It has been a while…


blogThe 18th March was the last time I blogged on this site, this is probably one of the longest periods of no activity on my blog, but yet one of the busiest periods of work I’ve had as well. I’ve had so many blog post ideas in my head which I simply haven’t found the time or better still haven’t actually prioritised in those 3 months for various reasons. So this inevitably ends up being a very long post as I clearly don’t have enough time to write a set of shorter posts :)

As I reflect back on the last 3 months in particular I get sense that the pace and scale of change (here in Devon and other places) is rapidly increasing and I need to challenge myself to stay committed to blogging regularly as I fundamentally believe that open practice and open thinking is a critical part of the culture that needs to grow and scale and support those in and around the sector to connect, inspire and challenge each other.

The two biggest themes that come through the activities I’ve been involved in over the last 3 months are: Collaboration and Design – Nothing I do really directly starts with Digital which used to be the case a while back…maybe that is my approach or the organisational awareness, perhaps both in equal measure. But it is great to have more in-depth conversations around the design of things.

So here are some highlights?

Team Delivery

The team have been VERY busy redesigning and redeveloping the council website and we have had some significant pieces of work go live recently. None of this is anything I have done, this is purely me being very proud of the team on some key projects

These projects have been fantastic examples of how the team have followed the Government Digital Service (GDS) phases of developing digital servicesdiscovery, alpha, beta and live – from end to end. Some of the key challenges have not been within the team but from across other areas who have not yet fully appreciated the shift in our role and approach.

Sarah in the team has blogged about all the work that happened through the discovery, alphas, beta and live versions of Educations and Families and it was a real team effort.

The team have also started to share the development journey around building the new homepage too again a huge team effort and not just our small team but the whole of Communications – the story starts in this post by Matt and this one from Tim. There are more posts planned as part of this journey so keep an eye on the teams posts on Rework Devon

Working and Collaborating with Public Health Commissioners

It has been a pleasure to work with some of my public health colleagues who are really engaged in Devon’s new operating model (a framework for how we work) and that has meant that they are prepared to fundamentally challenge assumptions, seek new perspectives and invite new collaborations to discover new solutions. One of the outcomes of that was realised on Monday this week when as part of a commissioning process, we ran a “Discovery Day” to help clarify the problem relating to a future healthy lifestyles service. From our perspective it was certainly a success, it really focused us all on understanding the target audience and defining the problem. We developed 4 broad persons loosely based on mosaic data and public health intelligence. I tweeted a photo of the 4 personas – see below

The additional aspect to this commissioning process is that I am also supporting the Assistant Director directly through our joint submission to participate in the Far South West Commissioning Academy, which is a local franchise of the Cabinet office Commissioning Academy.

The Commissioning Academy is a development programme for senior commissioners and those responsible for transforming service delivery in all parts of the public sector, including, local authorities, health bodies, justice organisations and central government

The Cabinet Office has been running a Commissioning Academy since 2013, designed to help senior commissioners learn from the example of the most successful and innovative commissioning groups to deliver more efficient and effective public services.

The programme is for 8 days over a 6-8 month period and consists of master classes, workshops, guest speakers, site visits and peer challenge and covers issues, such as:

  • Whole-systems thinking, bringing all facets of public services together to tackle issues
  • Systems leadership
  • Working with the voluntary and community sector
  • Behavioural insights
  • Market engagement and development
  • Alternative funding models
  • Joint commissioning across organisational boundaries
  • New models of delivery

Participants of the programme are also required to develop a 100 day plan post development to support transformational change in the local area.

This is an exciting opportunity not just to deliver radical change within this area but also to gain new skills and insights as part of the programme. I’ll be sharing more as the programme develops around my learning and insights i gain from the programme itself.

Design Thinking in Public Services Programme (LGA and Design Council)

In May we received an email inviting us to a launch event about an opportunity to submit an application into a design thinking programme – Design in the Public Sector, developed by Design Council and supported by the Local Government Association – cost of participation is fully subsidised as well which made it more of an attraction.

This is a short extract from the email:

There is a rapidly growing interest in design thinking in central and local government and the contribution it can make towards addressing the challenges you face.

Key design principles, methods and tools such as understanding users’ needs, prototyping, visual techniques and working collaboratively can all be applied to service, system and digital challenges in the public sector to great effect.

If your organisation is based in the south-west of England and you have a current or future service delivery challenge which could benefit from a different approach, this could be your opportunity to gain support through a proven, innovative accelerator programme.

So myself a colleague from our organisation change team (Kevin Gillick) went along, got inspired and pulled together an application, engaged some internal colleagues, the Chief Executive, a Cabinet Member and pulled together a core team and we were lucky enough to be successful. The programme kicks off on the 15th and 16th July in Bristol. I’ll be writing a joint blog post for Rework Devon shortly with Kevin to share our aspirations, expectations and challenges. We are committing to being open through the whole programme so expect to see and read lots of reflections, learning, opportunity and no doubt failures.

