Cheltenham Borough Council’s Christopher Cox neatly encapsulates the reason why so many local government authorities are turning to Huddle. “We looked at deploying SharePoint, but it required a lot of infrastructure work and had a slow design and deployment process,” explains the program manager. “We could get up and running on Huddle immediately and everyone could access the information they needed from wherever they were, which is great for remote teams.”

It’s a familiar story across the land: government teams, departments and agencies eager to share and work on content, internally and across the firewall—securely and confidentially. Cheltenham Borough Council is no exception. Faced with transforming public services, driving innovation and meeting efficiency targets, collaboration and shared services are now moving to the top of agenda at the local authority.

The challenges of working across districts

In the case of Cheltenham Borough Council, it was necessary to work closely with five other district councils in Gloucestershire (Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Stroud and Tewkesbury district councils and Gloucester City Council) and neighboring West Oxfordshire District Council.

Driven by government initiatives, such as Choice Based Lettings (CBL), the Council has been working with geographically dispersed teams for a number of years. However, sharing information with colleagues at the other councils was a time-consuming challenge.

Cox explains: “For everyone to have visibility of content ahead of a meeting, large files were being sent via email. As well as burdening our inboxes with attachments, we spent time at our face-to-face team meetings establishing which version of a document was final. We had to ensure that everyone’s version of the document incorporated all the comments and feedback that had been sent via email.”

With some of the councils based approximately 80 miles apart, attending numerous face-to-face meetings was proving costly in terms of both time and money.

Clearing the path for everyone

“Having used Huddle for some of my own projects, I recognized its potential for Cheltenham Borough Council’s partnership projects. For document management and secure collaboration, in particular, I felt it would be invaluable,” Cox continues.

Huddle is now being used to support the GO shared services program, a collaboration between Cheltenham Borough Council (including Cheltenham Borough Homes) and Cotswold, Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire district councils. The aim of the GO shared services Programme is to establish shared services covering finance, HR, payroll and procurement based on the deployment of an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system shared by the authorities. The program will result in cashable savings, service efficiencies and improved service resilience.

Using Huddle, Cheltenham Borough Council has created a central document repository that is accessible to all partner organizations. All content relating to the GO Program can be viewed, commented on and versions tracked. Huddle’s phone conferencing facility has also resulted in the number of face-to-face meetings being significantly reduced.

“With the government budget cuts, councils are looking to save money and come up with new and improved business processes, while continuing to provide the highest level of public service. This, and the continued push for shared services, resulted in the GO Shared Services Program. Using Huddle, all of the project team, stakeholders and suppliers can access the correct document versions, whether they’re at home or on the move with their iPhones. Thanks to the Profiles page, people also have their colleagues’ contact details in a central place and can actually see who they are working with. Huddle has enabled us to create a true partnership project.”

John Furneaux


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