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Local Government Digital Service Standard – TeaCamp #2

As a network for digital practitioners in local government, LocalGov Digital is on a mission to raise standards in web provision and the use of digital by councils across the country.

The London Peer Group is aiming to focus on raising awareness of the Service Standard across the individual 32 boroughs of London, through a series of TeaCamps. LoGov Platform is supporting the London Peer Group by providing sponsorship and support.

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It’s been a whole six weeks since the first Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) TeaCamp took place, launching the London Peer Group and the movement of the Service Standard across the boroughs of London.

Based once again at the Draft House Tower Bridge, it’s 4pm and people have started to arrive downstairs where this afternoon’s session is taking place. There are a few familiar faces from TeaCamp #1, as well as some new faces (all of which are lighting up upon arrival at the sight of the tables full of cakes).

This month we have attendees from:

  • London Borough of Hackney
  • London Borough of Lambeth
  • London Borough of Bexley
  • London City Hall
  • London Councils
  • And many more…

Introductions

With informal chats coming to a close, seats eagerly pulled up to the front – it’s time to begin. Introducing this afternoon’s session is a familiar face – it’s Natalie Taylor from City Hall, as one of the London Peer Group committee co-chairs:

Local Government Digital Service Standard 2

Point #1 of the Local Government Digital Service Standard

With announcements done and dusted, the room is ready and raring to find out what’s in store for this TeaCamp installment. Natalie shares the outline of this session – we’re heading straight back to Point #1 of the Local Government Digital Service Standard:

Local Government Digital Service Standard 3

Taking us through this point, based all around understanding your user needs, is a team of two:

Leading the first part of the session, Chris begins by introducing the full description of this point of the Service Standard, highlighting some of the key aspects:

‘The purpose of this point is to make sure the service is designed around the needs of those who use it.

The team creating the service should have a good understanding of user needs that has come from observing and engaging with end users, understand what users are trying to do when they engage with the current service (the user context, whether currently digital or not) and they understand the user needs – not just functional requirements – that the service will have to achieve in order to be successful.

There are many ways to achieve this and they are documented in the learning user needs section of the Government Service Design Manual.’

Local Government Digital Service Standard 4

“Point one is the number one point”.

This may seem like a very simple statement of self-explanation and common sense, but when embedded in a busy project with many internal and external stakeholders, it can be very easy to lose track of this. Project cabin fever can take over and the unintentional blinkers can be raised. It’s always good to keep this in mind, after all – a service is of no use without users!

Brighton & Hove City Council: a case study

So where do you start when creating a new digital service? Chris continues by introducing an example of when working within the digital team at Brighton & Hove City Council. His team began by prioritising their existing services, weighting the usage and complexity of each individual service in a matrix format.

Taking the group through further detail into this project, some key insights to keep in mind when creating a new service include:

  • Don’t build something that isn’t usable by the user (surprisingly easily done if you lose user focus)
  • When gathering user needs, make sure you get a variety of different stakeholders involved – this builds internal and external trust in your services and way of working
  • There’s no point in starting a service if you don’t have the political buy-in for it – you won’t be able to shout about it once you’re done!

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Continuing, Chris also shares some of the tasks involved when introducing a new service:

  • Audit and benchmark – give forms to your contact centre colleagues to allow them to tally which of your services are being used via phone channels (offline), then use Google Analytics to track which of your services are being accessed online
  • Customers by proxy – your contact centre colleagues are essentially the “voice of your customer”, bring them into the agile process to help define user needs
  • Map service journey, issues and suggestions – start pulling together details of the existing service
  • Shadow your users – go into your contact centre and stand with the residents who are using your services there and then, find out their pain points by letting them guide you through what they’re doing
  • Document your user needs – this doesn’t need to be a massive document, just something nice and simple using the ‘As a, I want, So that’ format – as you build up these user needs, you are building up your service
  • Create wireframes/prototypes – create simple wireframes or basic clickable prototypes to test your thoughts so far – this can be something very simple, or an illusion of a real working website
  • Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3 – start testing the wireframes/prototypes by setting users a few basic tasks and then monitoring what they do – where is their mouse heading? How are they moving through this service? What are they looking to do?
  • Aaaand… build – You’ve ran through a discovery with your users, you’ve built a prototype, now put your service out there for a wider group to test (Alpha), then publicly launch it as a Beta

Chris concludes this part of the session by recapping each individual point around how Brighton & Hove City Council successfully introduced new services, all based around Point #1 of the Service Standard – they’re designed around the needs of those who use it.

Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea: a case study

With a first example of Point #1 of the Service Standard in working practice wrapped up, it’s now time for Steph to take to the front:

Local Government Digital Service Standard 5

Providing a further example of Point #1 in practice, Steph shares a case study of a project she has undertaken with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Sound the Chatham House rule klaxon

Just a few of the insights shared from this case study include:

  • Audit your web content through analytics – track which areas are getting the most and least views
  • Use a resident panel (a group of residents from your borough) as a proxy to test your new service – use exercises such as workshops, card sorting, stakeholder interviews, etc. to research
  • Always take into account that you will get more than one point of view of the same area
  • Try to find out what words your residents are using to search for your services online

Guerrilla user testing

As an example of user testing techniques, Steph introduces guerrilla testing and a very interesting story of validation.

Armed with just an iPad, she took to the busy crowds of London to find out if residents understand the main banner featured on the london.gov.uk website:

Local Government Digital Service Standard 6

Through guerrilla testing, Steph focused on whether residents understood the global ramifications of having London’s City Hall on the banner.

To summarise Steph’s session, understanding user needs is a continuous process:

  • Decide on your project’s objectives and map your desired outcomes – these are what you will be working towards
  • Begin working with what you already have – this can be residents, contact centre staff, any prior research or your current online analytics
  • Validate your assumptions early by working closely with your residents – use methods such as interviews, concept tests, card sorting etc.
  • It’s not just what’s on the screen that matters, it’s what it means to the user – to design for user needs means having a good understanding of user context, and how and when the digital experience fits into someone’s day-to-day

What kinds of research can you carry out? From interviews to concept tests, surveys to usability testing, card sorting to participatory design (and so much more), Steph finishes by sharing an entire scale of open to close-ended user research techniques that can be used.

Breakout

From hearing a few fantastic examples of user research in practice, it’s now time for the tables to turn from Chris and Steph to everyone else in the room. Yes, it’s breakout time.

Breaking attendees out into three groups, the final part of TeaCamp #2 is taking each theme from the afternoon and applying these to our current individual challenges. The three group themes consist of:

  • Research techniques
  • Getting organisational buy-in
  • Auditing and measuring

I’m in the ‘Auditing and measuring’ group, with our discussion steering towards:

  • How to effectively using Google Analytics to work out what you’re looking for
  • Using exit pages to track where your users are dropping (then finding out why)
  • Giving users the option to rate individual web pages (on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10)
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Advanced user testing through eye tracking software

What’s that? 6 o’clock? Natalie heads back to the front to thank everyone for attending and shares this month’s parish notices to the group as the session wraps up.

It’s now #BeerCamp – time to head on upstairs.

TeaCamp #3

TeaCamp #3 is set to take place on Thursday 29th June, with Gemma Phelan – Local and wider public sector engagement lead at GDS discussing the Digital Marketplace. Registration isn’t yet open, but if you’re interested in attending, get in touch with Natalie and she’ll add your name to the event mailing list:


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Local Government Digital Service Standard – TeaCamp #1

 

LGDSS TeaCamp
As a network for digital practitioners in local government, LocalGov Digital is on a mission to raise standards in web provision and the use of digital by councils across the country.

Through releasing the Local Government Digital Service Standard, this aims to suggest a common approach for local authorities to deliver good quality, user centered, value for money digital services. With the Standard set in place, the focus is now on raising awareness across individual councils.

The London Peer Group

Forming regional peer groups is the starting point to introducing this Service Standard across different areas of the country. For the London Peer Group, this is in the form of TeaCamps – a series of informal meetups (every six weeks) featuring tea, cake, individual service point sessions and great conversations.

Borrowing this idea from the original central government meetup, each TeaCamp aims to focus on broader areas of the Service Standard to provide useful insights on how each point can be applied within real local government environments. From ‘understand user needs’ all the way through to ‘test the service from beginning to end’, we’re uncovering ‘what good looks like’ when it comes to each authority applying this Service Standard to deliver better digital services for their residents.

So here we are: TeaCamp #1.

We’re downstairs in the The Draft House Tower Bridge and people have eagerly started to arrive. Tea? Check. Coffee? Check. Cake…? Big check.

After half an hour of sipping tea, devouring cake and meeting people around the room, it’s time to take our seats for the kick-off.

Introductions

Introducing the session is Natalie Taylor from City Hall and Joshua Mouldey from Camden Council. Natalie and Joshua are the faces behind the London Peer Group, as the committee co-chairs for this region, pioneering the LGDSS TeaCamp from initial early idea to the reality of this afternoon.

