Essex County Council governs the non-metropolitan county of Essex and is one of the largest local authorities in England. As a non-metropolitan county council, Essex provides residents across the region with social care, education, libraries, transport, planning, waste disposal and leisure services, and shares responsibility with district and civil parish councils.
Under the Data Protection Act 2018, people have a legal right to request access to any information held about them. Responding to subject access requests (SARs) can be time-consuming, and there could be thousands of documents that need to be shared in response to a single SAR. As a result, it’s important for councils around the UK to have a robust process in place for streamlined management of such requests.
Heavily reliant on a Microsoft Access database to support their internal SAR process, Essex County Council identified the need for a more modern, platform-based approach. With Microsoft technology already utilised across the organisation – and with plans to introduce Microsoft tech to support further areas of business – the team at Essex found themselves eager to adopt a Microsoft solution to help simplify and speed up their response to SARs.
After carrying out a formalised procurement process, Essex appointed Tisski as their partner of choice after the Microsoft Solutions Partner presented them with a viable way forward; the introduction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service and an accelerator customised to meet their compliance needs would boost reliability and reduce the amount of time taken to respond to SARs.
Lauri Almond, Information Governance Manager at Essex County Council, said: “Responding to subject access requests can be a huge drain on our team’s time, especially given that we have deadlines to meet when issuing responses. Our existing system for handling SARs was developed internally, and while it still worked, it felt like the right time to start making the most of Microsoft tech and the efficiencies it can drive.”
When someone submits a SAR, the Essex team have to gain that individual’s ID and proof of consent, before gathering all relevant information from any number of disparate systems. After quality control is complete, documents are volumised for easier reading, and a response must be prepared and issued. Collating data and responding to an SAR can take the team at Essex up to 90 days, and they support the SAR process for schools and other local services, as well as handling SARs submitted directly to them in relation to the information they hold.
In turning to Microsoft technology to support this entire process, any team member faced with the responsibility of handling a SAR will be walked through the process step by step. With each stage of the SAR housed in a single, centralised platform – and SharePoint integration enabling documents and volumes to be viewed and stored in a consolidated system – Essex County Council can drastically reduce the administrative burden on their team by eliminating the need to dart between multiple platforms to gather and issue information.
“It’s been a pleasure to work closely with the Tisski team on a solution that really helps us enhance the way we handle these access requests,” Lauri said.
Anna Assassa, CEO at Tisski, said: “We’re experienced in supporting local councils and there’s one thing that crops up time and time again: that desire to really drive efficiency and gain value for money in a shorter space of time.
“Working with the team at Essex County Council, we’ve not only delivered Dynamics Customer Service, but a specially configured accelerator that helps them overcome challenges they’ve faced with their access request process. Ultimately, the implementation of this new technology will save them time and resource, helping the team work faster and more effectively to manage this process and focus the time they save elsewhere.
“At Tisski, we’re well-equipped to help local councils drive efficiencies like the ones showcased here with Essex and experienced in supporting the transition, from discovery, right the way through to implementation. It’s been a pleasure to play a part in that journey for the team at Essex, and we look forward to hearing about the impact this change has on their way of working.”
Information Governance Manager at Essex County Council
CEO at Tisski
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