Monday, 18 August 2014

Is "digital transformation" hindering digital transformation?

Last year I helped put together the LocalGov Digital Content Standards. They're a guide to writing content for local government websites, drawing from and adding to best practice that already exists. I also managed a project to create a local government site written to the standards.

It made me think about written language in a new way, though Twitter and its 140 character limit had already done this to some extent.

There's a great quote from Mark Twain:
I didn't have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one.
It's harder to put your point across succinctly without losing the meaning, than it is to waffle on using superfluous and convoluted phraseology over and over again, much the same as I've just done.

Along the same lines, I love this video from GDS, "It’s not dumbing down, it’s opening up":

Enough said.

So what's this got to do with digital transformation? In the past few weeks there's been some discussion about what "digital" actually means. It made me think about the language people use to promote the concept of doing things digitally, to those who might not fully understand the benefits.

It wasn't until I read this piece about investing in digital staff that alarm bells started ringing. It uses the word "digital" 68 times.

The people one might need to advocate the benefits of digital to aren't generally stupid. If you're going to put "digital" on the front of everything they're probably going to notice.

Imagine I'm trying to sell bananas. I'm guessing that if I repeated the word "bananas" to you 68 times you'd probably be less likely to buy bananas? Sure there's a few occasions this approach works, here's the advert for

Both might be selling digital, but it's to two very different "markets".

What I'm saying is, just as the content standards promote presenting information to the public using appropriate language, perhaps the same should apply to other content one might write? For example, if one needs to write a whole article to define a two word phrase, perhaps it's time to look for a better term?

Perhaps "digital transformation" is hindering digital transformation?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Making a change for the better

Last week LocalGov Digital Makers published information about the creation of Makers Project Teams. Unlike top-down initiatives such as Individual Voter Registration (IER), Makers Project Teams is very much a bottom-up collaboration, largely created by local government digital practitioners.

Makers Project Teams will commence with two pilots and they'll form part of the discussion at the Makers Meet-Up on 11th September. There's still a few places available, so if you work for a council and are interested in joining the discussion please get in touch with @LGMakers or leave a comment on my blog.

The pilots will not only create outputs to improve cross-council collaboration, they'll allow those who take part to assess and improve how project teams work. Think of it as an alpha version of a project team creating a beta product.

Given my involvement, naturally I'm a big supporter of this initiative however I do have one word of warning. Makers Project Teams need to have the necessary skills to produce whatever they're seeking to create.

However well joined up projects may be, if what they make isn't as good as it might be, whilst at least it's not lots of teams all independently doing so, ultimately, everyone loses out.

With this in mind, when I read Carl Haggerty's piece about a Change Academy he's been talking about recently, I was delighted.

A Change Academy could equip Makers Project Teams with the knowledge and experience they need to create fit for purpose digital products and services. There's a definite synergy between the two and helping individuals discover and explore through experience would be translated into a better skilled teams when councils collaborate on projects.

Whilst it's very early days and both the Change Academy and Makers Project Team exist as little more than ideas at the moment, I really believe together, they could change how local government does digital.

If you work in any aspect of local government digital service delivery, or just have an interest in improving what councils offer their residents online, then I urge you to get involved. LocalGov Digital isn't a central service, mandating change, nor is it a pay to join society, looking to maintain the status quo.

If you want in, you're in, and it'll be better for having you contributing your ideas and enthusiasm. After all, isn't that what we're here to do, to make stuff better for people by making better stuff?

Get in touch with @LocalGovDigital or just leave a comment on my blog, if you'd like to know more.

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.