About the project
What was this project?
NACLC piloted a Community Legal Centre Information Technology Advisory Service in the states of WA and Tasmania.
The objectives of the CLC Information Technology Advisory Service were:
- to improve the cost efficiency of the IT services used by CLCs
- to improve the knowledge and confidence of CLC staff in accessing cost efficient suitable solutions for their IT needs.
How did this project come about?
Like all organisations, CLCs have a need for:
- IT hardware such as computers, servers, cabling, multi-function/photocopier units, and phones
- IT products such as software, networking systems, electronic filing systems, databases, intranets/websites, and (perhaps) social networking tools
- IT advice and support to purchase and maintain all of the above.
However unlike large organisations, government departments, or private companies, CLCs have extremely limited resources and usually cannot afford to employ on-site specialist IT staff. They are therefore mostly dependant on private IT support companies or consultants for advice and support. Questions arose, such as:
- how do you know if your IT support people are giving you good advice? It may be in their interests, not yours, to purchase certain products (eg email software which requires ongoing maintenance and virus protection).
- what if your IT support company suddenly jacks up their prices – should you stay with them or go elsewhere? How do you know you are getting a good deal?
- what if you are in a regional area with limited IT support options available?
- is there a better way of managing office information systems – for example, should you have 12 excel contact lists for different purposes or could they be combined into one database?
- is there more that the CLC could do in-house, bringing in IT support services only in emergencies?
Several years ago NACLC sought funding from the Attorney-General’s Department to trial a service or scheme which would assist CLCs to improve their IT knowledge and hopefully reduce their costs. The project was put on hold while other IT projects were finialised. Tasmania and Western Australia were chosen as the pilot states as together they have a mix of large and small centres, specialist and generalist, and regional and urban.
How did the project work?
NACLC employed Polly Porteous (former Director of CLCNSW) and Phillip Byrne (BBS Administrator and IT services consultant) to conduct the pilot project.
There were three phases of the project:
- Phase 1: February – March 2011: Sector consultation and analysis to finalise the model of service
- Phase 2: April – December 2011: Pilot service in WA and Tasmania operational
- Phase 3: January – February 2012: Evaluation and recommendations for a national CLC Information Technology Advisory Service.
The pilot Advisory Service consisted of the following:
- A panel of preferred IT support providers in each state
- these are support providers that have been contacted by the pilot service, agreed to prioritise CLCs, and agreed to recommended prices and service levels
- every attempt will be made to offer a choice of providers in regional areas
- the panel may include IT support providers that can provide remote assistance
- Web pages, accessible via the members-only section of the NACLC website, containing:
- information about the preferred IT support providers
- basic Q&As about IT issues such as identifying IT problems, entering into or getting out of contracts with IT service providers, IT equipment depreciation schedules, website redevelopment
- global knowledge base providing access to information on common software problems or other IT issues
- ways of saving money on IT, such as Donortech, GoodCompany
- seamless redirection to BBS and CLSIS help-points
- ability for CLCs to provide confidential feedback about IT service providers and discuss with other CLCs
- Phone assistance from the advisory service staff to CLCs for matters that aren’t covered by the website information, including:
- warm referral (the Advisory Service finds the IT supplier and explains problem) to preferred IT support providers for urgent call-out
- (possibly) the Advisory Service providing urgent help with technical problems via WebEx or referral to an IT service that can provide remote assistance
- Training on IT issues at the NACLC conference and/or state conferences.
What happened when the pilot finished?
The pilot finished in December 2011. The project then moved to an evaluation of the pilot (involving consultation with participating CLCs) and the preparation of a report recommending potential options (and costings) for a national CLC Information Technology Advisory Service.