A reply to @EalingCouncil about Digital

I take my hat off to Ealing Council for asking for contributions and help with its digital strategy. You can read the article here >>> http://www.digitalbydefaultnews.co.uk/2016/01/28/ealing-council-calls-for-help-in-developing-its-digital-strategy/

I’m attempting to make contact to feedback but wanted to share here the basis of my feedback as i think the sector is in danger of pushing digital ahead without understanding why.

Ealing Council ask the following questions and I’ve provided brief feedback below each one…

Ambition

  • How do our aims and aspirations compare to comparable organisations both within the UK and abroad?
    Feedback: As a public sector organisation i would like to suggest that there is only one ambition “Provide world class local public services”…Unless the questions refers to something else i can’t see why any public sector organisation would not have this as their ambition..to not have it is a disservice to our residents/citizens
  • Do our aims and aspirations reflect key trends in technology and take up over the next few years?
    Feedback: Your aspirations around technology should be driven not by what is trendy, or what is popular but what is fit for purpose and meets the needs of those who need the services. This might mean thinking radically different about how and where technology might be used and even who might provide that technology. Don’t be driven by trends be driven by the needs and demands of the people you serve.
  • Do aims and aspirations capture the full range of potential opportunities over the new few years?
    Feedback: My answer is similar to above, don’t focus on the technology or the latest app. Focus on need, outcomes and the people who live in your area…focus on solving problems, not the latest technology. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is connecting a people together and giving them space and time to resolve things independently.

Governance

  • What is the right approach to supporting and enabling digital transformation within our own organisation?
    Feedback: There is no right approach. I’d like to ask you how your organisation gets things done now and improves or redesigns services. This is best done by the people who do the work supported by people who understand how to challenge, redesign and discover new opportunities.
  • What is the best funding model to encourage digital transformation and minimise the risk of expensive failure?
    Feedback: The funding you have is the funding you have, you minimise risk of expensive failure by prototyping, iterating and involving people in the design process.  design with, not for people.
  • What governance structures best support successful digital transformation?
    Feedback: I’d suggest that this is dependent on the type of organisation you are now, and how you manage projects and risk…whatever the answer i’d suggest it is probably too much governance. You’ll need to think about how those making decisions can get as close as possible to the work, so they understand why things are changing.

Digital customers

  • How can we use digital technology to support and encourage our customers to do things for themselves?
    Feedback: Firstly do you know what your customers need and want? if not, i’d suggest increasing your breadth and depth of understanding around who your customers are and why they contact you in the first place.
  • How can we safeguard against digital exclusion and ensure inclusive access to our services within a digital by default approach?
    Feedback: As you design new service models, you need to understand how people will connect and interact with it.  If you really understand your customers/users then you’ll be able to see how you can minimise digital exclusion…sometimes that will involve other people and organisations.

Digital council

  • What infrastructure do we need to unlock the potential of the data we and other partners hold and what steps do we need to take to put this in place? How best to address and improve services and deliver savings.
    Feedback: Before this, you need to ask yourself why we collect data in the first place and how does this data improve your understanding on how you can solve problems.
    You might not need any infrastructure, you may need new relationships, new business models before you need your own infrastructure…this is why you need to know what type of organisation you want to be.
  • What level of productivity gains can we achieve through the use of digital technology, in particular the move to mobile platforms?
    Feedback: Whilst i understand the question this is the wrong way to look at it.  You need to focus on how can you better meet the needs of those people who contact you and how can you mobilise your resources (people, money, technology, information etc) to better meet those needs
  • How can digital channels be used to engage more effectively with residents, local businesses and staff?
    Feedback: Digital communication channels offer huge opportunities to engage, but you can’t simply plug these channels in without changing the way the organisation listens and responds to those new conversations. This will fundamentally challenge the core of most public sector organisations and will inevitably impact on local democracy. Done well this will reinvigorate, done badly this will alienate.

Digital place

  • What is the evidence that digital technology drives growth and is there evidence that local authorities can influence growth?
    Feedback: Innovation drives growth, local councils already play an important role in shaping markets, however this is not something done in isolation, it requires a coordinated effort to reshape and change markets to drive growth. This will be difficult for councils to achieve in isolation.
  • Does investing in attracting digital businesses to the area yield demonstrable economic growth and job creation results?
    Feedback: Attracting businesses to an area requires the right conditions to be in place for those businesses to succeed, if they are digital businesses, they will require key infrastructure like high-speed broadband as a basic requirement…you’ll need to also think about education and skills in a broad sense to support that market..

I hope that this is helpful, i’m happy to talk more and there are many people in the sector who can contribute #localgovdigital

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