Microsoft collaboration underlines digital ambition

The Council has been in the headlines over the past week as lots of the big-ticket items we’re delivering reach important milestones. From P&J Live and Union Terrace Gardens to council house building, they’re all very visible projects that will change Aberdeen in a really positive way.

There’s another news item this week that will also drive positive change – one that may not leap out from the front page of the newspapers in the same way, but shares the same ambition for the future of the city.

Microsoft has today published a media release that highlights a partnership with Aberdeen City Council and heralds what is a first for Scotland as we blaze a trail with the Cloud Navigator programme.

It represents the next phase of our digital transformation, with great success to date in a number of areas thanks to the endeavours of our in-house teams. Becoming the first Council in Scotland to introduce end to end online school admissions and the move by the registrars to online appointments are just two highlights in what has been a comprehensive programme, with Aberdeen leading the way among local authorities with the breadth and quality of our digital offering.

As we look to the next stage, there are various strands to the collaboration with Microsoft and more detail will be shared as the work takes shape.

At a high level, it will range from savings through moving from on-premise data storage to cloud solutions to exploring opportunities for Artificial Intelligence to be embraced as we use digital technology to better meet the needs of customers and staff. Expanding the use of Office 365 to enable employees to communicate more effectively is also a major focus.

Being able to call upon the expertise and global experience of Microsoft will be a huge advantage to us as our digital journey gathers pace and I’m excited about the path ahead.

The partnership working will bring Microsoft’s teams together with our own, particularly when it comes to looking at how modern cloud services can improve Council business functions. We hold the knowledge in terms of the processes that can be modernised to free up our time to spend with customers, they hold the key in terms of cutting-edge solutions.

Thank you in advance for welcoming in our Microsoft partners and working as one team.

I’ll certainly be taking the opportunity to find out more from our new Microsoft cohort, who will be working on the third floor at Marischal College as part of the unique collaboration, and we’ve all got a great chance to share ideas and challenges.

This is hugely ambitious programme and there will be opportunities to get involved, work with and learn from global technology leaders – with great benefits for Council customers and staff as we put digital at the heart of our transformation.

Congratulations to our P&J Live stars

I spoke last week of my enormous pride in the team behind the creation of The Event Complex Aberdeen, with the P&J Live entertainment and conference facilities at its centre, and after the celebrations over the past few days it’s important to once again thank all those who have played a part.

The opening ceremony on Thursday was followed by the preview event on Saturday and I know lots of our own staff were among the thousands who snapped up tickets.

The reaction to both events has been overwhelmingly positive and the complex is a shining light in terms of our ambitions for Aberdeen.

I make no apologies for repeating what I’ve said previously – the scale of the achievement by the project team and the many, many colleagues from across a huge range of Council services is phenomenal. We can all take inspiration from the way this project has been delivered – the Team principle in action.

Of course, with test events continuing and Offshore Europe around the corner the hard work is carrying on for those closest to the development.

In months and years to come, we will take a step back and truly appreciate the impact of what has been achieved and the social and economic benefits it has brought to the city and its residents. In the meantime, thank you once again to our teams and congratulations on a hugely important week.

New term, fresh faces thanks to success of early years initiative

Whisper it, but the school holidays are almost at an end. For one group in particular the start of term can’t come quickly enough as they embark on new careers as qualified Early Years Practitioners in our city settings.

All are existing members of Council staff who decided to put themselves forward for retraining and a change in career, successfully completing their traineeships in time for the start of the new academic year.

A celebration event is planned next month to mark their achievements as they head off to put their skills into practice as part of the ongoing expansion of Early Learning and Childcare provision. It’s such an important and rewarding role, giving children the best possible start in life and the chance to be the best they can be.

The response from staff to the opportunity to retrain has been excellent and very welcome as we aim to cater for demand in all of our communities.

A further 30 council employees will form cohort two and begin their traineeship in early years later this month. I wish all well as they start on an exciting new journey.

As part of our new Apprenticeship Scheme we’re also offering Modern Apprenticeships in early years as well a number of other areas of our business. These include care, housing, business administration and customer service, offering a positive destination for young people who are at the stage of choosing their career path.

Three information sessions have been held over the past week and the response was excellent, so we’ll start to see the green shoots very soon from the seeds that have been sown.

