Delivering for a Digital City

Hi, my name’s Jim and I am the Delivery Manager at Digital First. It’s my job to ensure that the Digital First ship sails smoothly so we can deliver a wide-reaching, diverse range of digital services to Brighton and Hove residents.

When I joined the Digital First team in December 2017 I was surprised to find the team had grown from 4 members in January to 27 members at the end of the same year. That’s a whopping 575% increase. The ship that I was hired to help sail had grown from a dinghy to an ocean liner.

Increased size means increased complexity in our processes, interactions and tools, all of which throw up their own interesting challenges. What struck me most about the rapid team growth though was that it shows a commitment by the council to transform the Brighton & Hove digital services landscape. It shows a commitment to offer residents responsive new digital channels into council services so they don’t have to spend time on the phone or queueing at council offices.

The strategic decision to build these new digital services on a ‘low-code’ platform means that we can develop new applications rapidly without the overheads associated with more traditional programming environments. Developing rapidly means we can prototype, test and deliver ideas in shorter cycles, and ultimately deliver more.

Already we have delivered online services for rubbish collection and schools admissions this year. There is much more in the pipeline, not least a revamp of the entire council website which you’ll see across lots of different services this coming year. We are constantly looking to deliver the greatest value in what we build. That value could be in terms of efficiency, or cost savings, or developing applications for wide-reaching, high-transaction services that add value to as many residents as possible.

We also have a keen eye on how we can innovate for the benefit of our residents, an example being our Internet of Things (IoT) project: placing bespoke digital devices into sheltered housing that can detect changes in the environment.  We plan to use these devices to check for signs of residents struggling to heat their home, and to automatically alert someone to check in with them.

The digital world doesn’t stand still. We are excited to be moving with it, all the time looking for opportunities to deliver great digital services across Brighton and Hove.

JimAtBoard

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 .