Councils Set Benchmark for Public Sector Shared Services in the Cloud  


Thursday, Jan 12 2012

Stockton and Darlington councils have completed the installation of shared finance, HR and payroll transactional services, including technical IT and operational support, at 10 academy schools in the area.

The councils, whose joint services venture is known as Xentrall, said that the implementation was completed in six months as part of a deal with software firm UNIT4.

Ian Coxon, head of transactional services at Xentrall, told GGC that the academies will use enterprise resource planning software Agresso business world, which will be hosted in the cloud using UNIT4's shared journey solution.

"All the academies need is broadband access and internet explorer, and they will be able to access a shared version of Agresso," said Coxon, adding that this cuts out the need for locally hosted services.

He explained that another one of the benefits of the service is that the software they access through the cloud is "tailor made" to each academy's specific need. The service is also subscription based, with the schools paying for what they use.

Coxon said that the shared service could be used by other schools or authorities further afield as the technology means that geography is no long a barrier to collaboration.

Xentrall, which was first launched by the authorities in 2008, first considered a cloud shared services initiative in April 2011. The councils said they have been pleased with the uptake so far and hope that the cloud service will be seen as a "benchmark" for other public sector organisations setting up similar services.

Coxon said: "It demonstrates that in the new economy there is appetite for innovative operating models and technologies.

"We have been told that this, along with Xentrall's shared services heritage and not-for-profit status, makes the services attractive to public sector organisations looking to adapt to funding challenges."

The councils said they would not reveal the value of the deal as it was "commercially sensitive information".

This article was published by Guardian Professional - 9th January 2012.  Click here for article