London, 21 November 2012: A selection of regional PSN representatives recently came together to look at how Public Services Networks (PSN) have evolved over the last 12 months and to share their experiences of the PSN journey.
Kcom, part of the KCOM Group, hosted a roundtable discussion at the House of Commons, which was attended by Lincolnshire County Council, East Midlands PSN (emPSN) and Staffordshire County Council. Each of these councils has spent the year procuring, implementing or building upon regional PSNs.
The last year has been a year of rapid progress at a national level with the PSN Connectivity and Services Frameworks in full operation and PSN compliance arrangements now in place. The Cabinet Office reported that this has resulted in some 40 on-going PSN initiatives across 300 organisations and 40 per cent of new telecommunications contracts, in local Government, now being PSN compliant.
This significant progress has highlighted a number of challenges that need to be overcome in the coming year in order to help public sector bodies achieve the true benefits that a PSN has to offer.
Five key learnings:
Remember to focus on the vision - The real benefits of PSN are the direct savings available through sharing the network; the service delivery benefits come from collaboration between public sector organisations. On top of cost savings there are other benefits such as the ability to support flexible working and share assets such as buildings. It was highlighted that there is a risk of losing sight of these visionary principles focusing more heavily on the PSN Frameworks and compliance.
Collaboration is the key – The technical infrastructure and framework is in place and working well, but the success lies in public sector workers thinking and doing things differently. Only when all organisations are working as a complete team, addressing cultural, political and technical issues will the infrastructure be fully exploited.
Applications – To make the most of the current infrastructure, there needs to be a collective drive for more applications that can be accessed on the PSN. Progress has been made in this area with the introduction of the G-Cloud contract. There was an agreement that there needs to be clearer communications of what is available from whom via the PSN.
Open to all – Regional PSNs will only reach their full potential when they have all public sector services on board. Lead organisations need to work with vendors to make sure what is offered is valuable to all organisations, from police to schools, no matter their size or service. Procuring organisations must work hard to raise their profile and promote the services they can offer. Those wishing to join also need to do their homework so they know what is available to them within their region.
Widening the net of stakeholders – the success of regional PSNs lies in its ability to attract investment from across a wide range of public sector organisations; doing so will help to increase cost savings and collaboration. There is a risk that the PSN Frameworks are encouraging individual organisations to pursue their own procurements rather than joining an existing PSN. This will potentially duplicate spending rather than saving money, going against the key principle of what PSN.
Afshin Attari, Director of Public Sector & Public Services Networks at Kcom says: “Over the past year, the PSN landscape has really come of age and provided some real benefits to both the public sector body and the electorate. However, whilst some counties are starting to see the benefits already, there are still a number of challenges that will need to be overcome. PSN is a long term strategic initiative with the primary objective of bringing public services closer together; something like this needs to be constantly reviewed, so that we can celebrate and share success stories as well as address challenges."