Interesting links, 20 April 2022

Things I’ve seen that are worth sharing.

Exciting next steps for Local Digital and Cyber – Local Digital Collaboration Unit

The Local Digital and Cyber teams are going to be making some exciting changes over the next few months, backed by multi-year funding to the tune of £85 million.

We’re developing an enhanced approach that will allow us to support the local government sector to achieve even more brilliant things, as well as fix the core problems.

Read on to find out about our plans, how we got here, and what this means for local government.

Product design: when private beta isn’t the next step – Lindsay Green

We know that not all projects move from alpha to private beta. But there’s an expectation that it’s the next logical step… then to public beta, then live.

So, when we realised our project wouldn’t make it out of alpha, it felt a bit sad. Almost like something had gone wrong.

We won’t be the only team who find themselves in this situation and we wanted to share what we have learned and more importantly, how it’s actually been a positive thing.

Back to the Future of Twitter – Ben Thompson

The vast majority of commentary about the Musk-Twitter saga has focused on the first three paragraphs: what does Musk mean by making Twitter more free speech oriented? Why doesn’t Musk believe he can work with the current board and management? Does Musk have the cash available to buy Twitter, and would the Twitter board accept his offer (no on the latter, but more on this below)?

The most interesting question of all, though, is the last paragraph: what potential does Musk see, and could he unlock it? For my part, not only do I agree the potential is vast, but I do think Musk could unlock it — and that itself has implications for the preceding paragraphs.

A Web Renaissance – Anil Dash

Thanks to the mistrust of big tech, the creation of better tools for developers, and the weird and wonderful creativity of ordinary people, we’re seeing an incredibly unlikely comeback: the web is thriving again.

From the Made Tech content factory:

How to build a stress-free Slack experience for your whole team – Kim Kaveh

In your Slack workspace, you can work with your team, connect software tools and services, keep up to date with announcements and find the information you need to do your best work. Managed without care, it does have the potential to be distracting – and even a source of stress. It can affect productivity and mental wellbeing.

But there are ways your organisation’s leaders, Slack administrators and team can use Slack to minimise distraction and ease stress levels to help your team make the most of their working day. In this post, I’ll talk you through some helpful strategies.

Podcast: Product management and STEM Diversity, with Karl Dickman

What do STEM ambassadors do? Learn about product management and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Quick tip: screenshot an entire webpage in Chrome

This is a handy feature, hidden away in Chrome, that I was very pleased to discover the other day. Basically it’s a way to create a screenshot of an entire webpage, and not just the bit that is currently visible, without the need to install any extensions or whatnot.

It might be that this feature isn’t accessible to you at work, as it uses the developer tools menu, which some places switch off for their users to stop them having too much fun. Sorry about that.

First click the three dots that are usually found on the top right of the browser window to bring up a bunch of extra options. Find More Tools and click that, and then click Developer Tools on the next menu that pops up.

The developer tools console will then pop up on the right hand side of your browser (usually). Hit the three dots on that, and then choose Run command.

Type the word screenshot and a list of related commands appears. Click Capture full size screenshot.

Doing so should instantly download a png of whatever tab you were viewing when you ran the command.

It might seem convoluted at first, but I definitely prefer it to faffing about with extensions and so on.

Interesting links 8 April 2022

Things I’ve seen that are worth sharing.

Reflections on my time as the Head of Local Digital – May-N Leow

This week brings to a close my two and a half years as Head of the Local Digital Collaboration Unit (LDCU). In this blog post, I want to reflect back on the lessons learnt and achievements, such as bringing local authorities together to solve common challenges, and in particular how a group of local authorities and suppliers are cooperating together to deliver an open source solution.

How the [open source revenues & benefits] discovery phase is informing the alpha – Amanda Pujol

Revenue and Benefits systems are one of the key digital systems for all local authorities, processing payments to and from local businesses, council tax payers and hundreds of low income households on a weekly basis. They hold key customer data and, as such, are a linchpin in delivering councils’ digital transformation strategies and should link seamlessly into other key council systems.

You would expect that transformation of these systems would be at the forefront of every council’s mind. And they are, but because there are limited options (3 main suppliers in the market), there is a level of dissatisfaction with the market and transformation is considered to be costly and risky. Only 2 LAs in the country have their own in house Revs and Bens systems and Sedgemoor are one such council.

