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City of Newcastle save millions in move from mainframes

A move to client-server and a re-negotiation of Oracle and other licence costs has saved Newcastle City Countil millions of pounds

Newcastle City Council has saved millions of pounds as a result of a massive IT overhaul which saw it move from mainframes into the modern era of technology.

Ray Ward, CIO of Newcastle City Council, said: "Most of our IT was centred on old mainframes. We needed an infrastructure that was fit for the future not stuck in the past."

He added: "The world had moved on but we'd stayed the same."

The council undertook a four-year IT transformation programme with support from Fujitsu Services which included adopting a new client-server infrastructure based on Fujitsu Prime Power boxes, moving to SAP applications for HR and payroll and rolling out Lagan software for CRM.

It also involved automating business processes such as payroll, digitising document management, rationalising Oracle database licensing and setting up a call centre for contacting the council.

Ward said the process automation and ensuing headcount reduction accounted for savings of up to £37m.

In the IT department, the new thin client system meant fewer IT staff were needed to support users' desktop PCs, and the fact the council was no longer developing its own software for the mainframe meant fewer developers were needed. The staff who remained have been retrained in what Ward called "modern technical skills".

Thanks to back-office automation, payroll and HR headcount was cut by half.

Fujitsu provided expertise in programme management, technical architecture design and procurement. Its negotiations with Oracle to procure database licences saved the council more than £450,000 upfront and will reduce maintenance costs by 40 per cent, according to Newcastle's Ward.

Along with savings, Newcastle Council is now able to offer benefits for council staff such as a home-working scheme. And managers have a range of new information available to them thanks to the new HR and CRM systems, which Ward said helps them make better business decisions.

Customer service has also improved after setting up a call centre which Newcastle residents can ring up with any concerns. Previously services such as housing benefit were run from around 25 neighbourhood offices but now only four centralised offices are needed, as each is more efficient, said Ward.

Overall the council's IT operation is more business-focused and anytime council staff want to request changes to IT systems there's a greater onus on them to prove business benefits than before the overhaul.

Looking back at the four-year programme, which is nearly complete, Ward said: "It was quite a cultural change for an organisation which three years ago didn't know how to use a mouse."

He added: "It was more about transformation than technology."