The strange thing happened recently, I received an email stating that Devon had been nominated by someone as a Digital Council for the upcoming Digital Leaders 100. Now this was a nice surprise and it was great to think other people believe that we are worth considering as a possible Digital Council of the Year nominee. Initially I was like – yeah, finally we have been noticed, but that quickly faded as I started to think about what we could actually say which was really visible to people.
I started to think about it more and more and looked again at the category criteria, I started to think, it perhaps isn’t the right time for us, we need a bit more time to really show the impact of the work we are putting in.
Now we have made some fantastic progress and worked on ensuring we put the right building blocks in place so we ensure we have a meaningful and transformative impact as we move forward.
The work we have done over the last 12-18 months has been focused on a combination of delivering projects (redesigned public website) as well as focusing on building capacity, growing our understanding through developing new governance approaches and embedding the digital agenda into the heart of our approach to change to ensure end to end service design is embedded in how we work and challenge what we do.
We also have Digital as a key component of the council’s operating model (Digital by Design).
We have a range of activities and projects which underpin our approach to Digital transformation.
We have a new responsive governance board – a Strategic Digital Delivery board – Chaired by the Chief Executive.
We are offering and providing Digital coaching and mentoring to Senior Leadership and Cabinet Members on a group and 1-1 basis as well as a programme of discovery, lightening talks and practical experiential learning.
We have started an in-depth piece of work mapping existing technical capabilities and then reframing these into high level user needs – this work is already starting to allow us to ask better questions of our technology and have a better understanding of our capabilities in terms of how they meet user needs and demand, it has also started to inform “investment” and priorities which has allowed us to start thinking about what work, out of all the work we have to do, is really focusing on improving how we deliver services to people
We have been working on our public website for the last 18 months working through a process of redesign and then delivering better user focused public information all aimed at better shaping demand at first point of contact. Some examples being:
- Adult social care with the development of a new public information offer including a local community directory and an online self checker
- Highways through developing reporting and tracking problems using a simple web application to pinpoint the issue on a map
We (Lucy Knight and colleagues) have continued our work around Open Data and have been developing dashboards with Scrutiny members further developing ad building on our Open Data Champion status.
We are also starting to reference the European Digital Capability Framework within some of our commissioning and procurement activities as we want to be able to look at the market in terms of its maturity around innovation. This is an emergent piece of work and we have yet to formalise anything but we are prototyping some of this within existing areas to better understand how it challenges the market and delivers value for citizens.
We are doing lots of things, too many to list here…What we haven’t done properly yet is deliver significant savings based on any digital agenda, but we are now on a journey to ensure that changes we make are sustainable, appropriate and designed around the needs of people.
I’d like to think we are doing some great things here in Devon, but I’m also very aware that other councils are equally doing some fantastic things…having a category for Digital Council of the Year is counter productive in so many ways – although very flattering that others think we are doing things that make others believe we are digital. I think we would be better off, looking at whether councils who are doing good things are also ensuring the building blocks for sustained improvement and continuous innovation are embedded in their organisations. I certainly believe we are doing that and we are making good progress on this.
We don’t want to simply plug technology into our council and say we are digital – we want to challenge what we do and make sure we don’t make all the inefficiencies, digital inefficiencies.
So are we a digital council…No, but I’m not sure that’s our ambition either – our ambition is to design and deliver services around the needs of people and if we can use digital technologies to make that easier and more efficient for people then we will do, but it will be an informed decision of where technology can play a role and not one driven by the technology opportunity in isolation.