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Showing posts from 2018

Building booking capabilities

As a general rule, legacy lock-in and monolithic IT can stifle innovation and make change harder.

You're tied to the road map of one supplier to deliver a whole service, to which you're just a single customer often amongst hundreds. Sometimes this isn't all bad, particularly for a general function such as as finance or HR where there are many mature products on the market, but not often.

One alternative is to build your own services from the ground up. For example around 10 years ago we created our own fault reporting service in C# .NET through which between 60% and 70% of requests for service about the roads and countryside are now raised. Since then products such as Fix My Street have evolved and we were one of the first councils in the UK to create an Open311 Service.

The problem with building your own service from scratch is it takes time and resource. Just adding a couple new fields can take days of coding, testing and deploying.

So if old-school IT is inflexible, an…

Doing a few good things well

In September the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) invited expressions of interest (EoI) from councils, in their £7.5m Local Digital Fund. This week MHCLG released details of the EoIs they received, and you can see all 389 here.

An unintentional outcome of the volume of EoIs MHCLG received is that collectively they serve as a snapshot of the current state of digital and transformation in local government. David Neudegg tweeted this great summary of them as a whole:
An interesting and illuminating list of proposals that highlight the current variation of levels of understanding of digital across the sector — David Neudegg (@PublicaMD) October 26, 2018I've taken a look through many of the EoIs and they seem to fall into fall into four categories:
1) Things that shouldn't need funding

LocalGov Digital was formed in 2012, in part to aid collaboration across local government. Since then it's become a national network to share …

LocalGovCamp 2018 Notes

Here are my rough and random thoughts on LocalGovCamp 2018, published less than 24 hours after the end of the event.

As usual Nick Hill, put on another great event with help from other LocalGov Digital members. Although 2018 was probably the best attended LocalGovCamp I've been to, a noticeable trend since 2015 that became very apparent this year is that more people now come on Friday than Saturday.

There are many assumptions you can make from this. Perhaps digital and therefore LocalGov Digital has become more mainstream so is now seen as a legitimate work thing. We've certainly never had video address from a minster inviting attendees to apply to a £7.5m Local Digital Fund before.

Friday saw a wide variety of digital innovation workshops. I head more about how to apply for the Local Digital Fund, Jonathon Flowers provided an insight into why change is hard, and Esko Reinikainen spoke about network mapping and analysis.

It was also the second time this year I've attended …

Pattern and process projects for a local government library

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about a pattern and process library for local government which seems to have gained quite a bit of interest. You can read the piece here.

It finished by asking 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  and as a next step I thought it might be useful to define these a little more.

Providing patterns and processes for the shared library 

Any repository needs content, but far from this being a one off exercise, this content needs to be curated and refined in a sustainable way.

I've learnt from experience that once the initial flurry of interest is over, the hard work of keeping something up to date begins and that's when many people lose interest. It was this, and BCCDIY that prompted my very first post on this blog in 2010.

It's also something that both Mark Wilson and Mark Thompson also hig…

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 an…

The Local Digital Declaration

Local e-government and digital isn't a new concept. In 2000, Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) aimed for all public services in England to be delivered electronically by 31 December 2005.

Local authorities reported 97% e-enablement at the start of 2006, but in reality what was created were websites crammed full of PDFs, and the legacy of this ethos still lives on with some councils. Mind you, an online form isn't always the best medium either, and recently we removed 60 online forms from our website.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Local Digital Alliance was formed which promised much but delivered nothing, and in 2016 the Local Digital Coalition saw many of the same organisations come together, to talk about, but not deliver a joined up approach to local government digital.

July 4th 2018 saw a Local Digital Declaration co-published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and many of the organisations in the Coalition. As you may have picked up from t…

Why we ditched 60 online forms

Whenever I read that a council is reaping the benefits of a digital transformation programme I go to their website and use one of their basic services. I go through the process to report a pothole, to apply for a new bin, or something similar right up until the point I would have to submit the request.

Generally the user experience is mixed and includes combinations of poor design, superfluous questions, jargon, wordy guidance text, and a requirement to create an account. Give it a go yourself and see how much user centred design played a part in their digital transformation.

At my place we have over a hundred online forms now. In some cases they send a simple email, in others they're the front end of a complex business process incorporating other services and applications. I'll be writing about the work we've done for waste services some time in the future.

Last week we finished removing 60 forms from our digital platform. Most had been online for four years, a few were a…

Low code isn't no code

There's been a lot of talk about "low code" over the past couple of months. At my place it's an approach that's starting to enable us to prototype and build new digital services a lot quicker than if we created everything in a framework such as .NET or Django.

We're near the start of our journey, and councils like Adur and Worthing are way ahead of us with this this approach, already creating line of business systems with a low code approach.

Whilst low code is often sold as an approach that means you don't have to write a single line of code, that isn't true. What is really means is that you write the code once, and you don't have to be a programmer to utilise it many times.

Take this example

This all you need to send a postcode the user has entered in an input box and return a list of addresses. Many services need a postcode lookup so we've utilised this quickly and easily tens of times.

Is it low code? Yes. Is it no code? No.

Below is the c…

A rough guide to central vs local government digital

More than ever there seems to be a willingness for civil servants and local government officers to work together to build digital services. Because of this I thought I'd put together a rough guide to councils and digital, for those working in central government digital.

There are lots of governments

First off, local government isn't a single government, it's hundreds, in fact over 420. There are blue, red, yellow (two kinds), green (but not that kind) and purple governments, some with no overall control (equivalent to a hung parliament) and one independent. More on this later.

To make matters more confusing, there are lots of networks, representative bodies and events too. I made a graph commons of all those I think relate to digital because I've tried to explain how I saw the relationships between them all so many times.

If you're looking for a single voice to talk to there isn't one because there is no Local Government, just local governments.

It's politica…

New plan, same idea.

At UKGovCamp in 2012, Sarah Lay and Carl Haggerty had an idea.

After a discussion with Sarah Jennings, a group of council officers were invited to London to talk about local government, digital and collaboration; I was lucky enough to be one of them.

We discussed the inadequacies of the annual Better Connected survey, what the new Government Digital Service might mean for local government, how we could work together to produce better websites, and a whole lot more.

Another meeting followed, and with the help of the Local Government Association, LocalGov Digital was created.

The idea grew and became LocalGovCamp 2014, and 2015, and 2016 and 2017. It became Unmentoring, the LocalGov Digital Slack Team, the Local Government Digital Service Standard, five local peer groups, and much more. We accomplished amazing things as a network with next to no funding, but we only got so far.

This is why in December 2017 we adopted a formal constitution which means LocalGov Digital is now an associati…