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Digital innovation isn’t just for the private sector

Natasha Veenendaal
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I am new to working with local government, having spent the last few years working with developers, start-ups, incubation labs; anyone using tech to transform the way we live and do business.

I thought working with councils would be a lot slower, but I was wrong.

There are many councils that are yet to embrace digital tools and our recent research showed smaller councils in particular need some help around cloud adoption. That said, I have already seen that some of the most innovative organisations reside in local government.

At the LGC Summit we presented a workshop with two such highly innovative clients. Aylesbury Vale and Mid-Sussex DCs have each taken a different approach to digital change.

Aylesbury Vale’s strategy has been a complete organisational transformation based around the customer journey. Aylesbury views technology as an opportunity and is using it to reduce calls to the council, generate revenue by renting out office space and give customers a more seamless experience. Maryvonne Hassall from Aylesbury said that next for them is looking at how artificial intelligence can be a part of its digital platform to better automate services, increasing the use of web-chat, and questioning the purpose of its office space and the roles of everyone throughout the organisation.

However, this pace and level of change would not be palatable for all councils and Simon Hughes from Mid-Sussex described a different approach. Mid-Sussex has taken a ‘minimum viable transformation’ approach, which is more iterative and focused on in-process learning and refinement. It is based on 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, when 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 mobile working.

I had some great conversations with chief executives who had successfully implemented new ways of working and are driving digital skills within their organisations. Simon Hughes said that change is now so fast that “we begin the see the present only where it is already disappearing”.

It can be hard to keep up, but with the right guidance every council could release its own Trojan mice, learning from others and use digital tools to help achieve its ambitions.

Natasha Gwilliam, local government executive briefing programme manager, Eduserv

Column sponsored and supplied by Eduserv

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