Beyond the Smart City

So the awesome folks at ODI Devon (Martin, Simon and Lucy) have asked me to oversee one of the most important events in the year.  From the 25th to the 27th of June ODI Devon, alongside the Met Office, is bringing together talks, workshops and, most importantly, people to explore what’s needed for better connected, greener, more human Smart initiatives.

The whole programme looks superb, the speaker list is amazing, the workshops sounds perfect.

To be asked to help out is such an honour as I know how hard they have worked to get to this point and the fact the event is happening at all is such a testament to the excellent work and determination of those awesome folk behind ODI Devon.

I can’t wait for it to all kick off and support them, I hope you can support them too by coming along.

The website has all the details:

Final reflections and some additional highlights

We’ve also been looking at some European funding streams around innovation which has developed some interesting relationships and connections with colleagues in the UK and across Europe, not sure what will happen but the networking has been invaluable.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague from Buckinghamshire County Council came down for a bit of a joint show and share which was a great opportunity for myself and colleagues in the council to share some learning around some innovative projects. It was refreshing getting an external perspective on some of the activity we have been doing and I’d suggest that we don’t often reflect how far we have come until we stop and share that journey. It was also great to hear about the great work Buckinghamshire are doing and we have much to learn from them…so this is really the start a many conversations.

There is so much internal activity happening around the digital agenda that I’ll follow this up in another post at some point…there is so much we can share.

Also the UnMentoring which is part of the LocalGov Digital offer linked to a prototype change academy is going VERY well, the feedback is fantastic, the connections across the sector are clearly growing (small-scale) but it is something which can grow and generate huge value in simply connecting people to share learning and experiences. If you haven’t signed up feel free to do here.

A couple of additional highlights one of which i can’t say much about at the moment – but it is one of the most interesting projects that I believe will have a radical impact on me and my team and how we work and collaborate as well as how we connect and network across teams.

Also I’ve been working across the LocalGov Digital Group on how we can start to rethink how we work, how we shape ourselves and how we can improve and deepen our impact moving forward. All of this will be a challenge to each and everyone one of us but it is something that needs to happen, we just need to work out how…A blog post will appear shortly on this, this isn’t secret I just don’t want to share it in this post…

My final reflection is that I’m perhaps unsurprisingly optimistic about the future even though i have no idea what my role will be, whether I will have an active role. But I do know that from my perspective the narrative has shifted from tough decisions and grey clouds, to one of opportunity, growth and blue skies. I know not everyone sees that…and it has taken me some time.


A new view of Corporate Web Management – The Competencies


In a previous post about the potential shift around the role of a Corporate Web Manager, I want to look at the type of competencies that this new role might be expected to perform in the (very near) future.

Just to recap I identified two different roles:

1) A “Strategic” Web Commissioner – This would in effect be the person who wrote the strategy, understood and documented the organisational needs and specified at a high level the requirements by which a commissioning exercise could take place – they would also be responsible for monitoring the value and ensuring it delivered the outputs specified. This role would also need to set and outline the standards as part of the requirements

2) An “Operational” Web Delivery Manager – This would essentially be the person(s)  responsible for the delivery of the platform. In the scenario above this could be an external organisation or a partners ICT department.

So the following represents a first draft of what I feel would be required for the Strategic Web Commissioner Role, it is divided into 5 main areas, I have also not added the additional details of what each bullet point relates to at this stage either.

You will notice that very little relates directly to the web itself. I do however feel that there needs to be a recognition that such a role would need a very good understanding of the web and social web in order to be truly effective. However I think that these kinds of things would be picked up in a person specification, which supported the following competencies.

Anyway it is very much work in progress, so I’d welcome comments and feedback.


  • Direction setting – why are we using the web, what benefits does it offer the organisation etc
  • Influencing/ persuading – evangelising the use of the web
  • Horizon scanning  – what technology or business trends do we need to be aware of, complexity of organisational environment etc.
  • Decision making – getting things done

Planning and Programme Management

  • Requirements analysis – what we are delivering a web site for and what functions should it offer
  • Process analysis – which processes require changing for transactional delivery
  • Solutions design – what is the solution architecture
  • Programme and project management
  • Change Management and Benefits Realisation


  • Stakeholder analysis  – understanding the aims and objectives of your key stakeholders
  • Customer/Citizen engagement – how can the web meet local needs
  • Service engagement – how can the web delivery service improvement and cost reduction


  • Procurement Strategy – ensuring supplier independence, understanding market capability and aligning with organisational strategy
  • Delivery Analysis – internal vs external vs partnership vs shared service
  • Procurement management
    • Sourcing
    • Contracts and contract management
    • Performance Management

Monitor and Manage

  • Overall service performance management
  • Service management analysis – including feedback and co-design of services
  • Value Analysis – are we getting value

I think this is a big shift away from current web manager roles, although bits of it will be done – I believe the biggest aspect fo this will be in understanding the ever-increasing complexity of the delivery model which Councils will be moving toward in order to create a seamless and coordinated interface into the transactions and information.

