Duplicated effort and the repeated reinvention of the wheel are anathema to Martyn Wallace, the Chief Digital Officer at the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government. With each of the 32 Scottish councils providing a spectrum of 22 service lines (education, housing, social services, roads, planning and more), raising the potential nightmare scenario of over 700 solution flavours in Scottish local government, you can certainly see his point.

Take robotics. With several councils tinkering with it – one has already applied robotic process automation to 85% of its housing transactions – Wallace wants to narrow down the AI/robotics platform choice to two, or at most three. He has also kicked off a process to identify the most common business challenges in robotics so that cohorts and areas of expertise can be built. His aim is to shift as many councils as possible to the new ways of thinking and project collaboration, and then to share the processes, bots and APIs so that everyone can benefit.

The GDPR project he steered in 2018 has helped councils avoid £2m in associated costs. And by undertaking 15 digital maturity assessments (to accelerate collaborative transformation by sharing gaps and lessons) across all 32 councils in-house, he eliminated external consultancy fees.

A tool was created last year that allows councils to upload all their IT contract and software version data so that synergies for collaborative procurement can be quickly identified. That not only saves time, but also gives a better negotiating position with suppliers and reduces the amount of bespoke and costly contract change notifications.

Wallace has been working closely with the Scottish Government incubator CivTech to see how innovation can be used to solve council IT challenges. And he has teamed up with Censis and Boston Networks to find scalable practical examples of where IoT can be deployed to capture efficiencies and reduce costs. A digital telecare programme is already exploring IOT and wearables, while one council is currently working with Wallace on creating a "digital twin" with its own data; if a business case can be made, this will be scaled nationally to help with multiple complex decision-making.

[Read next - Scottish Local Government Chief Digital Officer Martyn Wallace's 2019 plans for digital and AI]

CIO UK podcast episode 11 - Martyn Wallace's reflections from the 2018 Gartner Symposium