Skip to main content

A pattern and process library for local government

Patterns and processes are blueprints for digital services.

A pattern describes how a service interacts with the user to gather the information it needs to progress a  request. This will often be rendered visually on a screen, but increasingly it's also through voice, and devices such as smart speakers.

It informs the team designing the service of things like which questions should be asked, how many at a time, in which formats, in which order, and what the user needs to know to be able to complete the questions.

Processes are how the service is delivered, describing when and why a process interacts with the user, the service delivery team, third parties, digital elements such APIs, and anything else needed to deliver the service.

A graphic representation of a process for missed reporting bins designed using Business Process Model and Notation is below


but it can also be represented in a machine readable format too.

Patterns and processes are the most tangible part of a service and therefore probably the easiest to replicate from one organisation to another, as part of transformation work. Although patterns and processes need to take account of local user needs, when compared to other aspects such as organisational culture and workforce skills they're a lot more transportable. The problem is, sharing and collaboration isn't happening in local government, not nearly as much as it could.

According to the Local Government Service List there are around 1,000 services a council might deliver, multiply this by 418, the number of principal councils in the UK, and you'll get 418,000 different combinations of service and council.

In reality, not all councils deliver the same services, for example in areas served by both a county and a district the services will be split between them. Regional combined authorities and shared services also reduce this number, as do some suppliers of proprietary platforms who offer pre-designed forms and processes as part of their service.

Whilst all this brings the number down, I would guess that there are still well over 100,000 combinations of service and council, and this repetition and reproduction across the country is huge waste of time, effort and ultimately taxpayers' money. There are two things that would help resolve this; Firstly a single repository for local government patterns and processes, and the harder to achieve, standardisation of a machine readable format for them.

Which this in mind, in June, at a Local Digital Declaration roadshow event in Hackney, as part of the participant led unconference section I ran a session with Ben Cheetham to gauge appetite from councils for this. The session was well attended, with lots of interest in the idea.

As councils are increasingly reliant on digital platforms, many of them proprietary, that only showed me one half of the picture. For the idea of a single library to work, private sector suppliers need to be on board too. So last Friday (20 June 2018) I organised, and with the help of the GLAAndy Sandford, David Durant, and Paul Davidson from iStandUK ran a session for the private sector, at City Hall in London.

Between them the vendors who attended have over 50% of the councils in the UK as clients you can see Leanne Coker's excellent sketch note of the event below


Back in 2016 I helped put together the Local Government Digital Service Standard which has now been adopted by councils across the country, and there seems to be as much enthusiasm for a shared library as there was for the Standard.

So what's next? The two sessions I organised were very much the start of a discovery phase and I'm now asking more widely for people to get involved in one or more of three strands
  • Providing patterns and processes for the shared library
  • Helping to scope, design and build the library
  • Helping define and create the standards
If you'd like to get involved then please complete the form here and help LocalGov Digital help councils to create better, cheaper public services.

Popular posts from this blog

Digital best practice checklist

This week I finished the draft of a digital best practice check-list. It's not digital strategy, in fact I'm increasingly thinking organisations don't need a digital strategy, they need a delivery strategy.

My draft has check-list of seven questions and recommendations, with one overall recommendation regarding best practice for delivering digital. Ideally it would be incorporated into a wider service and information delivery strategy.

Below I've omitted the bulk of the content, the reasoning behind arriving at the recommendation from the question because it's still in draft, but here are the seven questions and eight recommendations:

1. Is the council properly promoting its digital services and content, to reduce avoidable contact?

Recommendation: Establish a “digital first” ethos to the promotion of services and better targeting what, when and where they're promoted.

2. Are the digital services the council offers, especially where the design and development ha…

Pipeline Alpha

In September 2014, officers from 25 councils met in Guildford to discuss a platform to enable collaboration across Local Government. A "Kickstarter for local government" is the missing part to Makers Project Teams, a concept to enable collaborative working across different organisations put forward by LGMakers the design and development strand of LocalGov Digital.

Based on the user needs captured at the event, LGMakers created collaboration platform Pipeline and by October people from over 50 councils had signed up. Pipeline is an Alpha, a prototype set up to evaluate how a Kickstarter for councils might work. It is a working site though, and is being used as the platform it is eventually intended to be, at present without some of finer features a live offer might have.

So what have I've learnt in the eight months since we launched Pipeline?

There's a strong desire to collaborate 

LocalGov Digital isn't a funded programme. I wrote about how much it LocalGov Digita…

Defining transformation to a wider audience

For the past month I've been putting together a paper on the next steps of digital transformation, for the organisation I work for. I'm proposing we look at two capabilities and two business areas, and if approved I'll be writing more about it.

It's been a great exercise in gathering my thoughts and helping me to define digital transformation to a wider audience and how it fits into the bigger picture of service improvement.

Here's some of the stuff I've learnt or had affirmed:
Transformation, digital or not, starts with understanding the needs of the user through research. This should be obvious, but in local government too often I've seen "build it and they will come" approach applied.

It's unlikely a commercial operation would launch a new product without first researching the market, so why would a digital service be any difference?
A couple of years ago I wrote how the phrase "digital transformation" was hindering digital transf…

Superfast highways

You may have seen this slide I put together to help explain digital transformation

This week we launched a new beta service to report speeding traffic. It looks fairly simple but to give you an idea of what's happening in the background I thought it might be useful to show you the before and after.

So here's the before

and as you can see it's completely a manual process. Stuff might be recorded electronically but it takes someone to do something seven time to make the process work and send it to the parish or the district.

Here's the after

What this doesn't tell you is that it's basing whether the request is for the parish or district on three questions. It's also doing a spatial look up to find the parish and returning the parish clerk details using the Modern.Gov API.

Because these are already part of our platform this is data that we currently maintain, so there's no additional work to keep this up to date and we've reduced the human interactio…

Carl's Conundrum of Internal Influence

I'm writing this partly as a reply to an excellent piece that Carl Haggerty published about the disconnect between internal and external influence and partly due to various conversations over the past month about how to make using tools like collaboration platform Pipeline common practice.

This isn't really about Carl though, or Devon County Council, or any other council specifically, it's more a comment on the influence of digital teams in local governments, or lack of, and how to resolve this.

So here's the question that prompted this piece. How can someone who's been recognised nationally for their work, first by winning the Guardian's Leadership Excellent Award and who has more recently been placed in the top 100 of the Local Government Chronicle's most influential people in local government, "sometimes feel rather isolated and disconnected to the power and influence internally".

First, let's consider whether is this a problem to unique t…