I am feeling optimistic. I am new to working with Local Government - having spent the last few years running tech events, where I worked with developers, start-ups, incubation labs - anyone innovating and using tech to transform the way we do business and live our lives. I anticipated that working with local government would be a lot slower and I didn’t expect to see as much innovation, but I was wrong.
Yes there are many councils who are yet to embrace digital tools and our own recent research showed that, in particular, smaller councils need some help developing their thinking around cloud adoption. That said, in my growing experience, I see some of the most innovative organisations residing in local government.
At last week’s LGC chief exec’s summit we presented a workshop with two clients who are certainly both worthy of being considered highly innovative. Aylesbury Vale and Mid-Sussex have each taken a different approach to digital change, to suit their own cultures and goals.
Aylesbury Vale’s IT strategy has been a complete organisational transformation based around the customer journey. Aylesbury view technology as a massive opportunity and are using it to reduce calls to the council, generate revenue by renting out surplus office space and give customers a more seamless experience. As they look ahead, Maryvonne Hassall from Aylesbury talked about the continued desire to innovate – looking at how AI (artificial intelligence) can be a part of their digital platform to better automate services, the growth of chat-apps by the contact centre, and questioning the purpose of their office space and the roles of everyone throughout the organisation.
However, this pace and level of change would not be palatable for all local authorities, and when listening to Simon Hughes from Mid-Sussex you get a different approach. Mid-Sussex have taken an alternative route of ‘minimum viable transformation’ – which is more iterative, and focused on in-process learning and refinement. The approach is based around rapid prototyping that allows management to adjust business model assumptions as prototyping generates insights.
My favourite part of Simon’s presentation was about the release of ‘Trojan mice’ – little changes to how people work that can make a big difference. For example they brought in extra-large screens and digital measuring tools for building control, the department grew to like the technology so much that soon they were asking for these tools on mobile – a good alternative route to encouraging more mobile working.
Alongside these presentations I also had some great conversations with chief execs from across the country that reinforced my view of local government innovators. Execs who had successfully implemented new ways of working and are driving digital skills within their organisations for the benefit of many.
As Simon Hughes put it – ‘we live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin the see the present only where it is already disappearing’. In this environment it can be hard to keep up, but with the right guidance every local council could be releasing their own Trojan mice, learning from one another and using digital tools to achieve their ambitions