There will be lots of activity continuing around early years in particular and it’s a growth area that presents a variety of options. If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact the Talent Acquisition team within People and Organisation and they will be happy to provide information on all the training initiatives we’re developing.

Congratulations to all of our new Early Years Practitioners and best wishes to them and our new trainees for the start of term.

Going behind the scenes at TECA as momentous day looms large

This week marks two red letter days in the largest single project ever undertaken by Aberdeen City Council as The Event Complex Aberdeen bursts into life.

On Thursday the Co-Leaders will perform the official opening ceremony and on Saturday Preview @ P&J Live will welcome thousands of members of the public for a first glimpse inside the venue. Free tickets for the weekend’s event were quickly snapped up and there’s a real sense of anticipation around the unveiling of the complex.

I find it difficult to put into words the pride I feel when I visit the site and see what has been accomplished.

Aberdeen will have a truly world class facility, the largest development of its type in Europe, and it’s a project that symbolises the scale of the ambition we have for the city as well as, just as importantly for me, the wealth of talent we have within the Council.

It’s an undertaking that has brought teams together from all parts of the organisation – driven by project manager Andrew Win and Richard Sweetnam with their City Growth colleagues, led by Steve Whyte and the key clusters from Resources in Finance, Capital and Corporate Landlord but also with vital work from legal teams in Governance, from Strategic Place Planning at the outset, Commercial and Procurement, the roads and traffic experts as well as other teams in Operations and Protective Services and colleagues in External Communications.

There are many others within our own camp who have played a part, not to mention the valued partners from Henry Boot Developments and Robertson Group with the thousands of individual workers involved, and my sincere thanks go to everyone who has been on what is an incredible journey.

In the days ahead we’ll share more updates from the site, but I’m really keen to give those closest to the project the platform to share their memories as we celebrate a wonderful moment.  It’s well worth taking the time to watch the video with Andrew below to get a first-hand account.

As Andrew points out, although construction has been rapid – just three years to get to this point – the planning and preparation stretches back to 2012. So many have lived and breathed this development during that time and they can all walk ten feet tall this week as the finishing touches are made to a complex that will serve the city and region for decades to come.



Summer success for our teams

Congratulations are in order for the latest wave of achievements across the Council, with our Operations and Protective Services cluster reaping the benefits of the great collaborative approach they have adopted.

We’ve been notified that judges for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities Excellence Awards have taken the Aberdeen Communities Together (ACT) initiative forward to the next round as they prepare to select the 2019 finalists.

Making the COSLA longlist in the Achieving Better Outcomes in Partnership category is a great achievement for Environmental Manager Steven Shaw and the team. I may be biased, but ACT is already a winner in my eyes!

It brings together various organisations, including friends groups and public sector partners, as well as thousands of volunteers with the common goal of improving the environment and inspiring civic pride throughout the city – both among staff and residents.

More than 150 partnerships are part of ACT. A lot of work goes in to coordinating the efforts, but it is certainly worthwhile.

On a related note, we recently had the great news that six of our greenspaces have been awarded Green Flag status – another cause for celebration.

Duthie Park, Hazlehead Park, Johnston Gardens, Seaton Park, Slopefield Allotments and Victoria Park have all been recognized. It’s another example of the dedication and care that goes into these areas, from our own teams and from the many volunteers who play their part in tending to them.

Well done to all involved.

In a very different area of our operations, the Aberdeen Scientific Services Laboratory’s success in renewing its United Kingdom Accreditation Service accreditation was reported through the Public Protection Committee earlier in the summer.

The laboratory provides analytical services to a wide range of local authority and private clients, with a team of 20 in the Operations and Protective Services cluster. Everything from food sampling to monitoring agricultural products, potable water, swimming pools, legionella, air quality, surface and ground waters and leachates from landfill sites falls under the wing of the lab.

It’s one of the less visible Council services – but as you can see from that list, it is crucial in fulfilling our duty of protecting the people and place from harm.

My appreciation goes to the team for their diligence in what is a rigorous audit process.

Attention will turn to achievements of an academic nature this week, with the SQA results due out on Tuesday.

Good luck to the young people (and parents and carers!) who are awaiting news and thank you to the teachers and school staff who will be on hand over the holiday period to lend support and advice.