Sunday, 21 February 2016

Building a standard for digital and design

As you may have read, we've been working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to build a standard for digital and design in local government.

Who's we? A collection of councils bought together through LocalGov Digital.

Incidentally, I think 2016 will be the year local government digital teams start working more closely with GDS (and I've purposely phrased it this way) around common services, standards and registers, but that's topic for another post.

What's the benefit of working to a common standard you might ask:
  • Where services are produced by councils it enables peer review, similar to a Digital by Default Assessment.
  • Where services are procured by councils it enables collective bargaining power. A group of councils working to the same standard speak much louder than one, empowering them to stand up for the user and demand products and services they purchase meet user need.
  • It enables greater collaboration, with groups of councils working on common services, to a common, user centred standard.
The short of it is better, cheaper services for the user, whether built or procured.

So where are we at with this?

Following an initial debate on our Trello board and through our Slack team we're almost ready to propose a draft standard for wider discussion. This means taking the Digital by Default Service Standard and amending it slightly because some points aren't applicable to councils. For example, councils don't have ministers, so
Test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it.
doesn't work in that form. There's also nothing about re-use of common data or registers in the Digital by Default Service Standard, something that will become increasingly relevant in the coming year.

If you work for a council I urge you to get involved to help deliver, not a business case or a nudge in the right direction, but the first Local Government Digital Service Standard for councils. The more of us that do, the stronger it will be which can only be a good thing for the people we serve.

Please do so by tweeting @LocalGovDigital or emailing

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Be the A-Team

The A-Team is a bad TV fiction (and an even worse film) about crack commando unit which was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. This isn't an article about which is the best absurd American 80s action drama (surely that prize goes to Automan), nor is it a peppy piece about being the best you can as part of an "A team".

It was this question from Dave Briggs, how much does your technology define what you do that made me think of the A-Team.

Technology defines everything from communication, to music, even to the make-up of towns and cities, in fact I'd go as far as since the Industrial Revolution it defines our society. Dave was focusing on how technology influences organisations though, so where do the A-Team come in?

The TV show was formulaic and one aspect of this was at some point the team would be captured and imprisoned somewhere containing a collection of varied but seemingly useless junk. Sometimes, delivering user centred digital services with a set of legacy systems can also seem like being locked in with collection of varied but seemingly useless junk.

Like Dave says, the best thing is to ditch the junk, but what if you're the A-Team and it's all you have?

Well the good news is, locked in their prison the A-Team would use their ingenuity to build something innovative using the junk they had at hand to escape and get to the resource they needed to complete the task, and being an American action series that resource was almost always guns, grenades, and other things that go bang.

Now I'm not advocating using weapons of destruction to get what you want, what I'm saying is use your ingenuity to build something innovative using the junk you have to make the case to get to the resource you actually need.

So be the A-Team; use what you have, to get to what you need.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

LocalGov Digital by Default Standard Day

On Friday I helped run a day of workshops and talks at the Government Digital Service (GDS). Firstly I'd like to thank Zuz Kopeka, Olivia Neal and everyone at GDS for their time both organising the event and on the day itself.

It was a follow up to attending a Digital by Default Assessment back in October and I wanted to see what appetite there was to use the Standard, or a version of it in local government. The answer it seems, is a lot. For example twice as many people expressed an interest in coming as we had space for and we had attendees from Cornwall to Gateshead, and Liverpool to Canterbury turn up all taking a day out of their busy schedule.

This is testament not to the pull of LocalGov Digital, but both the respect for GDS that is held in local government and the fact that there's a real grass roots desire to collaborate amongst many digital teams working in councils.

I put together a Storify on what people tweeted about the event, and the positive attitude of all confirmed to me that local government digital teams really need some full time resource to help them collaborate, because if I can put this together in my evenings and weekends, think how much more could be done by a small team working full time.

So for me the short answer to could this work in local government is yes, and over the next few weeks I and others will be both creating a standard for councils to sign up to and pulling together the work done on the day to make the case for it. If you work for a council digital team and haven't yet got involved then please do, and together lets create a common approach for delivering better, cheaper, user centred local digital services.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.