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August 2020
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Wiltshire Council takes a step into the future

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

Wiltshire Council has taken a significant step forward by welcoming the first of a team of virtual assistants (VAs) to its workforce. The VA team will complete high volume, repetitive but critical tasks to free up staff time so they can focus on activities that really make a difference to residents and the council.

The council is using ground-breaking robotic process automation (RPA) technology; cost effective software that enables manual, rule-based activities across multiple systems to be completed at the most efficient time for our residents and services. The first processes have already been automated, enabling teams to deliver their services in the most efficient and effective way.

The payroll team was the first to benefit from this new technology. Automating a time critical and labour-intensive process has given staff the space to focus on where they can add the best value, and has given the council the capacity and confidence to take on more payrolls to support its commercial agenda. Another 10 processes are due to go live in the coming months, with many more in the pipeline.

Ian Blair-Pilling, Cabinet Member for IT and Digitalisation, told GPSJ: “This is a really exciting time and we have taken a huge step forward on our digital transformation journey.

“Leveraging technology is a key part of our strategy and will shape how we deliver our services in the future, in the most cost-effective and efficient way for Wiltshire residents.

“We are an innovative council, and we plan to capitalise on further technological advancements to deliver our business plan. Our staff have been enthusiastic in embracing these opportunities and are excited about the changes it will bring to the way they deliver services.’’

The council is working closely with Thoughtonomy and Microsoft to develop this automation and build in-house staff skills, so they can continue to automate further processes.

Phil Sheen, Head of Public Sector at Thoughtonomy, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Wiltshire Council, its members and staff to deliver the best services possible to residents, businesses and visitors to the county.

“Our strategic engagement with the Wiltshire team will see us continue to work closely with them over the coming year to develop their virtual assistant capability. This also provides a new range of digital skills which will be embedded in the council, and continues to demonstrate Wiltshire as a leading innovator in digital public services and citizen outcomes.”

This is a key part of Wiltshire Council’s digital programme, which will make it simpler, quicker and easier for residents to access and enable services, while delivering significant savings to the council.

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