Sunday, 3 July 2016

Progressive points for a pivotal period

It seems like we're at a pivotal period for the future direction of our country. Not for a long time have many things been so uncertain, but this means it's an opportunity for change, so now seems a good time to suggest four ideas for the future.


Local service providers can't continue to go it alone any more

We know that digital offers new ways of delivering services locally and individual organisations don't have to procure products from individual suppliers any more. You might look to SaaS a way forward, but for me shifting from products to services doesn't really solve the problem that hundreds councils and other local service providers are individually buying the same thing over and over again.

This is a huge waste of taxpayers money and should be addressed because the financial situation for councils isn't going to get any easier in the short or medium term. It really needs disruption and re-design, not just within each organisation but across the sector.

One approach is councils creating services for others, for example Surrey Digital Services have produced an address lookup API which is currently in Alpha. If this approach was taken for more capabilities local government would save millions of pounds every year.

Working against this is the software industry who will seek to protect their income from the current model, a few politicians keen to protect their fiefdom, and those who will tell you "but we've always done it like this", which is why...


We need strong, informed leadership

However forward thinking digital practitioners and teams are, they're not the leaders at the very top of their public sector organisation, driving its overall strategy. Those who are need to be well informed, but the digital space is so crowded right now it's difficult for them to know who and what to listen to.

Just this week I saw a white paper on published that was so wide of the mark it was at best old ideas re-hashed, and at worst misinformation. I also spoke to a colleague in local government who's work I and I know many others greatly respect, who could be out there helping other councils, who said he rarely gets to bed before midnight because of the volume of his work.

This needs to change, and in every public sector organisation a partnership of leaders and informed digital practitioners needs be re-designing their service delivery. When I say every organisation...


We need to include everyone

If the events of recent weeks have shown me anything, it's that there needs to be a focus on society as a whole, or in this case local service delivery across the whole country, or you won't get the result you're aiming for,

I know there's some great work going on in councils like Bristol, Leeds, across the authorities in Manchester, and elsewhere but if we really want to change how local services are delivered for the better we need to include everyone, not just focus on what might some might term the "metropolitan elite".

I don't mean to use this term with any disrespect, just that smaller councils across the country will never be able emulate what happens at their big city counterparts, and when I see "apply the model used in city X" touted as a solution for everyone across the country, I'm not sure this is workable as an inclusive model to transform services for every user in the country.

That's not to say larger councils couldn't supply individual services to smaller organisations as previously mentioned, and in addition we're seeing that...


The lines are being blurred

Local and central government have always worked together and as far as digital goes, initiatives like the Local Waste Standards Project have led the way in recent times. Over the coming year we're going to start to see a real blurring of the lines though between local and national service delivery.

Most central government departments now have digital teams, and many are keen to work with councils. Take this discovery event from DCLG, DVLA and GDS for example, three bits of central government and councils all providing elements for one service. We're going to see a lot more of this over the next year and we need to remember that whether national or local, we should all be working to achieve the same thing, cost effective, user centred public services.

Which links quite nicely in with...
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.