What’s the problem?

As a consultant specialising in Local Government digital transformation I am passionate about local public services and the vital role they play in supporting individuals and communities to flourish. Having worked with numerous local authorities across the country, it is evident that every authority is on a digital journey to transform their organisation. And while individual local authorities are at different points on that journey, with their own local priorities and challenges, there is growing recognition that cloud based digital models can deliver better services by reducing cost and complexity and improving customer and staff experience.

What frustrates me is that customers often ask me and my colleagues to help them re-invent the wheel when approaching digital service design.  Whilst we’re keen advocates of user centric service design, we’re also increasingly aware that local government has a huge catalogue of services that are common across the sector.

Over the years we’ve designed and built lots of great local government digital services on different platforms and technologies and know only too well that fantastic services can be built from the ground up. But at a time when local government is seeing some of its biggest funding pressures, can individual councils afford to build their own different and bespoke versions of common digital services?

I firmly believe that there is a better balance to be struck by taking a pragmatic approach to transforming digital services and working more collaboratively across the sector to share knowledge, standards, and technologies.

The Hypothesis

There is a huge opportunity for local authorities to share common digital service patterns for highly defined, commoditised services that are repeated across multiple organisations. For services like reporting missed bins, FOI requests and complaints for example, how fundamentally different should the user journeys for these services be between individual authorities? Or, put another way, at a time of such pressure on public finances, can we continue to justify the level of local variation in the design and delivery of these services that we continue to see across the country?

There is an opportunity to accelerate the benefits that local authorities can gain from digital service transformation by deliberately separating out those services where reusing an existing service designed elsewhere or reconfiguring a service pattern is good enough to meet user needs, from those that will continue to require locally bespoke service design.

By reusing, sharing or streaming existing digital services for standardised or highly defined services, local authorities can leverage existing services and patterns, deliver value more quickly and free up resources to focus on designing and delivering those high impact, high priority services that are important to local citizens. In practice, this can mean fewer resources devoted to back office administration and data processing, and a greater investment in high impact, high value face-to-face contact with vulnerable service users in vital areas like children’s and adult social care.

The Benefits

The benefits for local authorities are efficient digital services that can be deployed more quickly and at lower cost. By enabling councils to re-use and consume existing cloud based digital services, the cost and time of implementation will be reduced, accelerating digital transformation and freeing up resources to use good design to transform more important/ complex services. Ultimately, this benefits the communities which local authorities are seeking to support and empower by giving them access to reliable, effective, and well-designed services by reducing complexity and enabling a focus on where public services can most add value.

How do we do it?

Working alongside our clients from across local government, Methods are building open source libraries of capabilities, patterns and digital service assets to inform our transformation planning and to deliver immediate benefit to the sector. To find out more check out Methods Local Government web page.

Paul Greenhead is our Head of Local Government Practice here at Methods.