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!


Garden waste gets a spring clean

Brighton & Hove City Council’s garden waste collection service is a digitally-enabled success.

We put the whole process for getting garden waste collections online because you expect to do everything via the web nowadays – why should council services be any different?

When I started working here in January, I assumed council staff would be reluctant to embrace digital transformation. But the entrepreneurial spirit of the people at Cityclean, the council’s department for rubbish and recycling, has given me a new perspective.

Cityclean have created a new service from scratch and together with us, the council’s Digital First team, we have made it simpler for customers to pay for their subscriptions via the council’s website.

You may have seen Cityclean’s garden waste collection bins around the city

In its first year the garden waste collection service generated £239,000 in new revenue – which covers the cost of delivering the service. One month into the second year, 85% of customers due to renew have done so. The vast majority have renewed via the website, responding to our automatically generated renewal email – which has saved a lot of admin time.

We are also aiming to add 1,000 new customers in the second year. So far we’ve got 850.

This means that Cityclean’s garden waste collection service is on course to deliver £1.7m in revenue over a five year period. This money pays for the service without any call on council funding.

Not bad, but you may say there is nothing particularly innovative about using technology in this way. And you might be right – the technology is not what I want to draw attention to.

The interesting thing, I think, is the evidence of a changing mindset at the council – not many public sector services can boast that they have developed a digitally-enabled, self-funded business model.