Friday, 17 June 2016

What I learned from Standard Sprint #1

Standard Sprint #1 was two weeks of work from 6 to 17 June, to both produce guidance for the Local Government Digital Service Standard and to see if it's possible to work collaboratively, using online tools and resources.

Turns out it is.

Rewind back to the start of April and LocalGov Digital released the Standard, with help from over 60 councils and the Government Digital Service. The Standard contains 15 points suggesting how to build and manage good local government digital services. Whilst some points are fairly self-explanatory, for example:

Make sure that the service is simple enough that users succeed first time unaided.

others such as

Use open standards, existing authoritative data and registers, and where possible make source code and service data open and reusable under appropriate licenses.

are less so and some sort of guidance was needed. As of today, that guidance now exists and we'll continue to revise and add to it.

So what did I learn?

Collaboration needs leadership

The sprint was the idea of Julia McGinley, Lead Business Analyst at Coventry City Council and she was also the scrum master. She expertly facilitated the creation of 15 items of guidance, based on all the comments received.

Relying on organic collaboration is far less likely to produce something usable. Up until 6 June, over the two months following the publication of the Standard, we'd only created guidance on one single point, two weeks later we have guidance for all 15.

Collaboration needs a core team

Though tens of people contributed from all over the country, a core team at Coventry City Council did the work of creating drafts, reviewing all of the comments, redrafting and again reviewing all the comments to create the finished product.

At some point they'll be a Standard Sprint #2 and another council could very well take the lead, but the point is, this works best when the core work is part of a team's day jobs, even if it is for just a short two week period.

Communication is key

An obvious one, but there were daily stand-ups and weekly reviews via Hangout which were open to everyone. We tweeted regularly using #ssprint1 inviting people to join in and updated the website to keep everyone update on the Sprint's progress.

Scheduling and timeboxing helps

Stand ups were at 9am, longer reviews on Friday, we closed comments at 5pm on 15 June, the Sprint ran for two weeks. Putting times and dates on things focuses those working and contributing to get stuff done.

The digital tools are there...

We used Twitter, a Hangout, a Trello Board, 15 Google Docs and the LocalGov Digital Slack Channel. The digital tools we needed to do the work described in Makers Project Teams worked.

...but not everyone could use them

Not everyone away from the core team in Coventry could access the Google Docs due to their council's IT policy. At some councils officers had to work from home to contribute and one council officer even had to stand in a hallway at work to access the Hangout on his smartphone. There's a separate blog post in this no doubt, but in short, blocking these digital tools is hurting councils' ability to collaborate and therefore their productivity.

Huge congratulations to Julia and the team and Coventry for making this happen. You've proved that collaboration across councils to produce something for the whole of local government in a short amount of time can work.

I'm sure we'll put together a more detailed case study, to explain and sell the concept of digital collaboration, but for now, after a two week sprint, go and put your feet up, you've earned it.
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.