Strategic Commissioning and Enterprise Architecture


I suspect like many other local authorities in this financial climate, there will be a great deal more talk about commissioning services and the role of Strategic Commissioning in enabling councils to reduce costs but also ensure the needs of the communities we serve are  still being met.

So like any other curious person I started to read about Strategic Commissioning and how it differs from procurement and traditional purchasing. A colleague of mine sent me a link to a slideshare presentation which i found very useful in helping me understand the difference. Some slides are hard to read but the diagrams are what really helped me.

I also did what most people would do, I conducted a few google searches around “What is Strategic Commissioning” and this is where I found that it started to get really interesting, especially because some aspects of what Strategic Commissioning does is what Enterprise Architects do, well at least in the broad definition anyway. I am in no way saying that they are the same thing, but I’m sure both disciplines could benefit from understanding the methodologies of the other.

The results of my google search gave me the following:

Strategic Commissioning is the activity that ensures the vision and strategic objectives of the organisation are aligned and assessed against customer needs for the short and long-term.
It is the process of translating local people’s aspirations and needs through specifying and procuring services that deliver the best possible outcomes and makes best use of available resources.

Strategic Commissioning is a continuous cycle of:

  • Analysing the need for change through joint strategic needs assessments;
  • Planning the change;
  • Enabling and acting on the change;
  • Ongoing review of progress against required outcomes.

It is also worth acknowledging that Strategic Commissioning skills will be critical when trying to understand how the Big Society will work in your local area.

I know there are many, many local definitions of Enterprise Architecture and they are just as much organisational and context specific, but I suspect most people could agree that the above is pretty similar in strategic terms.

To illustrate my point I include a definition for Enterprise Architecture as defined in my Job Description here at the Council.

Translate business vision and strategy into effective change within the Council and its partners. To do this the Architect will need to understand the people, processes, information and technology of the Council, and their relationships to one another and to the external environment

Now one of the key fundamental differences that currently exists between the two roles is that Enterprise Architecture is still see very much as a discipline within IT.

Enterprise Business Architecture roles would in my view get more involved in shaping the strategic commissioning side of things, but in some ways why is this still seen as a separate function from Enterprise Architecture? Surely you can’t get any more strategic than “Enterprise”? Or maybe I have completely misunderstood the whole thing?

Methodologies that Enterprise Architects employ could well add a huge amount of value in the strategic commissioning field  – I don’t know enough to say whether or not they use these similar methodologies or not.

One good example of this would be Capability Modelling

Gartner analyst Mark McDonald posted on the Gartner blog: Capability is more powerful than Process and gives a nice explanation of capability thinking which i feel provides an example of how we in the public sector could think about and apply Business Capability Modelling to support Strategic Commissioning.

iTunes illustrates capability thinking.  First off, iTunes is build from a collection or resources: the Internet, digital rights management software, the store, the delivery vehicle (iPod) and a set of relationships with artists and record companies.  Sure there is a process in there, but the process of how you sell digital media is not the focus, the outcome is the focus that lead to assembling a range of resources – most of which Apple did not own or exclusively control.

Process advocates and devotees will say that I am mincing my words, but look at the relative value of the physical supply chain the music industry invested so much in and the business value flowing through the alternative capability.  There is an advantage in thinking broader and beyond processes.

The good news is that process thinking is an integral part of thinking about capabilities.  It is just that capability thinking opens the door to new combinations required to create outcomes, rather than to support process steps.

The interesting connection for me is that in the above scenario we could see ourselves as “Apple” as we require the capability of other stakeholders to drive forward a strategic set of outcomes that come from our Community Strategy. We have the Community Leadership Role, the question is are we really prepared to use it in this way to deliver the right outcomes for people.

What we need to understand better first is what capabilities we have and those of our Partners and stakeholders. We also need to truly understand what outcomes we are trying to deliver and the value they create.

Another aspect to this would be to ensure that we could explore what it would mean to model the capability of our communities and the civil sector in support of the Big Society.

All of this requires much more thought and I’d welcome feedback and thoughts from anyone on this.

What all of this make me think about is that the synergy points to the kind of skills and disciplines that CIO’s will need to become part of the strategic leadership of organisations and especially in Local and Central Government.