Norfolk tenders for £100M flexible communications framework
Authority expects outcome-based approach for procuring voice and data networks to expand collaboration between councils and agencies
Norfolk County Council has launched a tender for a replacement framework agreement to supply unified communications, corporate voice and data networks, mobile communications, as well as calls and lines contracts for several district authorities.
Valued between £20m and £100m, the agreement aims to take an "outcome-based" approach towards telephony and communications technology that will build on its existing partnerships, while opening up room for wider collaboration with neighbouring councils. An outcome-based approach is described by the authority as procuring technology in a less prescriptive manner to allow suppliers to offer innovative solutions focused on delivering a specific service outcome as opposed to set solutions.
Kurt Frary, infrastructure manager and chief technology officer (CTO) with Norfolk, said that Norwich City Council was an example of wider authorities coming on board with the replacement framework, opening up the possibility of further collaboration and shared services going forward.
The framework, which will come into place following the expiry of Norfolk's existing agreement next March, is scheduled to run over an initial four year period, with the possibility of extension for an additional 48 months.
Aimed to also support the improved integration of communications, Norfolk County Council will be lead authority on the agreement, which is open to Norwich City Council, South Norfolk District Council, Breckland District Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council. However, it is anticipated that the agreement would allow for additional authorities to join procurement exercises through the framework.
Providers have until June 29 to submit their interest in the framework.
Frary added that as opposed to a "box and wires" approach to telecommunications procurement, the framework would support a move away from largely prescriptive technology tenders, allowing suppliers to put forward more innovative solutions and services.
"At the forefront of my mind is that that is less money around and that all councils need to be more efficient and deliver effectively on promises for service delivery," he said.
Frary claimed that the framework's focus on meeting specific service outcomes rather than prescriptive tenders would create a more flexible agreement that, moving forward, would be capable of supporting improved cross agency working between local public sector authorities.
"We have been talking to people in areas such as health and children services and it is clear that everyone needs to save money. One way to do this is the need to work with other agencies and [the framework] does support these opportunities."
Encouraging service equity across Norfolk in areas such as library services to ensure, where possible, that remote rural areas can be provided with similar quality communications is among the key challenges aimed to be addressed under the agreement.
Schools are also seen as a major focus of the tender, with the county council looking to build on previous work on trying to introduce services such as Google accounts and e-mails domains, according to Frary.
He said that schools buying into the framework would expect technology and devices that worked consistently, while supporting secure, easy-to-use Wi-Fi for the changing needs of teachers and pupils.
Frary said the framework was expected to not only complement the council's Digital Norfolk Ambitions (DNA) programme, but significantly enhance some of its key aims.
DNA was established to deliver a fundamental shift of resources from routine ICT into delivering more efficient information management. It was also designed to deliver new, up-to-date ICT for the council and to mitigate the risks associated with old equipment, software and data centres.