Change is good

As 2018 ends, we’re heading into the final quarter of the Digital First programme as it’s currently set up here, and inevitably there have been lots of changes since we started.

The council is working out how it wants this work to be delivered in the future and, while that’s not yet confirmed, what is definite is that there won’t be a Head of Customer and Digital in place as I am moving on to a new challenge leading the digital customer experience at EDF Energy.

Also leaving the team is Annie Heath who has been championing customer (user) needs in the council since time began. Annie is joining London Borough of Croydon as their Digital Design Manager – how lucky are Croydon to be welcoming her into the team?

I’ve been looking back on what we’ve achieved, handily summarised in this deck below.

We’ve really only been motoring for the past year as we had to set the team up from scratch. We’ve made some real changes in services where we have been able to redesign their customer journeys.  Predictably, we started trying to do too much and in the more recent months have become much more focused towards where we can deliver real value.

It’s been fun, it’s been exasperating, it’s been a challenge for everyone; the team will continue until the end of March and then we’ll see. By then we’ll have most of our online content on a new website and expect to have some other key apps working. Watch this space!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Annie and my work next year, you’ll find us at @Annie3H  and @alirigby

So all that remains now, is to thank the Digital First team for their hard work and dedication over the last few years. They have been outstanding and will no doubt continue to be great, right up to the end.

I wish you all Happy Christmas and the very best for the future.

Hack to the future – 2030 Vision

Who can spare a couple of hours out the office helping 10 year olds think about their future city?  Yes please said lots of us. Giving back to the community is a core part of what working for Brighton & Hove City Council is about.

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Lovely place for a City Hack

The Digital First team helped out yesterday (Friday 25 May) at the 2030 Vision City Hack organised by Brighton’s MakerClub. Brighton & Hove 2030 Vision is a series of events coordinated by the council and partners looking at how we can prepare for the future.

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Smiley happy Digital First team

Eight primary schools came along to the Amex Stadium at Falmer, where Albion in the Community kindly hosted the session. As it’s out of season, we had the extra special treat of seeing the pitch being relaid, that or beach volleyball is coming to the Amex.

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There were 10 groups of around 8 children from year 5, all offering up their own ideas about how to improve the city in the future. We even had some dressed as superheroes including a Wolverine and most impressive Emmeline Pankhurst.

Mia from MakerClub had created a clever game where the kids earned tokens to spend on tech ideas that would help the city, through ideas like bike sharing schemes, seabins, 3D printed buildings, big belly bins and more.

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Mia and Mo from MakerClub

Over the next 2 hours, the groups explored the pros and cons of each solution, working out whether the benefits outweigh the negative impacts. And then the groups planned where each of their solutions would be placed in Brighton & Hove.

As a finale, each group presented their ideas. Every group demonstrated a real understanding of the issues and a great deal of empathy in how these solutions might affect residents of the city.

All the ideas will be collated and fed back to Brighton & Hove Connected to contribute to the Brighton & Hove 2030 Vision. At the end, everyone had the opportunity to say what they thought about the session, so that future sessions can keep getting better.

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Posting feedback on the wall

It was great to hear all the bright ideas from a children who will be 22 in 2030? Twelve years ago, Facebook was just being opened up to the world and the iPhone hadn’t yet arrived. 12 years is a long time in tech.

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.