On stage, under the spotlight

Last Tuesday, Khalid, our Mendix lead, and I stepped out of our comfort zone and on to the stage for a question and answer session at a Mendix event in London.

Mendix is the low code platform that we are using to develop our digital services. We have been building up our in-house skills gradually under Khalid’s watchful eye. Khalid has previously worked with Mendix in the financial services sector.

The team at Mendix invited us to the event to talk about our experience at Brighton & Hove City Council – warts and all.  We were on stage with John from Knowsley Council who also use the same platform.

John, Khalid nor I, would normally seek out the limelight, so this was very much a case of doing something that makes us uncomfortable, to challenge ourselves.

Before we went up, and in typical tech style, we both looked at the heart rate monitors on our watches. Interestingly, my heart rate was 64 and Khalid’s was 113, perhaps I was born for the big stage after all!

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We answered questions about Digital First’s successes so far, like Report a Problem, and how we user test in the library. We also talked about building an academy to train staff and increase the number of Mendix developers in the UK.

All in all, we coped well with the questions and audience feedback was good.

The day ended with a dinner discussion around digital transformation, where there were guests from many public and not for profit organisations. There was also a lively discussion about the way forward, which has been covered in the Nimbus Ninety blog.

Without the spotlight on us, we were most definitely back in our comfort zone.

Housing Technology 2018

Sharon Davies (from Housing) and I were speakers recently at the Housing Technology 2018 conference in Oxford (#housingtech2018).



We were talking about the council’s pilot project for Internet of Things (IoT) devices in social housing.  We will be able to assess the effects of building improvement works by measuring temperature and humidity levels before, during and after the work.

We also touched upon event-driven architecture (where business rules in our integration platform can trigger tasks, cases or alerts), and a forthcoming mobile app for those residents taking part in the pilot. The app will allow residents to see temperature and humidity levels inside and outside their flats.

Thank you to our lovely audience, who chose to come and see us – there were many other options available during our timeslot – and asked some great questions.

I’ve added a video of our slides – please do get in touch with me if you have any more questions about the project. You can email me at neil.cholerton@brighton-hove.gov.uk .

Redesigning for GDPR

I wrote a few months ago about the new data protection laws coming in. We have been working with our Data Protection team to design these changes to the applications and forms on our website.

Interpreting new laws is difficult. No-one has been assessed yet by the governing body; the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Our Data Protection team are understandably cautious, as although the ICO is keen to stress that this is not all about fining companies for breaches, we need to be careful so that we don’t risk public money.  They felt that we had to make all of the information visible to the customer on the page before they agree to continue rather than use a button where you “click here to learn more” if you choose.

Our first designs were simple but long. They met the requirements but  did not improve customer experience. For example, if you report fly tipping in your street and provide contact details to know when it is cleared, do you really want loads of writing to appear before you can hit “submit”? Would you even read it?

GDPR cityclean

Luckily, while we were talking about this with the Data Protection team, Google started to roll out their own designs. They did use “learn more” buttons so we all felt reassured and have adapted our designs to suit. Here is an example of the new design in progress:

gdpr mut exc

This is a big step forward achieved by good co-working across the organisation.

Once we have a couple of versions better designed by our UX and Digital Content team and agreed by our Data Protection team, we’ll be testing them with residents.