Happy New Year from Digital First

It’s a whole year since we moved into our new home in Jubilee Library. Reaching that milestone’s brought home how much we’ve achieved in that time.

In fact this was most startling when we had our team Christmas dinner in December. The year before, there were just four of us who went out. This year there were 27!

DF team Dec 17
Team Christmas lunch

Such rapid growth has given us the chance to build a dynamic, multi-disciplined team who work closely with local agencies and contractors. Indeed working with, and investing in, the local digital community was one of the cornerstones in our original plan to bring a digital transformation programme to life.

By working with the digital community, the council benefits from the expertise available in the city and the council invests back into the city’s digital sector. We’ve worked with 12 different local agencies and contractors so far, making some giant leaps in the last year.

Most notably we’ve:

  • introduced a low-code development platform (Mendix) and now have a team of junior digital developers who are learning it on the job. We’re working with Mendix to build a Mendix community in city and we’re creating a Centre of Excellence in the council
  • built a number of online apps that are on our new-look website – this includes creating a solution for mobile working, with the pest control team, which can be used as a template for other services
  • put live the new more-streamlined website,  which allows us, in its beta stage, to ask for feedback from users to help us improve pages, while we are building it
  • worked with our rubbish and recycling team to co-design a mobile solution for allocating jobs to trucks out on the road, which can also report back from the truck to the office
  • built an online dashboard to help monitor our adult social care providers in one central place and are working on a new register
  • supported our Customer Service Centres in establishing self service facilities for customers to upload information online
  • built an online tool to help customers work out if they need to apply for Universal Credit during its phased introduction

The Digital First team have become integral to the services that they are supporting. They have been advising on procuring the right systems and helped services understand that digital services need to be user focused.

There is a lot more to come in 2018 – we’ll get faster and better at delivering beta apps and reap the rewards of good discovery work from this year. Customers will also see some significant improvements through our new- look website and staff will benefit from more efficient online services.

It’s going to be a busy year!


Hurrah for Women – Ada Lovelace Day 2017

Hello, I’m Ali. I head up our Digital First team and I’m a woman.

There’s been a lot in the media recently about women in tech, mostly about how few women work in the sector and if they do, what a poor experience they have.

We’re having quite a different experience in Digital First. Out of a team of 25 people, 12 are women, and we’re across the whole team.

That’s definitely something to celebrate today on Ada Lovelace Day – an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

We have a healthy diversity. We have women in our development team, product team and our digital communications team. They work at all levels, senior, junior, mid level and in all roles across our digital transformation team.

It’s interesting that this has happened organically as we’ve put the team together. I think it’s just been a case of finding the right people for the roles and often those people just happen to be women. But is it an unconscious bias as I lead the team, and my boss is also a woman, or is that the reverse might happen in a tech team led by a man? That’s impossible to say. Brighton & Hove City Council has a well established equal opportunities policy which must help us as well.

What is clear though, is that we have a team of people all working well together, making great strides into transforming some of the council’s work. We collaborate and we disagree, everyone has a voice and everyone can be their true self. This makes for a healthy and mature team which makes us more productive and able to deliver better results.

So hurrah for women but a bigger hurrah for good people overall.

Here’s some of our team, others were more camera shy.

The Golden Record

Hi, I’m Gary and I work as the Delivery Manager for Digital First. I’d like to tell you what we’re aiming to achieve by:

Delivering a system capable of producing a single/individual cleansed unique dataset for the referencing of other internal applications or systems.

This single system is also known as the Golden Record.

One of the main issues facing local and central government is how to establish a joined-up service that makes it easier for citizens to use council services and reduce staff costs.

At the moment many departments work in silos and records held within one department are separate to those held in another. For example, if you wish to talk to several council departments, each department will go through a set of security questions to authenticate who you are.

These separate records may be different and inaccurate. For instance, Mrs Megan Smith in one department may be Ms M Smyth in another. This is frustrating for the public and adds to the staff processing costs.

To resolve this we need a joined-up service. We can achieve this by building a system that can identify individuals across multiple departments using sophisticated matching routines.

Once we have this, we need a method of updating the out-of-date records to improve data quality and a way to view the data online. We also need to consider records that can’t be matched.

Over the last year we’ve:

  • Identified internal systems to see if we can use them
  • Identified from these systems all useable data sets
  • Built routines that can match data, via a product called ClearCore
  • Identified how we can automate these extraction and matching processes
  • Implemented online Rapid Application Development systems, which we’ve blogged about before
  • Built a supporting database
  • Identified security issues to understand authentication, authorisation and access of individual data
  • Identified a system to update other systems with correct or more up to date information

All of this has been achieved with a single mindset for the future – to give people of Brighton & Hove access to their data in a meaningful and useful way.

I’ll share more details in future blogs.