Chatbot research with Neil Lawrence

It was an absolute pleasure to talk with Neil Lawrence from Dorset Council about the research project he led, using Local Digital funding to find out what the user needs are that using a chatbot might meet. You can watch the video on YouTube.

It turns out that if you want to know whether a chatbot is a good idea or not, it’s not as simple as a yes or no. There are a number of factors to bear in mind, such as the complexity of a service, how transactional it is, and what the emotional state of the service user might be.

Add on top of that the fact is that you need to train the chatbots with the good content and provide access to back office data via APIs. Anyone thinking chatbots are a shortcut are very much under the wrong impression!

Check out the project’s website to download the various outputs, so you can benefit from this research too.

Workshop recording: matching user needs with technology capabilities

Here’s the recording of the workshop I ran earlier today on using a process and template to help match user needs to technology capabilities. We worked through the example of an intranet and there was lots of interesting discussions as everyone chipped in through the session.

🖥️ View and download the slides

📄 View and download the template

I think this way of running short, focused online sessions works pretty well, and I will definitely be doing more in the future!

LocalGovDrupal with Kate Hurr and Will Callaghan

LocalGovDrupal is an open source implementation of the classic Drupal content management system hat has been developed by councils for councils, with the help of some funding from MHCLG.

It is, by my reckoning, the best example I have seen of open source use in local government, largely because councils are contributing to the project as well as consuming it.

16 councils are now involved and conservative estimates calculate that millions of pounds have been saved compared to using commercial off the shelf alternatives.

What is great is that councils are using those savings to invest in other things to make their websites better, like content design and user research.

Will Callaghan has been the main driver of the project and he gives us some of the background, while Kate Hurr talks about the progress Cumbria Council are making in implementing LocalGovDrupal. We also talk a little bit about pies! 🥧

I honestly can’t praise this project enough, I think it’s brilliant, and a wonderful example of the benefits of open, collaborative working, and sharing and re-use of technology across the sector.

To find out how to get involved, drop the team a line using hello@localgovdrupal.org.

If you’d prefer to listen to just the audio, give this a go.

Understanding data maturity with Ben Proctor

I had enormous fun last week chatting with Ben Proctor from Data Orchard about the concept of data maturity in organisations.

Data Orchard have identified 5 stages of data maturity, each of which describe the extent to which an organisation uses data to improve the way it works. The stages are: unaware, emerging, learning, developing and mastering.

In this half hour or so, we discuss important topics such as:

  • why using data is a cultural, not a technology issue
  • what some of the technology barriers can be
  • what steps needs to be taken for an organisation wanting to be data mature
  • the state of open data in the UK
  • why bats are interesting in a data sense, much more so than newts

Ben mentions are few projects and things during the conversations, here they are for your convenience:

If audio is your preferred medium, then you can find this on Soundcloud too.

FREE online workshop: Matching user needs with tech capabilities

A while ago I shared a post with a template showing how you can take a capability-based approach to picking technology by focusing on user needs.

There has been a fair bit of interest in it since it was published, so I thought it might be useful to run a short online workshop running through how it works with a smallish group of people. As I have at this stage no real idea what I am doing, it will be free for public sector people.

Book your place now!

The workshop will run on Zoom on Wednesday, September 15 at 11am. I anticipate it will last around 45 minutes, but keep an hour free just in case.

At the end of the workshop, you will be able to:

  • Understand the benefits of approaching technology decision making through capabilities
  • Understand the core ideas around user needs and how they should impact technology choices
  • Confidently run your own workshops following the process in your own work
  • Come up with loads of ways to improve the whole thing!

The running order is as follows:

  • Quick intro to the session and what we will cover
  • Everyone says hi (and I’ll probably ask a silly question about your favourite something or other)
  • I’ll run through the idea behind the process and template and what it is meant to achieve
  • We will work through the example of the intranet as used in the blog post
  • We will then work through an example or two that people on the session suggest – hopefully real scenarios they are currently dealing with

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? So what are you waiting for? Book your place now!

