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.

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.