I’m sitting in Leeds just put the finishing touches to my speech for the Local Government Communications conference tomorrow: “Collaboration with citizens via digital technology”. It’s amazing what you picking when sitting around.
First of all congratulations to Birmingham City Council for winning a very deserved silver in tonight’s Reputations award here for the effort that has gone into Birminghamnewsroom blog and a gold (along with the local pcts) for the Be active campaign (free swimming etc).
The theme of the conference is “Better for Less” so it’s also a very good time and place to find the report on the creation of the new Birmingham City Council website, the one that Help Me Investigate (I’m a co owner of HMI) revealed, through a Freedom of Information Request to the City Council, had cost a “currently approved spend” of £2.8 million pounds. The same site which spurred on Birmingham folk to produce the ground breaking BCCDIY.
Update: I’m told the link to the pdf’s dont work (after all they are stored on birmingham.gov.uk. To get at them
* Set 1st drop down, ‘Meeting Body Type’, to ‘Executive’
* Set 2nd drop down, ‘Meeting Body’ to ‘Deputy Leader’
* Set both dates to ’24/05/2010′
* Hit “Go”
* Select ‘Deputy Leader’
* Select ‘Information Briefing Web CMS Project’
There – that was easy – what a brilliant system, worth every penny.
End of update
The Executive summary says:
This was a complex project involving numerous departments, personnel and suppliers over five years. The project was all about enabling BCC to respond and adapt to the opportunities provided by the web as BCC moves forward with programmes intended to deliver major benefits internally and to all stakeholders, especially the citizens of Birmingham. All comments below should be read within this context.
1.2 There were governance and management challenges throughout this project over the last five years. Many respondents felt there was a lack of a clear and robust command and control structure, which contributed to delays and overruns. Whilst these issues have started to be addressed in the last twelve months, we nevertheless recommend a simplified and well-communicated management system for the web going forward, consisting of a Web Services Director/senior manager, a Web Manager responsible day-to-day, a more inclusive Web Steering Group, and tighter financial control.
1.3 It was generally agreed that web project management in future needs to be applied at a more senior level within BCC and Service Birmingham. The web as a whole should be seen as the pivotal channel that it is and must have a higher profile at Executive level in BCC. It was also felt that in future web projects should be service-led rather than technology-led.
1.4 Change management – in respect of both personnel and specifications – will improve if a senior project manager is in place at all times. It was generally agreed that ineffective change management contributed to the delays on this project.
1.5 Auditing and risk management – audits were performed professionally but deadlines on the project were consistently missed despite the reports of Birmingham Audit. Key risks which are identified must be given more priority. It is suggested that predicted deadlines then need to be revised with a contingency factor and promised actions for rectification must be monitored and delivered.
1.6 Financial control will be better exercised with the nomination of a dedicated project accountant, in line with best practice. All new work requested by the proposed Web Steering Group must be costed in detail and signed off from a ‘user needs’ perspective prior to sign-off by Finance and work being carried out.
1.7 The new website did not cost £2.8m as is widely reported. This figure includes many other major items which were involved in the project apart from the website and it is important that this continues to be communicated to the citizens of Birmingham, directly and via the local press.
Final Report – Web CMS Review – 03 03 10.doc Page 4/64
Web CMS Project Post Implementation Review – Final Report
1.8 During the last two years, the Project Sponsor undertook negotiations with Service Birmingham regarding additional claimed costs by Service Birmingham on this project. It is stated by BCC that the outcome of these negotiations resulted in reductions of over £900,000 in these additional costs.
1.9 The site itself now requires all remaining content to be uploaded and we feel that it also requires a look more in keeping with the vibrant city which Birmingham is. Navigation and design could be improved as part of this process.
1.10 It is widely believed by BCC personnel that the new Content Management System (CMS) – which empowers individuals to upload content to the website and intranet – requires further work before it can be said to function effectively for its users. There are questions over the extent to which the FatWire CMS system was customised unnecessarily. The system is currently viewed as unstable by the BCC Web Team and requires remedial action.
1.11 To serve everyone, BCC’s website must be fully accessible and must also comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. Major improvements have been made but key BCC personnel believe that more still needs to be done before the Council’s stated policy is achieved. This is an action on both BCC and Service Birmingham.
1.12 With the exception of the CMS, the new website is functional and sits on an improved platform. As with all website launches, there remains work to be done to improve it and this will be a gradual and iterative process over the coming months for BCC and Service Birmingham.
1.13 The major objectives in support of the ‘Customer First’ and ‘Excellence in People Management’ Business Transformation Programmes have not yet been delivered but are expected within the month. When delivered, it is believed that these will contribute to the significant savings predicted from within business transformation.
Final Report – Web CMS Review – 03 03 10.doc Page 5/64
The report appears to have been in the system since March. It seems to be saying we could have done better and need to take more control over the web, but overall the millions (?) were well enough spent, even though our content management system ain’t up to much. What are you thoughts?