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!

image (1)

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.

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.

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!