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Digital strategy

1. Current position

“Digital transformation means gradual transition to an underlying business model that exploits ubiquitous web-based infrastructure to enable commonly shared capabilities.” — Dr Mark Thompson, Computer Weekly

 

Our digital landscape

 

 

Many of our customers already interact with us via digital channels

  • The corporate website is the largest channel for customer contact, reaching over 1m users per annum
  • Almost half of residents have used the corporate website in the last 12 months
  • Cloud hosting of the corporate website has delivered improvements in cost and reliability
  • We routinely publish information, advice and guidance on the web, and this is kept up to date by the central publishing team working in partnership with the relevant business owners
  • All council services have some representation on the web – over 70 different services are represented in some form
  • The corporate website is typically updated 80 times each week
  • The centralised publishing team has a framework for ensuring consistency, and content that meets user needs
  • Our high volume services typically enable customers to perform some or all of the service via digital
  • Customers can report defects – e.g. a pothole or broken streetlight – via a web application
  • Library users can renew a book by logging into their account
  • Over 90% of parents apply for a school place online, although proof of address needs to be submitted separately
  • We have purchased new digital tools which are integrated into our main publishing platform, enabling us to digitise more services and better meet user need:
  • The ecommerce platform enables us to increase revenue by improving the customer experience (e.g. purchasing multiple tickets to a country park event in a single transaction)
  • The customer account platform enables customers to check the progress of a request
  • The telephony platform enables us to handle webchat and phone calls, and provides staff the option of using instant messaging

Our colleagues understand the potential of digital transformation to improve customer satisfaction and decrease cost – by designing services that work first time and do not require manual intervention. Our ‘Future Shape’ organisational model prioritises, and places an obligation on council services to identify opportunities for digital to transform their approach.

Despite this position, there are a number of structural weaknesses in our position.

  1.  Digital services have not always been built with a comprehensive understanding of user needs and context, or with sufficient capacity for ongoing improvements. Some digital services continue to generate significant offline contact because they have limited functionality (e.g. ID verification) and need to be made easier for customers to use. Most council services use digital only to publish information
  2. Customer satisfaction has decreased – from 89% in 2013 to 74% in 2015
  3. The web presence has proliferated – and there is no agreed standard to which these are developed. Secondary websites have been built on separate, often proprietary solutions, duplicating costs and limiting the ability to integrate customer journeys or share functionality.
  4. The volume of content and frequency with which it needs to be updated in order to remain accurate means there is insufficient resource for it to be tested and refined in response to user research.
  5. We lack the resource or capability to build and maintain good digital services. Internally, we have limited digital skills (e.g. front-end development) and wider digital understanding (e.g. user research, prototyping) and we lack the technological capability to deliver core functions (e.g. identity management)

Senior managers audited our current progress towards digital transformation by conducting a qualitative assessment of progress against 10 statements that define an organisation that is digital by default. The average scores are set out below - and we will use this framework to measure progress of this strategy.

 

Principle

Explanation

Score

Start with user needs

Don’t start with the current process or technological opportunity – understand the value you’re creating for users

2 - some people, occasionally

Show, don’t tell

Develop early working versions to get feedback – prove what works

1 - Not currently

Lead from the front

Digital transformation is hard. It can only be driven by senior leaders

2- some people, occasionally

Keep horizons short

Focus on one thing and work iteratively until it’s fixed

1 - Not currently

Assume it exists

There is a low-cost tool for almost any need or problem

you have

2 - Some people, occasionally

Work in the open

Be open about your successes and failures. Share your code, share your plans, share your data – it makes things better

1 - Not currently

Break down silos

Share knowledge across your organisation by building

cross discipline project teams

2 - Some people, occasionally

Get good data

Every organisation should do more with the data they have. Bring in or train someone who can help you use it effectively

1 - Not currently

Track live performance

Help everyone to understand and monitor impact by putting up a live performance dashboard somewhere

noticeable in the office

1 - Not currently

Ensure it’s sustainable

Make sure you can afford to support and maintain the kit your use. Not just to implement it in the first place

2 - Some people, occasionally

External position

The vast majority of our residents have basic digital skills, according to independent research. An increasing number both expect, and would prefer, to access council services via digital channels. Whilst there is significant variation in digital confidence for different age groups, ethnicities and income groups, over 85% of our residents can use digital to access our highest volume services.

The increased focus and improved performance of central government digital services, presents a significant opportunity:

The open way of working and creation of shared assets provides the opportunity to learn, and even copy the approach which has been tested at scale

The new approach to development envisages providing a common set of tools that we will be able to use

However, there is also evidence that public expectation is increasing significantly. Research into the performance of local government websites revealed a 30% decrease in customer satisfaction in the last year. If we do not significantly improve our performance, customers are likely to be more dissatisfied.

Increasing competition for scarce digital skills means that improvements to digital services is significantly more expensive in the short-term than many of the day-rates that the council pays for other professional expertise.

Almost all the technology that enables our digital services is purchased from third parties, many of which expect to provide solutions that enable integration with other systems. However, product licence cycles and priorities to deliver cost-savings means decisions can be taken in isolation of each other.

Budget constraints, particularly for revenue spending, limits our ability to purchase ‘best of breed’ software solutions. Further limitations on local government spending could create pressure to reduce investment in digital services.

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Last updated: 4 August 2017

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