East Devon District Council is ambitious for the district and its residents. And this ambition shines through in this Huddle case study. The Council—one of 11 local authorities delivering public services in the county of Devon in the South West of England—is using Huddle to share content, internally and across the firewall, both securely and confidentially.

Bringing authorities and parallel depts together

Despite their similar structures and functions, historically, there has been little collaboration between the 11 separate authorities and their parallel departments. So, a proposal aimed at creating a single IT department, spanning all 11 authorities, represented a significant step towards a more unified approach. But it also highlighted a need for a system that allowed them all to share documents and data more easily and securely.

Chris Powell, Head of ICT at East Devon District Council, who is leading the proposal, explains: “At the executive level there’s great interest in the idea of creating a single organization to replace our separate IT departments. But to properly validate it, we needed to compare data between all of the councils. Salaries, costs, performance data and so on.”

With so many parties needing to access and edit the information, email was not an option, and there were question marks over the usability and versioning ability of a ‘clunky’ portal which was being hosted by one of the councils.

How Huddle made all the difference

“So often, when a program of this kind begins, you can waste a lot of time and energy working out the mechanisms of communication” says Chris. “But I bypassed that when I looked into what central government were using to do the job. I came across the use of Huddle and saw it had been assessed and approved for use by UK government departments, up to IL2 security classification.”

“It was affordable and ideal for the task. It also had more functionality than I thought we really had use for, but as the months have gone on, and user confidence has grown, I can see that the whiteboard and discussion features are not just ‘nice-to-haves’. They have real benefits.”

Before inviting in 15 representatives from across the 11 authorities, Chris created a simple file structure. He also set access permissions and deadlines for particular tasks which, he says, have been invaluable in keeping the momentum of the data gathering going.

“It puts a useful amount of pressure on all the participants, because it’s very easy to see who is having problems meeting deadlines. Huddle offers real transparency and ease of use,” he says. Once the key data had been gathered, Chris opened up the workspace to analysts from Cap Gemini and IBM.

“They were able to access the data, make use of it, draft their reports and upload them into Huddle for the rest of us to see,” he says. “When they’d done their bit, I took away their access. It really couldn’t have been simpler.”

The district council IT departments have since embarked on a second phase of data gathering, and Chris expects Huddle to be integral in any future inter-council collaborations. “I genuinely don’t see how we could have done this project without Huddle. With 11 councils, two external suppliers and a huge amount of data, it simply couldn’t have been done. But, because we found the right tool for the job, we’re transforming the way we do things.”


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