A new paper from the Local CIO Council tells local public services that digitally enabled transformation is dependent on their commitment to the principles ‘simplify, standardise and share’.
The document says that local improvement that could have been achieved through digital technology has been hampered by growth in process complexity, duplication and fragmentation of approaches, inability or unwillingness to share data and a tendency for provider organisations to prioritise their needs over those of the citizen.
The document sets out a series of examples that illustrate these failings. In contrast, it highlights a recent collaboration between Warwickshire County Council and the Government Digital Service (GDS) showing how an eight-week application process for blue badges (for disabled drivers) could be reduced to 20 minutes through redesign and digital transformation of the process, producing significant savings and much better outcome for service users.
Simplify, standardise and share says that public sector austerity, as well as exponential increases in demand, mean that these principles, embodied in the blue badge example, must now be adopted across local public service organisations. Local government, with its responsibilities for place-shaping and community well-being, must take the lead.
The opportunity lies in the fact that ubiquitous digital technology is enabling citizens to become better informed and more self-reliant, reducing dependency on public service provision. Digital can also help make public services more efficient and effective, leading to more financially stable local public service provision.
The new diversity of the IT and digital market is a great opportunity because technology based solutions can be aligned readily to an individual’s needs and wants. But it is also a challenge for public service organisations stuck in old ways of working that do not embrace interoperability and integration and are vulnerable to organisational “lock-in” to rapidly obsolescing technology.
Open design principles and standards are essential in order to achieve the necessary interoperability between organisations and the whole place/system. Applied by significant numbers of local public service organisations, they have the ability to drive standards, create new marketplaces, and break the stranglehold of some proprietary vendor solutions.
This in turn provides the opportunity for local authorities to work with local communities, networks, individuals and technologists to identify and co-produce solutions to local issues that are aligned to open principles to ensure both interoperability and the flexibility to meet individual needs.
Simplify, standardise and share urges organisations to:
- Take a place-first, organisation-second approach to technology and data decision making, acknowledging that organisational ‘trade-offs’ will be needed.
- Work towards one digital transformation strategy and roadmap for a place, with investment decisions referenced against place-based outcomes rather than organisational priorities.
- Insist that all solutions and providers commit to using an open standards approach that enables interoperability with other parts of the system. This is not just ‘technical’ – it includes information governance and citizen requirements.
- Work with citizens, local public service professionals and technologists to identify issues and collaboratively co-produce solutions to outcomes.
To pursue the ‘simplify, standardise, share’ approach, public service organisations should:
- Connect and do less: Find out what others are doing locally and nationally and join up. Make your own successes reusable and shareable
- Do the hard work required to things simple: do not take ‘It’s always been that way’ for an answer.
- Iterate with partners: release ‘minimum viable products’ early, test with actual users and refine. If a prototype isn’t working, scrap it and start again.
- Understand context: think hard about how people use services. Are they in a library? Are they on a phone? How frequently do they use digital services?
- Be consistent but not uniform: use the same language and design patterns wherever possible or at least be consistent. Share patterns that work.
- Place accountability for technology enabled change with the business by putting a business-led Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) in charge of benefits realisation.
To advance the principles, the Local CIO Council has joined the work of the Local Digital Coalition to identify organisations representing places committed to ‘simplify, standardize and share approach and sponsor five projects that exemplify the approach:
- Local waste services standardisation
- Blue badge applications (with integration to DWP)
- Integrated digital care records (across health and care)
- Securing of APIs from DVLA for a range of driver, vehicle and licensing services
- Application to local government services of GDS’s Verify service for citizen registration, identification and authentication.
Simplify, standardise and share is available from the Socitm Open Group on KHub.
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