Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Why you don't need a digital strategy

Are you writing a digital strategy for a council? Stop it right now!

Most digital strategies I've seen focus on enabling customers to do things online, I've even seen councils claim they'll be delivering 100% of services online this year. Your strategy needs to be about more than just online.

Many strategies are created as a plan to deliver savings, with success measured in redundancies.  It's important to understand how digital technology can enable organisations do more and bring in additional revenue.

Some strategies talk about digital being a mindset. It's not. The problem is that the term "digital" has been conflated with "the internet" and most importantly service design.

Think about technology, think about the people that the technology supports, think about the service the people and technology support, and above all think about the user (and statutory) needs the service meets.

Organisations will always need specialists. Think about how your strategy will help highway engineers, social workers, town planners and teachers deliver a better service.

Organisations will always need generalists. Think about how your strategy will help them answer the questions and do the work a digital service can't, without needing to retain specialist knowledge on a wide range of topics.

Organisations will always need websites. Think about how your strategy will enable online self-service as much as possible, whilst supporting generalists and specialists for tasks that can't be completed entirely on the internet.

Understand that digital is an enabler for good service design, it is not service design in itself. Forget your digital strategy and start writing a transformation and delivery framework for your organisation.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Transforming collaboration across Local Government

Last year, when we were putting the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) together Matthew Cain had a good idea. In truth he had lots of good ideas, but this post is about one of them and how we might progress it.

The LGDSS suggests an approach for councils to build good, value for money digital services people want to use. As councils start to adopt it there's an emerging view of what "good looks like" across the sector.

Councils provide different combinations of hundreds of services, but many of them are broadly similar across local government. Now we have the LGDSS and there's an agreed set of principles for transformation and delivery it's a become lot easier for councils to work together.

There'll always be a place for informal discussion, through initiatives like Unmentoring, events like LocalGovCamp, channels like Slack, or just picking up the phone and talking to someone.

As service transformation projects become mainstream across local government there's a growing need for resource and expertise on a formal basis. I've done this myself and used Digital Marketplace to find an individual specialist to bring in resource for a little as a week.

I've found it excellent, but what if I need a resource couple of days, or even just a few hours? Also, imagine if I could employ the expertise of someone from another council who's already completed the work I'm starting on, so I don't need to start from scratch.

Imagine if there was a pool of local government talent I could formally call on to do this. My organisation would pay for their time, and they could be paid overtime by their organisation to do the work.

With your organisation's permission you could add yourself to the pool, perhaps you might say you're just available for a couple of hours a week and if another council books your time, you become unavailable for that week.

This is easier said than done of course. A platform needs to be created or adapted, payment terms agreed and a mechanism for this built, employment and procurement law considered, and councils need to be onboarded (although there's only 400 and it just needs to be done once) plus a lot more. However, I think with enough will and a little investment this could work.

So who's up for transforming collaboration across Local Government?

Monday, 21 November 2016

LocalGov Digital rebooted

LocalGov Digital has come a long way in four years. From an idea at LocalGovCamp, to a meeting of council officers at the Local Government Association, to an established group to seeking to improve council web provision, to a network of people creating better, cheaper, local public services, it's been quite a journey.

With next to nothing LocalGov Digital has led the creation of innovations that far better funded organisations have come nowhere near. LocalGov Digital created the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) with the help of the Government Digital Service which is being adopted by a growing number of councils. Unmentoring is joining up people across the country and Pipeline is helping councils collaborate and that's just three of many.

But more needs to be done, and faster.

You can only get so far on good will and limited capital through sponsorship, so we're proposing LocalGov Digital becomes a community co-operative that everyone with an interest in thinking, doing and sharing to improve local public service provision can be a part of.

A more formal organisation means you can become part of something real; something tangible. It means the co-operative could bid for funding and it means that whether you work for a council, central government, the private sector, or yourself, you can get involved.

LocalGovCamp could become the co-operative's Annual General Meeting and the network’s regional peer groups would become local membership meetings. The co-operative would ask for a donation of £1 form each individual who wants to be part of the co-operative.

It seems in four years no formal organisation can or will be the change that's needed, so we're proposing LocalGov Digital will.

There are more details here and we need to hear your views, so please do tweet or blog about what you think or let us know through emailing feedback@localgovdigital.info.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Listening outside of the echo chamber

I've been listening to people outside of my echo chamber and I don't like what I hear.

Wikipedia defines an echo chamber as
A metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.
The people I follow and engage with from @philrumens are by and large those that I respect. The people I'm friends with on Facebook I have some real-world connection with. The people I'm connected with through LinkedIn I have some sort of professional link to. I operate in a social media echo chamber.

So I thought I'd start another Twitter account. I thought I'd follow and interact with people I didn't agree with. I thought I'd be prepared for differing opinions. What I found was an undercurrent of hate and intolerance I'd never encountered before.