LGDSS TeaCamp - Natalie Taylor introduction
Initial introductions done. It’s time to go around the room and introduce who we all are, as individual attendees. As expected, we have a wide range of representatives from across the boroughs of London, including those from:

  • London Borough of Barnet
  • London Borough of Bexley
  • London Borough of Ealing
  • London Borough of Hackney
  • London Borough of Islington

… And many more.

This first TeaCamp is primarily focused around Point #3 of the Service Standard:

LGDSS TeaCamp - Point 3
We now have one hour to begin exploring how creating a service using the agile, iterative and user-centred methods set out in the Government Service Design Manual can be (and is being) done.

Leading a practical introduction to agile ways of working within a local government environment is Martyn Evans – our Head of Product at Unboxed and Service Director at LoGov Platform. Joining him for this session are our colleagues from Newham Council – Dawn Turner, Delivery Lead, and Daniel Matthews, their Head of Digital.

Agile working within Newham Council

Martyn begins by sharing the background into the journey that Newham Council are embarking on, as part of their Digital Customer Programme. Pioneering how they deliver their key services to local residents, the Digital Team are currently heading through their first service redesign to deliver improved services.

LGDSS TeaCamp - Martyn, Daniel and Dawn
Beginning with the concepts around Point #3 of the Service Standard, we’re brought directly into principles behind agile and Lean Startup, as well as finding out how these concepts are being implemented (and what they look like) within the Newham Council team.

LGDSS TeaCamp - Lean Startup

Question time has arrived:

  • “How has your day-to-day role at Newham changed since adopting an agile way of working?”
  • “How did applying ‘Agile’ (with a capital ‘A’ – not be be confused with ‘agile’) previously go at the council and what were the outcomes of this?”

A few questions in and we’ve transitioned the conversation into the next part of the session: the fishbowl.

Fishbowl discussion

The concept is a fishbowl discussion. Four chairs at the front, with only three seats allowed be to filled at any one time – the only rule in play for the entire discussion.

The conversation is continuing to flow. The first person from the audience has arrived into the fishbowl, prompting Martyn to step down and take a seat in the crowd. Chatham House rules are applying to individual discussion points throughout, but the main topics of discussion are stretching across:

  • Day-to-day agile working within a team and the challenges to introducing this
  • How to build your digital capacity in local government
  • Improving relationships between different teams and stakeholders
  • How to get the right people aboard and where to find them

We’ve gone from Martyn, Dawn and Daniel to whole new panels of attendees, all ready and eager to share their experiences and ask the questions that are preying on their minds. It’s fantastic to have such a wide variety of examples, all from different perspectives and varying stages in their agile journeys.

The fishbowl has been busy. Further topics have ranged from using suppliers to upskill existing teams, to central digital team running master classes for the rest of the business, to upskilling developers using open source communities for support.

Without realising it, the time has been flying – it’s almost 6 o’clock. It’s time for our chair switching discussions to draw to a close. Natalie steps to the front to wrap up the session, giving the “save the date” for the next TeaCamp – pencilled in for late April.

With introductions made to this new network of pioneers, and a starting point created for the ongoing conversation around Point #3 of the Service Standard, the beginnings of the London Peer Group TeaCamp have formed. It’s going to be exciting to see how this progresses across the next few months.

Having had more than my fair share of tea this afternoon, it’s now time to head on upstairs to begin #BeerCamp.


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Towards a future state

Post by Martyn Evans – Service Director, LoGov Platform

Having spent most of the last 18 months working in the public sector alongside Buckinghamshire County Council, Newham Council and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, I’ve become a little too familiar with the challenges faced in delivering the “digital transformation” many see as the answer to the cost-saving problem. At the heart of the matter is the enormous culture change required to support this transformation.

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Getting individuals within an organisation to focus on their user (customer/resident/patient) needs seems to me quite straightforward. After all. most people who work in local councils or hospitals have direct personal experience of consuming the services and they know the experience is not good enough, but getting them to effect any real change on the organisation itself is near impossible.

The driver for change is usually cost-saving and there is a common misconception that delivering better services negates the possibility of saving money and vise-versa. Add to that the fact that the systems and processes are so ill-equipped to facilitate change, the simple scale of the challenge can just seem too great.

But we believe there is hope.

Enough people and organisations are trying things, small things to make a difference and, amongst our customers at least, there is an emerging set of principles forming to which we can refer for direction when we start to get lost.

