The news that civil servants waste up to half a billion pounds a year “reinventing the wheel” by recreating documents and policy plans that have already been written, comes as something of a shock to Huddle – a company that has been offering cloud-based collaboration tools to UK government and public sector organisations for almost a decade.

Reported by The Times, a government analysis has found that nearly £500m a year is being spent repeating past research and reworking policy plans – many of which have already been dismissed as unworkable by predecessors. The problem, the analysis concludes, is that fragmented IT systems make much of the information held by departments (up to 100tb of data in many cases), inaccessible to staff.

This makes it almost impossible for staff to “consider past previous literature and the expertise of their peers within, and outside, government before developing new policy ideas,” the report explained.

Huddle is only too familiar with this challenge. Knowledge silos are a risk within any organisation.

Whitehall’s institutional memory is at risk

It’s not that information is lost altogether, rather Whitehall’s “institutional memory” has been compromised by decades of poor digital record keeping that sees terabytes of information scattered across multiple systems and made unsearchable.

The fragmented IT systems in use by Whitehall means sharing information between departments effectively means sharing outside of the “firewall”. Without a shared space to work and exchange documents and expertise between departments, staff typically resort to email attachments – making content unsearchable and trapped within individuals’ inboxes.

This problem shouldn’t exist. The government has long promoted the idea of multi-agency collaboration and information sharing, and it’s something that Huddle has been actively involved in. In fact we’re enabling many major collaboration initiatives; the Department for Work & Pensions uses Huddle to collaborate and share information with 382 local authorities around the UK, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy collaborates with public and private sector partners using Huddle, and the Ministry of Justice uses Huddle to create a single hub where stakeholders can review, edit and approve documents – something it says saves them £100k annually.

These are just three examples from the many dozens of government and public sector departments already using technology to work more collaboratively, grow institutional knowledge and mitigate the risk of knowledge silos and staff reworking projects.

The solution already exists

The point is, a solution already exists. Much of this £500m waste could be saved by using Huddle. When managed through our cloud collaboration platform, documents become accessible, structured and searchable – with staff able to quickly build teams from both within, and outside of their firewall.

What’s more, it’s infinitely safer than email, (or sharing documents via USB flash drives). Our built-in audit trail allows users to review document access, views and downloads, and every document includes a “comment” stream so it’s easy to review stakeholder comments and decisions.

Huddle, an approved Crown Commercial Services suppler, is one of the largest collaboration vendors listed on the G-Cloud digital marketplace, the government’s own procurement portal for cloud technology and services. In fact, last year, we were listed in the top 15% of vendors (by sales).

Of course, the challenge is not solely a technical one. The report itself acknowledges that cultural change is required. “Some departments have an ingrained reticence to share material except in very limited circumstances,” the report says. “Civil servants often feel obliged to create new, dynamic and original ideas when these may have already been considered (and ruled out) during previous policy studies.”

Staff need to understand the benefits of working more collaboratively, and how the sensitivity of their content should be classified. That’s why, with almost a decade of experience, Huddle is the obvious choice for government and public sector organisations hoping to work smarter, share expertise, and reduce unnecessary costs associated with document management.

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