The Borough of Poole is the unitary authority responsible for local government in Poole in Dorset, England. It was created on 1 April 1997 following a review by the Local Government Commission for England and comprises 16 wards and 42 councillors.

Twelve months ago, the Borough of Poole embarked on a council-wide initiative to reduce the volume of paper in circulation and cut the amount of paper being printed and copied. In almost every corner of the council—committees, cabinets, council meetings—paper was driving the agenda.

Bundles of legal documents associated with child protection cases and the adoption panel were two examples targeted to reduce waste. Court documents for child protection cases can sometimes run to 4,000 pages, the equivalent of up to five lever arch files. In order to distribute these bundles to the relevant legal firms, such as barristers and solicitors, Poole used to send the documents via secure file transfer to a local printing service for copying. From here, the documents would be couriered to the Council’s legal team for checking before being sent out securely by Document Exchange (DX), the private mail network, to the firms involved. This process would take place many times throughout the month.

“Last year, we introduced the Paperless Members Initiative to cut waste and promote flexible working practices,” explains Liz Hall, business manager (Legal and Democratic) at the Borough of Poole. “Our annual print budget is £60,000 and besides wanting to meet our environmental goals, we wanted to cut this overhead dramatically.”

Prior to deploying Huddle, the Borough of Poole used Cisco secure encrypted email to send out sensitive data to external third parties. However, this was not straightforward as there was a limitation on the size of documents that could be sent securely through the system. This would invariably lead to documents being copied and encrypted onto disks and then sent via DX, which would cause delays to the dispatch of data and absorb productivity time. 

“The cross-firewall collaboration was a major goal. We looked at platforms like Dropbox, but were concerned about the security implications. We are dealing with highly sensitive information, so the security needs to be completely watertight,” says Hall.

Huddle meets information protection and security requirements

A conversation with one of the Council’s IT team pointed Hall and her colleagues to Huddle. Hall explains:

“As soon as we looked at the cloud collaboration platform, we knew we had found the answer to our paperless initiative. Huddle allows the Council to access, share and update documents both internally and externally with third parties. We keep tight control over versioning and everyone is on the same page. Best of all, Huddle has the required pan government accreditation at IL2 for information protection and security—so we know the data is safe.”

Huddle’s intuitive workspace model makes it significantly easier for legal teams to collaborate on legal bundles across both desktop and mobile devices. There are separate workspaces for each relevant child protection case and a workspace dedicated to the Adoption Panel, with documents easily added and securely shared amongst panel members prior to and following each panel hearing.

The unit recently introduced a workspace for senior managers to share and collaborate on information concerning the unit’s business, continuity and financial plans. Such data is commercially sensitive and contains personal contact details for each of the teams involved. Members of the unit management team can now access this data at any time, from any place on their mobile device via Huddle. One central view allows the team to add or remove users with one click, while version control ensures everyone associated with each legal case is always working with the current version of the file.

Unlike email, discussions are not lost: users can leave a comment or receive notifications around all activity for any file and send a request for document approval. All of these actions are tracked and stored in Huddle’s full audit trail. From judge’s directions and meeting notes, to medical and psychological assessments, it is all contained in a single collaborative environment. 

“These cases can run over many years, so it’s imperative to maintain clear, consistent and continual collaboration. With Huddle, nothing is missed or overlooked,” says Hall.

Huddle has also energised the use of mobile devices to manage documents at the Borough of Poole. Members of the Adoption Panel are now using Huddle on their iPads and other tablet devices to review and annotate adoption applications. Ease of use also comes as standard for the Borough’s 150 users. Hall concludes:

“One of the panel members had a problem recently accessing documents for one of the meetings. At home, I simply logged onto Huddle through my iPad and sorted out the issue. Previously, that member would have waited the next day for a resolution. Everyone who touches Huddle loves it. The feedback is really positive because it makes the whole team so much more productive.”

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