As we start to reinvent public services for the digital age, we must make sure we are moving to a future state in which the following things are true:

1. Information empowers users

Information, advice and guidance online should be presented to the user in such a way as to empower them to help themselves, giving a clear understanding of the services and support provided and how they gain access to these services. Where support cannot be provided directly, users should be signposted to alternative and validated sources of support. The organisation should provide their staff with the time, skills and tools to maintain this information to a high standard

2. All interactions are valuable

In situations where the user does engage with the organisation in a more transactional way, they should be provided with a consistent and high quality digital experience across all services. The quality of this online experience should be matched by the quality of the experience across all channels.

3. Users own their data

Where personal information and evidence is required, this should only need to be provided once and access to this information should be under the control of the user themselves. This will be especially challenging as services are moved to third party providers but a technology platform should be established to support those third parties in maintaining high standards.

4. Relationships are nurtured

The information provided by the user should be used by the organisation to nurture a meaningful and positive relationship with them over time, providing information and support as new services become available or circumstances change.

5. Systems support experience

All systems should be designed to support the delivery of an excellent user experience. Systems within different service areas should allow data to be passed between them in real-time and internal user interfaces should be intuitive and optimized to facilitate efficient service delivery by staff.

6. Procurement is agile

Where systems are procured from third parties, they should be implemented in such a way that a core service can be delivered quickly and tested with internal and external users and that changes can be implemented efficiently and regularly.

7. Technology is owned by service teams

Service teams should themselves be empowered to drive forward the design of these digital services and encouraged to involve users in a collaborative, ongoing, co-design process at all times. Technology services such as ICT and the Digital team should be focussed on facilitating this.


What are your thoughts?

Over the next few months, I will be exploring these concepts further via a series of interviews and events. I would love your participation. If you have any comments or thoughts to add to this topic, please email me: martyn.evans@logovplatform.co.uk or tweet: @martynrevans.


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Sponsoring and exhibiting at October’s Socitm Annual Conference 2016

We are sponsoring and exhibiting at this year’s Socitm Annual Conference, on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th October at Arena:MK in Milton Keynes.

socitm-logo

This year’s conference will debate how local public services can use technology to fundamentally transform complex interactions with citizens, with over 400 digital pioneers from local council in attendance.

Key topics will include:

  • Digital leadership: how can we develop digital leaders?
  • The future of local government: what will complex digital services really look like
  • Information sharing: how can we use data to support public service integration?

With demand growing for responsive, cost effective services, we will be sharing how we have been working with Buckinghamshire County Council to use digital to transform their services. Martyn, our Services Director, and Graeme will be revealing the platform’s latest user-led digital services for other local councils to license, including:

1. Maintain my Street

An online service allowing local residents to easily and effectively report issues with their street and surrounding areas, such as potholes and faulty street lights.

2. Find My Child a School Place

An online service making available relevant and up-to-date school information for parents to properly prepare for the school application process.

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More information about each service can be found here.

If you are attending the conference and would like to have a chat, email us at hello@logovplatform.co.uk and we can arrange a time, or drop by Stand 13 to see us across the two days.

 


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Learning in local government, part 3: Beginning your first agile project

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is thinking that moving to agile in local council is just a change of process – a shift from one set of processes to other.

Culture and behaviour are at the heart of it. In a traditional local council environment, everything is usually planned in advance, with full knowledge and certainty that you know what’s going to happen. This isn’t really possible when looking at it from an agile viewpoint. You can’t predict what’s going to happen on your project journey when taking a waterfall approach, or what bumps in the road you’re going to hit along the way.

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Traditional behaviour vs. agile behaviour

The hierarchical structure in local council is managerial and very ‘top down’. CEOs and top managers make all the decisions and lower-level employees are told what to do. These traditional organisations believe that change is a bad thing – it needs to be controlled and managed. Agile organisations believe that change is inevitable and actually a good thing. They believe that cultivating a culture of local decision-making and empowerment is much more effective. It means you’re more likely to get what you need. It’s a shift in behaviour and ways of thinking in local councils that’s required to adopt agile. It’s vital to recognise that it’s this cultural shift that you’re trying to achieve as well as just a process change. So how do you start this…?

Step 1: Begin with a pilot project

Due to the cultural shift aspect, moving to agile as an entire council in one step isn’t the best way to tackle this. Take a first step with a pilot project – this is a good place to start. It’s a good way to find your feet. Your pilot project should be important enough that it’s a project in which people are going to engage with. It needs to be important enough that you’ll see it through to delivery. A team will stay on it, even during some times of uncertainty. Don’t pilot your most critical project as this is all new to you – you need to introduce this slowly. Take baby steps in this opportunity to learn and discover.