Digital workplace with Sharon O’Dea

I really enjoyed this conversation with Sharon O’Dea about the digital workplace. She shares an absolute tonne of insight into how organisations have responded to remote working in lockdown, what impact that has had on the use of internal technology, and what culture and behaviour change is going to be needed in future.

I managed to exert some self discipline and kept this video to 30 minutes or thereabouts. I think you’ll get a lot out of it!

If audio is your thing, you can listen to this on SoundCloud.

Legends of low code panel recording

This Tuesday Nick and I ran the legends of low code panel session, and much fun was had, and great learning shared.

I was joined by:

  • Kev Rowe, Croydon Council
  • Craig Barker, Cumbria County Council
  • Clare Evans, Tewkesbury Borough Council
  • Lee Gallagher, Hertsmere Council

Check out the video recording above, to hear about

  • the great low code projects all the councils have been working on
  • the cultural changes that went alongside the technology switch
  • the downsides of using low code and how to overcome them
  • who is best placed to become a low code developer in your organisation

Hope it’s useful!

SensibleTech

I’ve started up a new site recently, which I’ve called SensibleTech.

The aim is to share the stuff I’ve learned over the last decade or so of doing digital in public services. I reckon most of the things that are keeping people and organisations from confidently grasping the opportunity that digital offers are things they don’t need to worry about. They just need reassurance that answers are out there.

I’ve moaned in the past that a lot of the potentially useful material that gets published isn’t useful at all, because it’s so often vendor-produced and so, naturally, focuses on how great their product is, rather than everything else that goes into building great digital services – particularly the things that don’t quite go to plan.

So I want to publish articles sharing how I approach certain things in the hope that others can make use of that themselves, and some of the templates I’ve made over the years. I’m also talking to experts in the field and sharing their experience and knowledge too.

In the future, I’d like to look into more formal learning, whether online workshops over Zoom or e-learning courses that people can complete at their convenience. But for now, articles and videos are enough.

Go and take a look around, some of the content on there already includes:

Hopefully there’s something useful for you in there. If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, just let me know.

I’ve also resuscitated the Digital Digest email newsletter to send the latest stuff into people’s inboxes. You can sign up for that here.

A CDO chat with Ben Unsworth

It’s taken a while to record the second CDO Chat video, but today I finally had the joy of an hour of Ben Unsworth‘s virtual company!

Ben has done loads in digital government, including stints at the Home Office and with FutureGov, and these days he is the Director for Service Transformation at Essex County Council.

In this video, we talk about Ben’s role and what it encompasses, the importance of accessibility in digital services, the roles needed to make change happen, and the impact of the lockdowns and the future of work. Oh, and of course we hear a little about his shed too.

If audio is more your thing, you can grab that on Soundcloud.

Interesting links – 18 Feb 2021

I find interesting things to read, bookmark them, save a chunk of text as a quote, and then occasionally copy and paste it all into a blog post, so you don’t have to.

Digital Inclusion Toolkit: now live

Leeds and Croydon Councils recently won central government funding to create a comprehensive and collaborative how-to guide for digital inclusion.

Link

Delivering and accelerating in a pandemic – DWP Digital

Within DWP Digital our Technology Services team designs, builds and operates that platform, and in the last 10 months has ‘moved mountains’ to keep those services going.

Link

Working Smarter Field Guide

Learning informally and socially means connecting our individual work with our teams, communities, and networks. It requires honing our curiosity and seeking out different perspectives and ideas. It takes more than individual sensemaking to understand complex situations, so we have to find others to challenge our assumptions and learn at the edge of our professional abilities.

Link

The tiny video toolkit

People ask me [Coté] how I do the tiny videos. I hope to do a screencast at some point, but in the meantime, here are some notes.

Link

Announcing our new digital skills training offer – MHCLG Digital

We’re inviting local authority staff to apply for one of 10 certified courses with FutureLearn, covering a range of topics such as accessibility, design, decision-making and leadership. We’re testing the water with a small number of licenses and courses, but if we get enough positive feedback we’ll look to purchase more and make it an ongoing thing.

Link