What we did
When the London Borough of Wandsworth experienced severe IT reliability problems, Fordway reviewed and prioritised its £1 million improvement programme and helped manage the successful implementation.
Despite an ongoing investment programme, the IT systems at the London Borough of Wandsworth were extremely unreliable and user satisfaction was at rock-bottom. The situation came to a head after extreme reliability problems which prevented the council being able to provide services to their citizens.
Fordway reviewed the IT infrastructure and ongoing projects to analyse the root causes, identify solutions and prioritise a programme of work to improve reliability. Fordway then managed the implementation programme, which has resulted in substantial improvements in network availability and user satisfaction.
Manages a budget of 500m
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When David Tidey joined Wandsworth Borough Council as Head of IT, he quickly realised that he faced a major challenge. Despite an ongoing programme of investment in IT, and reports that all projects were progressing well, the reliability of the IT systems was extremely poor – well below the target of 99.8% availability.
As a result of the reliability problems, the reputation of IT across the council was very low. This was confirmed when David commissioned a user satisfaction survey. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 is the best possible score, the average user satisfaction score across all London local boroughs was 4.6 and across all UK local authorities was 5.09. Wandsworthscored just 3.89. The key message from users was that improving reliability was the most important priority.
David’s first step was to commission an independent review of the existing IT infrastructure using a public tender. He appointed Fordway to carry out the review .
Three months later, and before David had been able to act on the results of the review, the problems came to a head. There were two days of major reliability issues, key council services supporting citizens were impacted, and, unable to resolve the issues, the entire contract server team at Wandsworth walked out.
To tackle the immediate problem, David called Fordway’s Chief Executive Richard Blanford and asked him to provide someone to help out on site for a few days. Concerned that the internal investment programme was not delivering the required benefits despite regular reports that all was going well, David then asked Fordway to review all the ongoing projects. Each project was analysed to find out how it was progressing and the business benefits it was expected to deliver so that they could be prioritised.
“With this analysis, the problems quickly became clear – the projects were not designed to deliver specific business outcomes,” explained David. “For example, a programme to install software which would warn us of potential infrastructure problems had apparently been successfully completed and closed. When we looked more closely, we found that the software had indeed been installed but it was not being used, as the project brief had been solely about installation! So we weren’t seeing any results.”
After agreeing the benefits which each project should deliver, Fordway worked with David and his team to develop a plan of action. Of the 25 projects in progress, half were put on hold. Six were identified as priorities, primarily those which would provide the most improvements in reliability.
A programme of work was developed and David asked Fordway to manage the implementation programme and monitor progress. At the same time, David sent out a message to all staff at the Borough explaining what work was being carried out and the benefits it would deliver.
He wanted to reassure everyone that the reliability problems were being addressed and they would soon see improvements. Giving Fordway specific responsibility for programme management enabled the in-house team to concentrate on completing projects and delivering the required business benefits.
“Fordway brought a straightforward and rigorous methodology to the programme which enabled us to track the progress of all our projects and measure progress against targets,” David explained. “They spent time on site every week to gather information and then held a weekly programme and individual project reviews so we always knew exactly how we were doing.
We had the skills in-house to implement the infrastructure changes but what we didn’t have was project and programme management expertise. Staff were not concentrating on the priorities – they were tackling everything that passed across their desk. Fordway kept us focused and ensured everyone knew exactly what they needed to be working on.”
Within 9 months, the £1 million infrastructure rationalisation programme had been delivered on time and on budget, and the benefits were being experienced by IT users across the council.
The most visible measure of success is service availability. Wandsworth has a target of 99.8% availability; in the year prior to Fordway’s engagement it was just 98%, and the month Fordway started, as a result of the server outages, it hit a low of 95.83%. In the first quarter of Fordway’s engagement availability increased to 99.8% as IT projects began to deliver results. Service availability for the full year following Fordway’s appointment was 99.3%
Following completion of the programme a new user satisfaction survey was commissioned, overall satisfaction increased from 3.86 to 4.58 (on a 1-7 scale) and user feedback was increasingly positive – everyone David and his team speaks to says that, while they know things are not yet perfect, they are moving in the right direction.
The virtualisation work carried out as part of the improvement programme is also delivering significant benefits. After updating the VMWare platform, Wandsworth is running 205 virtual servers on just 8 physical hosts, with plans agreed to virtualize the remaining physical servers. Further consolidation is planned in preparation for the council’s proposed move to Azure.
“A year ago, I worried every time I switched on the computer that I’d find something wasn’t working!” adds David. “Now, that worry has gone and I know our environment is delivering the performance that our users need.”
“Fordway’s programme management expertise enabled us to focus on what we needed to do. We had the skills to deliver the work, but they brought a methodology and a rigour that we didn’t have which has enabled us to deliver the project on time and on budget. They don’t over promise, just say what they are going to do and deliver it in a very straightforward way. They’re a pleasure to do business with.”
David Tidey – Head of IT, Wandsworth Council