Step 2: Gather your team of agile pioneer

With your pilot project selected, you now need to build your team of agile pioneers. This will be your team of people who are keen to do agile. This team have to individually have agile buy-in, as your project won’t get off the ground if a single member is reluctant. If you have a current team in mind but there are one or two reluctant members, re-shape the team for this agile fit.

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Step 3: Give your team enough space

When launching this project, it’s important for the team to be co-located – gathered and working in the same space. Agile projects have very high bandwidth as there’s lot of fast-paced activity happening on a regular basis. Having your team in the same location provides the opportunity to communicate very quickly. It’s a challenge in local council environments to find space, but look everywhere – you could find it in a quiet corner of the office.

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Step 4: Gain stakeholder engagement

The last step is the probably the most critical: Stakeholder engagement. Sometimes you’ll find that a digital team wants to try agile but don’t feel like they can talk about it as the pace and rhythm is so different from a traditional way. The level of stakeholder engagement is continuously much more constant and regular in an agile project, so it’s vital to get this stakeholder engagement upfront. Remember to have this in mind when choosing your pilot project. If you have someone in a product area, they can take the Product Owner role. This is the vision and budget for the project, and someone who can make decisions, prioritise and see how this project is going to evolve.


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Guest post: Learning in Local Government – Part 2

Following on from part one in our ‘Learning in Local Government through Discovery’ series, part two is a guest post by Helen Gracie, a Business Improvement Advisor for Buckinghamshire County Council. We’re currently working alongside Buckinghamshire County Council to digitalise their public services.

Helen Gracie

As a public sector organisation, we have felt the pressures of government budget cuts. Local government has been encouraged to think more commercially and as such we have been reviewing how we deliver many of our services. It was immediately evident to us that there is a big opportunity to improve the customer journey with the Council through Digital Services.

We started working with Unboxed to research and investigate how best to introduce Digital Services to some of our busiest services.

While Gov.uk have led the way with agile and encouraged Local Government to follow, the reality for BCC is that agile remains a training session some of us went to at some point a while ago. People remain nervous about changing the way they have comfortably worked with each other to deliver successful projects in the past. Unboxed have helped us to flex our agile muscles and put it into practice in a way we can share with our colleagues to improve projects in the future.

We have of course faced some challenges along the way.

Finding our customers

An infamous Council habit is to presume that we know exactly what the customer wants and project that presumption across our services. During Discovery with Unboxed we challenged this and went back to the drawing board (literally) to investigate who our customers are. This was not received well by everyone as some people claimed they already knew who our customer is and this has been done before. Needless to say our findings were different to what had been pushed on us as truth.

Agile working

Another hurdle has been the speed at which we have worked through Discovery and are now working through Alpha. In the public sector it is comfortable to organise meetings far in advance, send emails rather than phone or talk face to face and take a lot of time to make each and every decision. The timeframes we have been working to have not allowed us to work in this way. We have been forced to move away from our comfort zone, leave our desks and find the people within the organisation with the authority to make a decision quickly. Some might call it being more agile. It has worked. We have achieved a lot in a short frame of time and impressed our colleagues sat in their meetings along the way.

Bucks CC team

Thinking creatively

As well as working within quick timeframes, working with Unboxed has taken us outside the realms of project management towards a more creative way of thinking and working. This has not come easily to many of us who have felt restricted by our lack of artistic talent. The first workshop where we were asked to draw was downright terrifying. However, once we realised that we weren’t being graded on our portraiture and had a few chances to practice it became fun. We have even started inflicting this exercise on other colleagues in the Council.

Thinking creatively still doesn’t come naturally to us but working with people who do in Unboxed is beginning to rub off and even carry over to our other work in the organisation.

Sharing our progress

The final obstacle we have yet to solve. While we are working at a very fast pace in a creative and agile manner, it has been difficult to share with the rest of the organisation what we are working on and how much we are achieving. We have started writing a blog about the projects and have made an effort to exhibit our work in busy areas of the office. However, our colleagues still do not really understand what we are doing or why. We will continue to take every opportunity to tell people about what we are doing but we are a big organisation and people working in it are busy with their day jobs managing their own projects. I hope that once we have a finished product to show off our colleagues will be more receptive to our new ways of working and we can start driving change across the organisation.


