City Council’s Covid-19 response shortlisted for prestigious UK award

A key element of Aberdeen City Council’s response to Covid-19 pandemic has been shortlisted for a prestigious Project Management Institute (PMI) UK National Project Award.

The Institute has created a special award this year to mark the UK’s best Covid-19 response project and Aberdeen City Council has been nominated by the public for its “Covid-19 remote, secure collaboration programme” to empower employees to work from home and maintain services despite the impact of the pandemic.

The Council is the only UK local authority and the only Scottish organisation in the running for the award. The authority joins projects such as the HM Revenue and Customs’ ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ and Job Retention schemes and Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine research on the shortlist of ten.

Described by the PMI judging panel as “having a significant and positive impact on the Council and its citizens at this very challenging time” the programme was based on a multi-phase project which helped employees adjust to new ways of working within hours of the first stages of lockdown and to stay connected with communities and support the vulnerable.

Since August 2019, the Council has partnered with Microsoft Consulting Services to improve service provisioning, enhance team collaboration, and streamline remote work. The Council moved applications and data to Microsoft Azure, rolled out chatbots and robotic process automation, and empowered remote work with Microsoft Teams which is being used by tenant groups, businesses, forums, and committees alike to stay connected.

Within 40 hours of the first stages of lockdown earlier this year, people were working from home and now thousands of employees are using Microsoft Teams for video conferencing, and chat messages in Teams have skyrocketed from 40,000 a week to 365,000.

The Council’s AB-1 chatbot – the first at a Scottish local authority – responds to approximately 750 individual Covid-related queries alone each week from businesses and citizens, drawing on data held securely in the cloud.

Council Co Leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “We are extremely honoured to have been nominated by the public and then shortlisted for this award. The calibre of the finalists is truly humbling.

“Our programme has been critical in keeping staff connected at a time of physical distancing, allowing us to continue serving the people of Aberdeen and offer support to our most vulnerable citizens during the pandemic.

“I’m really proud of how our staff have embraced new technology and ways of working in responding to the crisis, and we should all be grateful to them for their continuing efforts in the fight against Covid.”

The top ten finalists will go forward to a public vote, which will open shortly.

Keep watch for how you can vote on our social media channels and also on the PMI UK website: https://www.pmi.org.uk/awards2020-special-covid-19-award

Voting will close in February 2021 and the winner announced in London the following month.