentality? So many questions…
To halfway answer the geographic question, and looking specifically at 29 London Borough councils, we still see a broad selection so perhaps that’s not it then – although I would have thought these Boroughs, given that close geographic proximity and similar services, would have some alignment on a solution basis in place for delivery of services (common workflows etc), sharing of data and potentially economies of scale in terms of licensing from the vendors?
Or is there some element of competitiveness at play here as in ‘if XX is using YY solution, then we’re definitely going to be using AA solution!”
Petty? Maybe. Possible? Certainly! Practical? You decide…
Ok, how about the size of supported population, the larger the population then the more comprehensive and enterprise capable the ITSM toolset needs to be?
Size of population
Finding (googling) specific information relating to the size of supported population by council didn’t yield the precise results I had hoped for, however Wikipedia does give an appropriate indication of this, so I’m using this for as a basis and focussing on the top 30 to give a broader representation.
Well, surprise surprise, no significant commonality here either… so it would seem that size of the supported population isn’t a significantly defining factor, which actually kind of makes sense as (in my mind) it’s only a case of managing more of the ‘same stuff’ (in VERY simplistic terms).. so you’d just want/need more licenses and perhaps some beefier infrastructure?
But all in all, seemingly no direct correlation here either… so how about the top ranking and performing councils? Any commonality there?
Top ranked councils
According to Impower, the Top 10 most productive councils in 2019 (see page 7) are listed below. So, what ITSM toolsets are they using (noting that contracts are multiyear and likely haven’t changed since…)
Again, a geographic spread, but possibly fair to assume some mind share between neighbouring authorities and indeed where larger populations are being supported, perhaps even some co-operation between similarly sized ones?
Again, we’re seeing a diverse solution set here, so arguably it’s the processes (and people!) in place within these districts that are driving the positive outcomes, which in turn are being supported by the various solutions in situ.
Ok, so how about digital adoption and maturity?
Digital adoption and maturity (and perhaps service management maturity?)
According to monsido – the top 5 council websites are listed below, and I’m taking this to mean that:
The respective councils have invested some time and effort into this aspect of their service provision.
This would indicate an appreciation of ‘digital’ services and channels with the respective skill sets and resources to implement.
Interestingly however, only Essex shows up in the top ten ranked councils…
I think fair to say that this does indicate a higher degree of digital adoption (and perhaps associated skills) which would also point at having a more technically aware and able team behind the scenes? Or is the focus on having that web front end for services more prevalent as part of their digital strategy? If the latter, then arguably there would be the appropriate evaluation and implementation of the best toolset for their needs given the perceived level of investment in ‘IT’.
Again, looking at these 5 specifically, they are all using a distinct ITSM toolset to support and enable this… hmmm. Seems like this is something else that isn’t a common denominator then?
Cost and/or Status Quo (not the band)
Could it simply be that cost of solution, allocation of IT budgets and TCO, ROI are the defining element? Possibly, and especially at a time when there is record inflation, costs going up daily, managing spend wherever able is a factor on everyone’s mind. Or could it be, in addition to the above, that there isn’t the appropriate level of time/resource available to undertake an evaluation and it’s just easier to continue on with what is already in place as there are more important issues to address? Even to the extent that ‘we should get more modules, that’ll solve the challenges we face, that’s what the vendor promises anyway…’
Without going down the rabbit hole of all the differing pricing models available, safe to say that there will be a licensing model that will fit your budgetary need, but is this running the risk of not completely understanding the full value you can derive from your preferred solution (as it’s more money on paper), is this potentially a false economy?
Available time and resource to appropriately assess alternatives
Is there a view in places that ‘I know I need an ITSM, but it really doesn’t matter which one as they all do the same thing’ if so, then this makes me wonder if there is potentially a learning curve to be had in respect to the value, outcomes and positive experiences these solutions can deliver, some better than others? Especially when implemented appropriately and optimised for strategic initiatives and relevant use cases?
When you buy a home, and post the evaluative process, you need to furnish it with appliances, furniture, decorate, ensure all fixings are in good order, maintain the plumbing/electric etc i.e. you’re spending time, effort and money toensure that this is the appropriately setup living space for you and that it meets your needs accordingly, not just now, but for the foreseeable future.
Similarly, with your ITSM solution, all of these solutions are configurable (some more so than others) so it’s certainly worth spending the respective amount of time in fully understanding and appreciating the capabilities available, and making your ITSM fit for purpose and delivering the outcomes you want and need.
So given the view from the councils themselves is varied and there isn’t (from what I can immediately ascertain) a singular denominator, perhaps we should turn to the vendors and see what could be inferred about them and the solution offerings?
First off, congratulations to Freshworks. As a relative newcomer to the ITSM market Freshworks has done a remarkable job in positioning itself as a market leader. So what is Freshworks doing so well? Freshworks has a simple, easy to use and administer, yet comprehensive toolset so maybe that counts in its favour. It’s also well marketed – but it should be highlighted that in early 2023 it took the decision to disband its Public Sector sales team and so we wait and see what impact that might have.
But aside from Freshworks, the data suggests perhaps that ITSM vendors are perhaps simply not doing enough to build an offering that meets the specific needs to local council. Do vendors who see public sector as an opportunity need to invest in building solutions meeting the specific needs of local community service providers (i.e. councils).?
Partners also need to get involved. One example is SCC who are building portfolio of case management solutions that are understood areas of friction and inefficiency; their use case of a Driver Vetting toolset is a great case in point.
It’s an interesting landscape as while there are the defacto software productivity and enterprise solutions such as O365, SAP, Oracle (to name just a few) in use across many organisations, in the world of IT Service Management, there is a broad, 30+ choice to be had (I can’t think of 30 different document or video conferencing solutions for instance) the question remains though as to how certain are you that you’re choosing the most appropriate solution for both your, and the people your supporting, needs? And, if you are certain, how confident are you that you’re maximising the capability within?
If you’d like further information about this dataset or any other details, get in touch and let’s have a conversation.
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