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Learning in Local Government through Discovery

There’s a lot of content available online about doing agile with local councils – talks, conferences, case studies, white papers, etc. A lot of content guiding us to knowing what this should look like. But what does this really look like in practice…?

We’ve recently partnered with Buckinghamshire County Council in the Discovery phase to digitally transform their current services. This short blog series aims to uncover and explore what it looks like when one of our cross-functional agile teams partners and co-locates with a local council. What are the daily challenges faced? How does the team overcome these? What are the highs and lows of partnering on a public sector project? Here’s the first look through the keyhole…

At a recent Unboxed event we invited speakers to talk about how to use the first £50k of a budget to make the case for spending the next £500k. My own contribution was to invite people to concentrate on three principles to help demonstrate value quickly and take your stakeholders on a ride they don’t want to get off.

I predominantly illustrated my talk with examples of work we’ve done with Pearson, Reed Learning, The Ministry of Justice and SH:24 but whilst preparing the talk, I was also working with a small team at Buckinghamshire County Council to run a Discovery phase around two digital services.

Now we’ve reached the end of Discovery, I thought it might be worth revisiting these three principles to address the challenges faced trying to kick-start digital transformation projects in local government.

Set out to prove yourself wrong

The first principle represents the importance of working directly with customers and applying rigour to your research, looking for genuine insights as opposed to evidence that you are right. It alludes to the Lean Startup principle of fail fast. It’s essential to start somewhere and it doesn’t matter that much where you start but you must be prepared to find out quickly whether you are going in the right direction.

One of the services we started to look at in Bucks was a better method for members of the public to report “defects” in the road – potholes to you and I. The council had already taken a couple of cracks at this including a discontinued mobile app and a section of their website that collects info from the public and squirts it straight into the council’s asset management system.

The Unboxed team testing early prototypes with the publicThe Unboxed team testing early prototypes with the public

Within a few days of talking to customers we found out that most people didn’t care so much about a “better way to report defects”. What they wanted was a sense that the council would actually repair the potholes (or street lights, damaged grass verges, uneven pavements, etc.) that were reported. Now we happened to know that the council repairs a lot of potholes but somehow the public just don’t think they care. The challenge we actually face is how to get the data out of those internal management systems to give back to the public in a meaningful way. Matthew Cain has written about this learning on his blog.

Create a team that gets stuff done

If you want to make maximum progress with a limited budget, you need to put together a small team of really smart agile people. You need to get them aligned around a common goal and give them what they need – permission, access, environment – to do what they do best.

Council offices around the company look pretty much the same in my experience and they are not the most inspiring places to work. At Bucks we found a room, a small training room in an annex to the main council building. It lacked natural light, was a little too small and made us feel a little isolated but it did give us a chance to get to know each other. We took it as our base and started to think out loud and capture those thoughts on the walls. From Unboxed we had a designer (Leon), a developer (Crystal) and me and we were joined by four game members of the council’s HQ Digital team. During the six weeks of Discovery, people came to see us and some of them cheered us on. Some of them even joined the team. We quickly started prototyping solutions and the gloomy room encouraged us to “get out of the building” and learn from the public.

We need to find a better space with more visibility to the rest of the organisation (and please more natural light) but in that bunker the team has amassed a load of shared learning which will only increase as the team grows and moves into Alpha.

The war room at Buckinghamshire CC with personas and hypotheses on the wallThe war room at Buckinghamshire CC with personas and hypotheses on the wall

Communicate openly and frequently

In order to get buy-in, you have to gain peoples’ trust, especially those key stakeholders who can make or break your project. And the best way to do this in my experience is to bare your soul. Be open and transparent in everything you do. Show your working. Show your progress, even when you haven’t made any.

Our little room was the visible representation of the work we were doing. Anyone that visited for a collaborative design studio session or workshop could see our thoughts on the wall and go and tell others about it. Every couple of weeks we put together a presentation that anyone from the team could run through with anyone who would listen.

Metrics slide from show and tellMetrics slide from the Show & Tell

But the challenge is great in large organisations, especially in the current climate of budget cuts and spending freezes. People equate digital transformation with cost savings and reduced headcount and are suspicious of a team formed to accelerate change. For every person we found that wanted to engage, we found another who didn’t want to play. And some of the latter were the gate-keepers to people we needed on our side. The lack of access to key stakeholders has meant we haven’t found out as much about the existing services as we would have liked but by remaining open, we have begun to win them over. The scope of alpha is still less clear than we’d like but we do have a way forward and we’ll continue to share our learnings with anyone who’ll listen.

You can read more about the project on the team blog.