Coeus Consulting helps local council with Covid-19 response

02 September 2020 3 min. read

Coeus Consulting had been engaged with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council for a year, when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. The crisis saw the consultancy rapidly refocus its efforts on addressing various challenges relating to the subsequent lockdown, and keeping the systems running for the Council.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (SBC) first appointed Coeus Consulting ahead of a seismic cultural shift away from service-led delivery, to a system of management by outcomes. Due to the strains placed on it by changing demographics, and falls in budget, SBC needed to be more agile, more efficient, and more engaged with residents to do more with less. It was therefore clear the £9 million SBC spent on its out-dated IT system was not aligned to its core aims – something Coeus was charged with helping overhaul.

Coeus worked closely with the executive team, delivering an IT transformation through a collaborative partnership with another advisory SME. This saw the system modernised in a rapid timescale, addressing the multiple challenges around relationships, skills and the IT infrastructure. The firm also helped to transform the culture in SBC’s IT department, which had low motivation as there was limited executive IT knowledge and the business relationship was strained.

Coeus Consulting helps local council with Covid-19 response

The long-term, tailored IT strategy and changes ultimately enabled over 70 key outcomes for Southend have been better enabled as a result of this work, including transport, urban regeneration, healthcare, connectivity and air quality improvements. This success story was recognised by the Management Consultancies Association, which nominated Coeus for the Change and Transformation in the Public Sector prize at the 2020 MCA Awards.

Just when things were looking up, however, with Coeus having been engaged with SBC for a year, Covid-19 hit. The pandemic had a series of major impacts SBC needed to adapt to – including people needing to work remotely, the need for a business continuity scenario, and having to keep employees engaged remotely. Fortunately, Coeus was able to help SBC navigate these challenging conditions. According to a statement from the firm’s website, key to it all was good communication, and managing people’s expectations.

Coeus said via it’s blog, “It was quite interesting – we thought this would be harder than it actually was. We started taking some specific actions - the users and the broader organisation were very supportive of everything we were doing and were happy to lower their expectations. We focused a lot on communications - we leveraged the central comms team and had a comms plan laid out. We also provided regular updates on progress.”

In terms of that progress, meanwhile, one of the first things Coeus worked on was remote communications. As it became clear that Covid-19 was going to become a global pandemic, the firm accelerated a migration to Outlook 365 – providing a more resilient email solution, but also a better user experience as well. Elsewhere, before the lockdown, the number of users who could connect into corporate applications from home was limited to about 300, out of a total of 2,000 users. The firm upgraded the bandwidth and the software licenses needed to facilitate remote work.

Among a host of other solutions provided, Coeus also managed to address skills gaps and engagement from home. The firm had to prioritise what its resources were working on, for example Coeus had some people in its Applications team sit on the service desk for a bit, to take some calls. The firm’s ability to move people around, and maintain flexibility was absolutely key.

Addressing engagement, Coeus added, “It's very difficult to stop people using certain tools, but a way around it is really to work proactively with those users and educate them as to what is possible and really help them get the most out of the tools.”