Bristol City Council


  • Streamlined and automated electronic document management
  • Improved internal collaboration and file sharing while also enabling collaboration with partner agencies
  • Provided easier data sharing within the Council and with external organisations
  • Enabled the introduction of innovative new workforce practices — including mobile working with remote workforce scheduling and digital reporting
  • Improved productivity and greater efficiency in the delivery of citizen services
  • Supported automated digital services for business customers
  • Provided a fully scalable solution — up to 7000 employees will be able to collaborate in an instant

Bristol City Council

Bristol is a large thriving city with a long history. With a population of over 441,300 people, it is the largest city in the south west of England. The city is served by a unitary authority — Bristol City Council — which is responsible for the delivery of all council services in Bristol.

Bristol City Council operates an Integrated Customer Services function (ICS) which provides a first point of contact for 26 council services — including council tax and rent bills, tenancy issues, environmental services and concessionary travel applications — and deals with 1.25 million transactions a year. Other customer-facing services delivered by the Council include libraries, parks, leisure and schools.

In 2011, in response to cuts in central government funding, Bristol City Council embarked on a major transformation programme in a bid to shave £70 million from its annual operating budget and simultaneously deliver more services. 

Business challenge

Despite funding restrictions, Bristol City Council needs to ensure its front line public services are delivered effectively and that it continuously improves citizen access to its services. Achieving these objectives depends in part on the Council’s ability to enable the right combination of services with partner agencies.

Analysis of the Council’s service provision had highlighted information management issues that would impede the delivery of improved, more accessible and more efficient services. To successfully rationalise and remodel its services, Bristol City Council needed to align its information sharing protocols and facilitate the improved sharing of data and information, removing or designing out silo-based information systems and delivering council-wide data access.

Achieving the new information management vision meant making the move to a new content management system that would:

  • Improve staff access to documents
  • Provide a collaboration platform to support the easy sharing of documents and digital assets virtually across the organisation and beyond
  • Enable the build out of new front-line services that can be delivered via partners
  • Support remote access to knowledge and data assets by mobile workers and remote workforce personnel
  • Support automated workflows to ensure streamlined transactions and efficient service delivery — including citizen self-service
  • Deliver the scalability needed to support the Council’s 7,000 employees
  • Provide the flexibility to integrate with new workforce enabling technologies and existing business systems
  • Support fast and responsible decision-making


Bristol City Council selected Alfresco to securely deliver the unified document management and collaboration capabilities it needed, placing it at the heart of plans to overhaul its electronic document and records management systems.

The Council was looking for an open standards solution that was scalable, would deliver a comprehensive range of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) features, could handle different types of case management, could interoperate with the legacy systems and interact with other open standard elements of the infrastructure, support online team collaboration and deliver freedom, flexibility and ownership of data.

“After a rigorous evaluation process that took into account such factors as cost, usability, and adherence to open standards, we selected Alfresco as being the best all round fit, “ said Gavin Beckett, Chief Enterprise Architect for Bristol City Council. “Alfresco offers a rich set of features, a clean and simple user-friendly package with the additional bonus of being an open source open standards platform, which means we can use it right across the board without having to spend large sums on licences — the money saved is being spent on front line services rather than software.”

Using Alfresco for document and digital asset management and Drupal for the front-end of its website, the Council’s new platform has already enabled the delivery of efficiency improvements in a variety of Council services, thanks to more streamlined and automated document management and collaboration capabilities.

The first step was to define an information architecture for electronic and records management in Bristol, creating different information zones for all content. Next, the team generated a solution design for Alfresco which included five environments and a pattern for integrated document applications.

Working with Alfresco’s integration partner Zaizi, the Council has already kicked off a number of projects that are providing the template for the automation of services in the future. For example, the Council has made it possible for landlords to apply for licences for multiple-occupancy houses online. The 50 page registration document can be completed and submitted instantly to the licensing team. 

In another project, a new field service application means staff performing equipment servicing and maintenance repairs on council properties can upload images such as photographs and gas certificates captured on PDAs. Similarly, property inspectors can generate records, automatically schedule visits, and associate records with inspections while out on the road. Today around 700 users in the Council’s housing service use Alfresco to collaborate and share documentation.

The council has piloted paperless meetings, using Alfresco in the cloud to give staff access to non-sensitive Council documents regardless of their physical location and the ability to view and share files with project team members and external agencies. Staff and councillors in the pilot accessed Alfresco via the cloud using Android or Apple devices or standard laptop computers. The Council is now exploring ways of providing secure access to the on-premises Alfresco One system, using open source identity management software and Council-provided mobile devices.

“Alfresco will make it possible for us to be a very different organisation in the future,” confirms Gavin. “We’re eliminating cumbersome and laborious paper-based processes and making new workplace productivity innovations possible. What’s more, thanks to open standards the truly open access to and re-use of data is at last possible.”

Alfresco will also provide a key part of the infrastructure supporting the Council’s Bristol Workplace Programme. Staff will adopt new flexible working arrangements made possible by mobile technologies, web-based access to applications, and anytime, anywhere access to information and documents. The programme will enable the Council to flex its workforce and locate it at the point of need.

For the future, new elements of the infrastructure are emerging, including interoperability with the Tibco process management stack to enhance data exchange with the Alfresco document repository, supporting further efficiency in end-to-end processes within the Council and with customers.