Auckland’s North Shore City Council has signed a three-year ICT services contract with Revera, with an option for a two-year extension.
The convergence of computer and communications systems, as well as the need to develop and transform its services so they can be delivered electronically is behind the council’s decision to move to a remotely managed service, says CIO Tony Rogers.
“We have been conscious of [ICT] convergence and we are committed to the ideal of transformed e-government, which will mean more and more of the council’s services being provided electronically,” he says.
The increased complexity these changes will bring with them, as well as the realisation that ICT services are becoming commodity services, made us realise that new business model was needed, says Rogers. This included using an outside supplier who was committed to a strict service-level agreement.
Since local authorities are not trying to establish a competitive advantage over their other councils, it makes sense for them to treat ICT as a “commoditised toolkit”, says Rogers.
“It should always be there, without your having to run it, the way your phone service and your voicemail are.”
Rogers believes the North Shore is the first local authority in New Zealand — and possibly Australasia — to embrace such a model.For the past six years, North Shore has had a facilities-management agreement with Eagle Technology, for equipment and applications installed on council premises. These will now be moved out to one of Revera’s datacentres.
Tying down appropriate service-level agreements and key performance indicators will be vital if such an arrangement is to succeed, says Rogers. And an important element of the new agreement will be a definition of what constitutes “business as usual”.
Many organisations using managed services have failed to properly define the essential elements of their daily business, says Rogers. As a result, they have ended up with both extra project work and been stuck with extra expenses for services their provider claims were “out of scope”.
So, why haven’t more local councils adopted such a solution? “Local authorities are a bit conservative when it comes to innovation,” says Rogers.
“They tend to be risk-averse and think if they own [their ICT] they can control it.”
But North Shore’s councillors and the council’s management team see it differently. They don’t see running a network as part of their core function.
Rogers would not say how much the contract was worth, but the council expects to save several million dollars. It also needed a disaster recovery programme, which would have been too costly for it to implement. This will also now be Revera’s responsibility.
North Shore’s original “Request for Proposal” called for a managed service as being the only option. The number of respondents was in double figures, says Rogers. “And, we had to have two goes at whittling that down.”
Revera was chosen from an eventual shortlist of four “because our cultures are similar. They have a very good track record, their price was good and, lastly, they are a North Shore-based company. That wasn’t essential, but it’s good that they are local.”