In 2018, Matthew Ellis, the elected Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, received approval from the Home Secretary to take over the governance of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) from the Fire and Rescue Authority. This gave the Commissioner authority over Staffordshire Police (SP) and SFRS. The motivation for the request was to improve and accelerate cooperation and collaboration between Police and Fire and, particularly, to realise cashable savings for reinvestment in frontline services. To date, the focus has been on two key projects: Shared Enabling Services and Property Rationalisation. My role has been as project manager for the Shared Enabling Services project.
The project team consisted of staff from the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office (SCO), Police and Fire. Whilst the SCO and SP staff based at Police HQ, share a common IT network and have all been vetted to Police standards, this isn’t the case for Fire staff. Fire staff are based at Fire HQ, have their own IT network and, at the outset of the project, were not vetted.
All projects rely on securely storing documents, information and data, and making this available to project team members and more widely. When I joined the project, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t possible using the systems available. Documents were held within shared folders held on the Police IT system which, due to legacy platforms and the Police security posture, could not easily be made available to Fire staff. In addition, as the project involved the TUPE transfer of staff from Fire to Police, personal data relating to individuals was being emailed between the two organisations with the associated risk of this data be sent to the wrong recipient. It was clear that a platform was required to support this project and other collaborative, cross-organisational working.
Following discussion with Fire IT, and Police Information Security, it was agreed that a cloud-based solution could meet the needs of the project, providing it could meet the security requirements of Police. Following a demonstration and due diligence, we chose a solution that met the Official Government Security Classification and has been used by NHS and UK Home Office.
As we began using the new platform it became apparent that it could fully meet the requirements of the project. However, our ‘real world’ use of the platform didn’t utilise its full potential for a range of reasons:
Structure - We started configuring and populating our platform prior to getting advice and training from their implementation team, and so had to restructure our environment once we had a better understanding of it.
Training - The solution was procured and implemented once the project was already in flight and the team were occupied with project delivery and so we didn’t put the time into training users properly.
Integration - The new solution had a Desktop app which allows files to be easily opened, edited and saved back into Huddle. Due to the Police security posture, this application could not be installed on Police or Commissioner’s office machines meaning that files had to be downloaded, edited and re-uploaded which introduced some ‘friction’ in its use.
The above points are our lessons learned from using and adopting a new collaborative solution and addressing them will enable it to be used more effectively to support future projects.
In addition to us using it as a project environment, the project itself was recently the subject of an audit using third parties. Whilst this wasn’t a scenario we’d considered when procuring the solution, the platform proved itself to be perfect to serve as a data room, allowing us to upload all of the requested documentation and eliminating the need to email large files which are often a challenge to the mailbox of the sender and the recipient.
Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office