Global firm powering home-working solutions

Swift response to preserve key services provides lessons for the new normal

Adam McVey, Edinburgh City Council Leader (right of centre), Tara McGeehan, CGI UK President (left of centre) and Lindsay McGranaghan, Business Unit Lead Scotland at CGI (right)
Adam McVey, Edinburgh City Council Leader (right of centre), Tara McGeehan, CGI UK President (left of centre) and Lindsay McGranaghan, Business Unit Lead Scotland at CGI (right)

Although the lockdown is starting to ease slightly in Scotland, there is still a long way to go. But, according to global IT services company CGI, one impact of coronavirus is the scale of change that has been implemented in a matter of weeks.

When the impact of coronavirus became apparent it was critical that the City of Edinburgh Council took steps to protect core services while ensuring the safety of their team. An enhanced governance model was put in place to ensure that the teams could track, prioritise and deliver the various requests from the business to ensure continuity of key services. Speed of response was key and both organisations recognised the need for a pragmatic approach to identifying solutions and having them implemented quickly.

Alan Dickie, Vice President of Consulting Services with CGI in the UK, is experienced in leading large transformational programmes for a range of organisations across the private and public sectors, including the City of Edinburgh Council. Talking about the past few months, he said: “Councils tend to be viewed as traditional in their ways of working but I feel that the volume of projects that have been delivered since March to protect core services, support citizens and engage with the staff challenges that view.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work being delivered by both CGI and the City of Edinburgh Council who have worked collaboratively together and at pace to facilitate digital solutions to allow staff to operate remotely and keep essential services in operation. Projects that would normally take months have been delivered in weeks. Obviously there have been challenges along the way but, working together, we have overcome them quickly and made excellent progress. There are definitely lessons that we can take from the past few months to incorporate into our day to day processes.”

With the onset of lockdown the primary requirement for the council was to allow the majority of its team to become remote workers, this included a key piece of work to facilitate the Council’s Contact Centre to operate remotely. Extending the capacity for people to work from home while also supporting these users who were unfamiliar with this was the first objective. This was coupled with the extension to an existing programme to deliver Microsoft Teams which has been fully embraced by the organisation to work, not only internally, but with other critical service providers such as the NHS.

Adam McVey, Council Leader, said: “We’re one of the largest employers in Edinburgh and the services we provide are incredibly diverse. We’ve had colleagues right at the front-line of this crisis in working in care homes, supporting people who are homeless, collecting waste and supporting those most in need. Our schools and contact centre have also had to adapt to a whole new way of working, while thousands of our people have adjusted to working from home.

“We’ve been able to keep all of these workers connected to each other and, crucially, to the people of Edinburgh. Keeping our essential services running as fully as possible, protecting our workers and helping our most vulnerable residents have been our priorities throughout and our ability to adapt, find solutions and embrace different technologies has really helped us with that. We’re looking at other ways we can streamline what we do and renew our ways of working for the future and lead the city’s recovery from the pandemic, and smarter working and technology will be vital.”

The next priority was enabling the Learning and Teaching teams to begin preparing for the revised pupil assessment programme in place of exams and the new term. Traditionally remote working wasn’t available to this team so a rapid implementation of this solution was required to provide access to these critical resources.

Solutions also had to be found for the large population of Edinburgh citizens in vulnerable groups who have had to shield. Since the middle of May, residents have been able to self-register on the Covid-19 Shielding solution that the Council initiated and which CGI UK delivered with their partners. Registering via the shielding application provides vulnerable people with access to much needed items such things as medication, food parcels and additional support from volunteers.

The Council also wanted to ensure that their own teams were safe and fully informed but not everyone has direct access to Council devices. The delivery of a new application which could be downloaded to people’s personal smartphone was the answer. This allowed the Council to ensure that their team were fully informed on coronavirus updates, organisational decisions and return to work planning.

Looking ahead, as the country returns to some form of normality, there are a number of points that every organisation will need to address. What does a return to onsite working look like? With so much being accomplished remotely and continued concerns about travel to and from work, is it reasonable to assume that offices will be utilised at full capacity?

Alan says, “CGI supports the Council’s infrastructure and the delivery of transformational projects. We are also working with the Council as they lead the development of a smart city programme. Digitisation of council services was a key priority to deliver to transform the way traditional services are offered improving the citizen experience. In addition to this we have been supporting the council in the rollout of smart street lighting across the city while delivering energy and maintenance cost savings. We know that achievement of the Edinburgh 2050 City Vision provides a guiding focus but the journey to achieving this may have to alter while the city recovers from the impact that coronavirus has had. We will continue to work with the council to support them with the delivery of that roadmap to secure their vision.”

This shift in priorities may also have impacts in unexpected areas. CGI operate a local proximity model where the people working for their clients live within a short commute of the office. This approach encourages the employees, who are called members, to contribute to their own communities through volunteering etc.

Alan explains, “Traditionally we’ve focused on investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) projects within schools and the delivery of environmental initiatives. During lockdown we have temporarily shifted this to production of our free [email protected] modules for parents but we are now looking at how this might change. There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Providing support to retrain these individuals in technology skills which allow them to secure a new role may be a better use of our resources.”

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