Newham Borough Council's CIO has revealed how the local government body was impacted following last year’s collapse of 2e2.
The council tasked 2e2, an IT services company, with an important part of the Love Newham app that could be used by the 320,000 residents living in the borough to carry out transactions that have traditionally been done face-to-face. However, midway through the process the 2e2 went into administration last February.
Specifically, 2e2 were working on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system, which the app interfaces with. The CRM system logs the request against the customer, deduplicates it if there have been multiple contacts about the same issue, then sends a single request into the back office system.
“They [2e2] collapsed in a massive way last year so I suddenly became a software house and had to take on all the developers directly, which is not my purpose at a local authority but needs must,” said Newham Borough Council CIO Geoff Connell.
Connell employed approximately a dozen 2e2 developers on temporary contracts in order to get the app built. Other local authorities were also forced to find alternatives.
“There was an initial hump in cost because we had to set up all the environments again but then we got them on lower rates than we were paying 2e2 so it worked out ok in the end,” he said.
While Connell was able to reduce the cost of the app build overall, he admitted that the app wasn’t ready on time.
“It wasn’t in the plan and there was a delay in the delivery of the programme by probably a couple of months,” he said.
The app, which launched to the public at the start of the year, allows residents in Newham to interact with the council over the internet. For example, they can send pictures of abandoned vehicles and fly tipping incidents with attached GPS co-ordinates directly to the council.
Connell said there have been tens of thousands of transactions made through the app, adding that one tech-savvy resident has made over 800 of those.
The introduction of the Love Newham app is part of a wider digital transformation being undertaken by Newham Borough Council in partnership with Microsoft.
The council worked out that face-to-face transactions with residents were costing it £15 each so it's been on a mission to drive these down and cut costs.
"The ratio of face-to-face interactions when we started was 67 percent," said Connell. "We’re now down to 12 percent."
Newham Borough Council shares approximately 120 IT staff with its neighbour, Havering. However, Connell maintains that it's better to outsource certain projects.
“I always like to have an in house team partner with a private sector organisation that’s got the deep expertise," he said. "Buddy them up, get them working together and then at the end of the day, private sector goes away, does their next job, we retain the skills in house to support it. That’s how I like to operate.”