In a difficult economic climate, cost reduction becomes all the more important - not just for businesses but public organisations as well. Private companies are eager to scale back expenditure where possible, understanding that this can boost profit margins. And government bodies are all too aware of the need to make their budgets stretch further, if they are to maintain public services and avoid redundancies in an era of austerity.
As organisations look to make savings, naturally their attention often turns to technology. IT solutions which offer a return on investment with a relatively low cost of ownership can make a significant difference to companies and public bodies. The automation of manual tasks enables employees to work more productively and with greater accuracy, ensuring more gets done.
Decision makers then have the option of remodelling their workforce to reduce costs, ensuring their organisation is leaner and more balanced going forwards. But first, they need to identify a need for technology within their own operations, and establish an economic case for investment. This will differ from organisation to organisation, according to size, sector, function, location, business model and various other factors.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary upgrades its IT
When the Cambridgeshire Constabulary decided to replace its outdated Lotus Notes environment with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, the need to control costs was at the forefront of its thoughts. The upgrade was designed to help employees discover information, share documents and organise data more effectively, leading to operational efficiency gains and lower spending in the long run.
The police force faces budget cuts of at least £20 million by 2015, and as such is investigating new approaches to policing. One of the steps being taken is to place increased focus on collaborative working, with a closer relationship with neighbouring constabularies in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire high on the agenda. The force hopes that by using shared resources, and through more accessible data, it can streamline operations and avoid making deeper cuts into areas such as personnel.
Historically, Cambridgeshire used Lotus Notes to develop in-house data management solutions, in order to manage event orders, duty rosters and other critical information. However, this environment has not only become expensive to maintain, but difficult to integrate with the rest of the force's IT infrastructure. With Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and Microsoft Lync 2010 used by other departments, the constabulary saw clear benefits in a migration and upgrade.
'A pressing need to upgrade'
Phil Silvester, information and communications technology strategy and program manager at Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said there was a pressing need to streamline and transform the organisation. He explained that a solution was needed that would integrate seamlessly with other programs, and operate effectively on multiple devices across organisational boundaries. "It was time to look at every process, every workflow, and make them more efficient," Mr Silvester stated.
He explained that the decision was taken to utilise Microsoft SharePoint 2013, and the application platform was introduced during spring 2012. By the end of this year, Cambridgeshire will have deployed up to 40 SharePoint 2013 portals and created collaboration environments for new Police and Crime Commissioners, Cambridgeshire Council, and Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire constabularies. Employees will be able to synchronise documents stored on their personal sites offline by using SkyDrive Pro in SharePoint 2013.
So how has the move reduced costs?
In terms of controlling and reducing costs, the move is delivering significant benefits for the constabulary. Users now have a single point of entry into its information environment, allowing the force to provide a greater number of services using fewer resources. The increase in productivity means policing can be carried out effectively with a smaller employee base - helping to cope with significant budget cuts. Another plus-point is the money saved on IT management and maintenance - SharePoint 2013 being much simpler to operate in-house than Lotus Notes, given the remote support provided by Microsoft.
"In the next 12 months, we will create dramatic change for the Cambridgeshire Constabulary," Mr Silvester commented. “Our Chief Constable, Simon Parr, sees SharePoint 2013 as a key element of everything we do internally to work with other agencies, increase public engagement, and enhance public safety.”
In a tough economic climate, businesses and organisations need to seize any opportunity they have to control their costs without impacting on service levels. Technology is rarely if ever a silver bullet, but it can provide a firm foundation for more productive working and increased output, when deployed in the right way. Cost pressures remain for organisations in the public and private sectors, meaning that, at the very least, decision makers should be considering the case for investment.
Posted by Alex Boardman