Fife Council - true strategic thinking is looking at how you work and how it can be improved

Profile picture for user gflood By Gary Flood February 12, 2019
Third largest council in Scotland says a different way of working with documents is translating to over £6m worth of savings over 10 years.

Fife House

We’re going to go behind the numbers in just a second — but the numbers are definitely worth starting with.

Ten years back - nearly 7,000 desktop printers all over the place. Savings of over £6m over the past decade. Reduced page volume of 5% year-on-year; 2.5m fewer pages printed per year;139,000kW of power saved per year — even three new apprentice and intern roles for local teenagers that didn’t exist before. Finally, the creation of a whole new revenue stream for the organisation we’re talking about — a commercial print service able to offer great cross-media services, from road signs to promotional collateral, while Greener day-to-day business practice means that this was the first UK authority to attain Carbon Trust Standard certification, an independent kitemark of an organisation's environmental impact verifying genuine carbon, water and waste reduction.

No wonder, in the words of Allan Halliday, Operations and Logistics Manager for this bit of Scottish local government, we’re talking about:

“A decade of savings through close collaboration — a partnership that helps us to evolve, meeting the demands of today and being ready for the challenges of tomorrow.”

The local authority that’s achieved all this is Fife, which serves a resident population of just under 367,000 and which sees its mission as to help support and create vibrant communities through central and mobile operations, which it tries to do via a range of services from housing, corporate business development, recycling, home-care, roads and transportation, parks and open spaces, schools, libraries, leisure centres and community safety.

And the partner it says it collaborated with to do all this is Canon, which it says has been its primary helper in this big job of consolidating all its print fleet into an efficient, cost effective, managed facility that serves the needs of the council.

Halliday explains what promoted the Council to go to market to try and start all this, over ten years back:

“Our information management in both paper and digital forms was outdated; our print fleet was ageing, costly and disparate, which created a poor user experience for our staff and which also negatively impacted our ability to serve our council residents and services users across each department.

“We were using over 6,700 print devices, which was an unwieldy and unmanageable number. The printers were also spread across a very wide variety of locations, which resulted in spiralling costs, a lack of oversight and poor team morale.“

That situation has been ameliorated, he claims, by working with the supplier on what Halliday sees as a collaborative relationship that has enabled us to improve workflow processes, reduce print volumes and cost — but also laying the groundwork for further improvement, he is convinced:

“We have now addressed this and the issue of digital transformation head-on, ensuring we can successfully operate efficiently now and in the future.”

Bespoke solutions

What were the tactics to do all this, if fixing printing services at Fife was the overall strategic imperative? Fife says it asked its tech partner to come in and help from day one, working alongside Fife staff in their offices to learn its processes. This helped, he told diginomica/government, to enable Canon staff to spot issues and blockages as they arise and so jointly create bespoke solutions which actually fitted Fife’s real-world needs:

“Together, we have enabled the council’s infrastructure to be more effective for our employees and front line service users.”

Halliday states that a document and workflow management system has now been put in place right across the organisation that is helping people work better and more efficiently. Fife also built a “best in class” high volume, professional print room which he says meets all of its complex and varied needs.

The immediate next step, he adds, is to bring in more use of scanning, as he is sure that”

“By introducing this into our document management systems, we can help to reduce print volume while also improving back office functions. For our team, finding and sharing a digitised document is also easier and more secure than a hard-copy original, which saves the council money while also helping us to remain data compliant. Increased commitment to scanning will have a huge impact on how we work, while also driving down cost.”

Broader plans

This project is at the core of our wider digital transformation strategy

We said we’d dig a bit deeper into the achievements Fife is rightly proud of, so let’s do that now. The Council points out that its new print facility has created a collaborative platform to enable shared services with other public bodies if anyone needed. It also has the ability to support flexible and field working, which Halliday told us has led to a happier, more productive workforce as he and his team can better support the work patterns that suit them best.

This flexibility has also increased Fife’s ability to better serve residents, he says — but what does that mean in practical terms, and where does Fife want to go now it’s built this platform for change?

“We have also experienced cultural change which has helped the council to deliver front-line services more effectively and efficiently. We also hope that our commitment to digital transformation will lead to our workflows continuing to improve and evolve.

“Our reduced print demand will drive down costs even further than we have already managed. Whilst in terms of workflow, this implementation has the potential to be truly transformative, helping to either reduce or eliminate laborious back office tasks, as documents are digitised and processes transformed. As a council we have to process a huge number of documents; digitising this process will lead to a better service, both for our employees and council residents.

“In fact, this project is at the very core of our wider digital transformation strategy, affecting how we work at a fundamental level. A successful digital transformation project simply could not be undertaken without this work.”

Summing up, Halliday is convinced that what Fife has done with its once messy and inefficient print services was all about what he sees as true strategic thinking — looking at how you work and how it can be improved.