Initially it's a liberating experience. Unbound by any constraints that might be imposed by one's professional role or reputation you're free to say what you like within the bounds of the law. It's nice being able to be overtly political for example.

As you peer deeper though there's a cauldron of hate. There's a mass of people who hate those who don't agree with them, hate those that are different, hate anything that challenges their narrow view of how thing are. Whether truly believed or done just to troll, the effect is the same.

Once a lie enters an echo chamber it's often amplified until it becomes the unquestioned truth. If enough people you know are saying it, it must be right, right? If this were limited to a few people believing untruths it wouldn't be so bad, but the reverberations in each echo chamber have consequences for us all, and our society.

Traditional media pundits still wonder how Brexit and Trump happened. How they got it wrong again and, then again. I think it's fairly obvious. Millions of people form their opinions based on the "word of mouth" of social media. People trust their network over experts and facts, and if their opinion is being influenced by deliberate lies, hatred and Twitter Bots then we're in trouble.

So what's to be done?

The easiest things we can change are those that we control ourselves, so start by acknowledging your own echo chamber and break out. Become an ambassador for the truth and social cohesion. I know facts aren't in fashion right now but put forward your views based on things that are provably legitimate. Engage with others' echo chambers by questioning hate and lies, not in an adversarial manner, but with a tone of reconciliation.

To borrow a phrase, let's take back control.

Friday, 28 October 2016

From peer to eternity

Organising a sustainable peer group

This week LocalGov Digital launched a peer group for the South West of England. Added to the newly created group for the South of England and established groups for London and the Midlands this now makes four.

The groups are primarily there to help regions establish how to work to the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS), but can cover whatever the regional leads feel would best meet the needs of the group.

This is great news for digital practitioners interested in thinking, doing and sharing to create better public services. What if you're thinking "where's the group for my region?" though, if that's the case then why not start a group yourself.

LocalGov Digital can definitely offer you:


LocalGov Digital can probably offer you:

  • A speaker for your meet
  • Some help organising your meet

You need to offer:
  • A good understanding of the LGDSS
  • A venue
  • Refreshments

Interested? Get in touch @LocalGovDigital or by emailing admin@localgovdigital.info.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Collaborative franchises

Yesterday I was at the Midlands Peer Group, set up to support councils in the region use the Local Government Digital Service Standard.

The event was expertly facilitated by Julia McGinley and Kurtis Johnson, and built on the success of the London Peer Group and the Summit at City Hall the week before. I don't work in the Midlands, but there isn't a group for the South (yet) and we're starting to use the Standard at my place, so I wanted to hear from, and talk to other councils who are in the same situation.

It's exciting to see councils start to use the Standard, and I've been amazed by the speed of progress. This time last year ago it didn't exist and has come so far already in a short space of time, thanks in part to support from people in organisations like the Government Digital Service. If you work for a council, you can sign your local authority up to the Standard here.

For me the main question now is, how we can enable the creation of more peer groups across the country to help more councils start to use the Standard. Groups for Yorkshire and Humber and the South are already planned and how can we make it easy to establish these and other?

I think a collaborative franchise model would work well, and this is kind of how the Midlands and London groups have operated together already, with the Midlands Group taking what the London Group produced, revising it, and using it in their group.

Current peer group facilitators could produce material together together for each round of peer groups, which would mean:

  • Those organising a regional group have a set of content and a plan for the event to work with, making it much easier to run. 
  • Each round of peer groups would be fairly consistent, though whoever is running each group could vary the content as they saw fit.

On Friday, Carl Haggerty and I will be starting to think about the future evolution of the LocalGov Digital Network. Peer Groups are one of the many pieces in the puzzle of the next iteration, and if you're interested in taking part in a Peer Group or the general discussion on where the Network goes next then please let me know @philrumens or by emailing admin@localgovdigital.info.

Together we can think, do and share to create better, cheaper, public services

Thursday, 22 September 2016

I learnt summit on Monday

The LocalGov Digital Service Standard Summit happened on Monday 19 September and you can see the agenda here. Here's some things I learnt from it:

There's a growing number of people working in central government, who want to help improve local service delivery and are willing to lend some of their professional time and skills.

There's a growing number of people who work in local government who have an interest in doing digital well.

Some IT suppliers are seen as an obstacle to delivering better, cheaper public services.

City Hall, London is a great venue, and there's some great people who work there.

It's entirely possible and relatively easy to put together a panel of excellent speakers on digital, the majority of who happen to be women. If you're going to an event on digital that features mostly men, ask the organiser why that is.

If you're paying to attend an event, someone's probably making money out of you. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but do be aware of it.

I'm reasonably good at putting together events, less so at presenting.

We need to start to re-think the LocalGov Digital Network to make it more sustainable and better aid collaboration across local and central government.

A growing number of councils are signing up to the Local Government Digital Service Standard. Your council can sign up here.


This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.