Lessons from the public sector on delivering efficient office moves and flexible working
If your business has ever moved premises, decided to share office space with a sister company, or adopted a change in working practices, then you know what a headache managing the IT and communications that accompany such a change can be.
In today’s commercial environment where companies and their staff want to work more flexibly, where businesses are looking to respond quickly and agilely to market developments and where staff automatically expect to have options for flexible working, such transitions will only become more commonplace. From an infrastructure point of view, moving to new premises or changing working practices can present a complex logistical challenge. IT and other systems need to be integrated quickly and cost effectively, without any disruption to services that could negatively impact customers. And all this can be further complicated when two or more organisations come together with different systems and different types of connectivity.
One important but frequently overlooked element to consider in the consolidation of estates is the telephone system. When businesses move or change the way their staff work, they need to know that they can keep the same public-facing numbers and that they remain contactable at all times. Calls still need to reach the right people - customers, partners and staff still need to speak to each other. The transition needs to be seamless, and the business needs to carry on as if nothing has happened.
In the public sector there’s an initiative which many private sector businesses might do well to watch. “One Public Estate” is seeing public sector organisations across the UK unite to make the best possible use of available space and assets, and transform the way they operate. Delivered jointly by the LGA and the Cabinet Office’s Government Property Unit (GPU), its aim is to drive efficiency and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.
In the three years since its launch, 100 councils in 24 partnerships across the UK have become part of the programme, and last November’s spending review allocated an additional £31m to expand it further. Councils are being invited to apply for up to £500,000 towards rationalisation work, with the goal of having every council in the UK involved in One Public Estate projects by 2018. The advent of community ‘hubs’ that combine several public services under one roof promises to make life more convenient for the people that use them and should aid a more progressive, joined-up approach to the provision of services, as well as breathing new life into local communities by generating upwards of 20,000 jobs within the next five years.
While estate rationalisation can present significant challenges, it’s obviously a valuable opportunity to modernise both technology and working practices. One of the biggest areas of focus for authorities undergoing estate rationalisation is around creating a public sector culture that is more agile and responsive to customers.
Public sector bodies like local councils, NHS Trusts and other vital services, need to avoid changing numbers – the last thing they want to do is educate the public around a change of numbers or worse still miss a critical call because of confusion over what number to call.
Northampton Borough Council, for instance, delivers Callcare - a community alarm service that provides a critical lifeline round-the-clock, 365 days a year for elderly and vulnerable people. When the organisation decided to close one of its sites as part of an estate rationalisation strategy, it was imperative that during the relocation, disruption to the Callcare service was kept to an absolute minimum.
The council used BT smartnumbers’ cloud-based number management service to redirect calls to any location needed, bypassing the local telephone exchange system or existing connectivity infrastructure and eliminating the risk of missing calls. And crucially, it has involved no change of numbers or any discernible change in service for the people who depend on it. So calls made to existing numbers reach the new location, and can also be rerouted to a different location if needed or even to staff at home.
BT smartnumbers offers greater levels of control than solutions like SIP trunking and other call diversion services, which can only direct all numbers to one location. By contrast, BT smartnumbers is providing public sector organisations with DDI by DDI number management, giving them the agility to reroute individual calls in real time in the event of a disruption. And with BT smartnumbers in place, organisations are continuing to realise the benefits of flexible number management long after the transition period is over, allowing them to break free of their geographical location and respond wherever they are needed.