Winning awards – Kat Hurr

It’s always great to receive recognition for the hard work our team is doing. At the beginning of March we were delighted to win the Gold award for Customer Focus at the iESE Public Sector Transformation awards… Our entry focused on two areas of Cumbria Council – Highways Enquiries and Fault Reporting and Targeted Short Breaks for SEND Children.

Digital Playbook 3 day sprint – Nicola Bryant

I have competed my first 3-day design sprint to build a prototype digital playbook. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – so while a little hectic, sometimes intense – all in all it was a great experience and I am becoming more used to feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable! Below for the record sets out what we did, how we went about it and what we discovered.

From the Made Tech content factory:

Servant leadership, with Katy Armstrong

What is servant leadership, and how can you use it to help your teams fly? Clare Sudbery talks to Katy Armstrong about how to empower teams to do their absolute best work, by removing blockers, identifying vision and giving them everything they need.

The business analyst’s role in building successful teams – Khalil Anwar

I began my journey as a BA half a decade ago, and here I am today: a lead BA at Made Tech. I love being able to make a difference to a very diverse mix of users of public sector systems, which has ranged from Home Office frontline users to clinicians in the NHS, as well as the general public. Learning about the different systems and processes involved goes hand in hand with this, so I’m constantly learning and developing my skill set. But there’s much more to the job than this. Here’s the lowdown on what we do, what makes a good BA, and how we contribute to success.

Accelerating delivery: 10 questions to ask your team – Anikh Subhan

If you work in digital in the public sector, you’re probably aware of accelerated delivery. It helps to build projects faster, more efficiently, and with reduced risk.

If your team is new to delivery at pace, we’ve outlined 10 questions to ask yourself and your team to make sure you’re set up for success.

Housekeeping

Photo by Fikret tozak on Unsplash

I’ve been making a few changes around here!

This blog has existed in one form or another for a very long time – since September 2004 in fact. It’s a bit of a hotch-potch of content, because as well as the posts I have been making regularly on here in the form of a personal blog, I also have imported into it the archives of various others sites I have maintained in the past, whether for work or other projects.

Over this time it has had many guises, names and URLs, but has been settled at da.vebrig.gs and on WordPress.com for a fair few years.

However, I have this week migrated the whole archive of my blog to a self hosted WordPress instance. This is because I want to merge the content from the SensibleTech website into this one, and some of the content requires some customisation that isn’t possible on WP.com without shelling out more cash than I would like to.

It shouldn’t look too different at the moment, as I have stuck with the same theme and only tweaked the odd display setting.

So far I have imported the standard posts and the table containing the list of local government blogs. All this content is stored in the category ‘sensibletech‘ so if needed, it can be found in one place.

The next job is to import the link library, which is made up of a customer post type, custom taxonomies and some custom theme code to make it work. That will probably be a long job, so don’t hold your breath!

DDAT or D:DDAT?

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

Just a quick post on a rather semantical topic!

The phrase DDAT – standing for digital, design and technology – has become a commonly adopted bit of industry jargon in government circles, to describe the work that people do in this thing we call digital.

However, I find it just doesn’t quite work for me, and I think it is because of the use of the word digital within it. I think in the definition, digital is meant to cover things like user centredness, service design, digital culture and so on – but this isn’t terribly clear.

So, I have found myself on occasion instead referring to digital: design, data and technology. I’ve never abbreviated it, but I suppose that if I did it would be D:DDAT.

For me, D:DDAT gets across the idea that ‘digital’ encompasses the use of design, data and technology rather than being separate from the latter two.

This hardly matters in the grand scheme of things, but I thought it worth sharing! 🤷‍♂️

Interesting links 25 March 2022

Things I’ve seen that are worth sharing.

Exciting next steps for Local Digital and Cyber – Local Digital Collaboration Unit

The Local Digital and Cyber teams are going to be making some exciting changes over the next few months, backed by multi-year funding to the tune of £85 million.

We’re developing an enhanced approach that will allow us to support the local government sector to achieve even more brilliant things, as well as fix the core problems.

Stockport Council announces ambitious Radical Digital Strategy – Holly Rae, Craig Hughes & Adrian Davies

Today we have announced our ambitious new Digital Strategy. It aims to provide residents, businesses and partners with an overview of our digital ambitions for the borough, based on three broad pillars: Digital Communities, Digital Place and Digital Council.

Community of Practice Kick-off Canvas (with Miro template) – Emily Webber

The Tacit community of practice kick-off canvas helps get your community started or reset using a canvas framework that guides you through six questions… It has been available for a couple of years on my company website as a printable pdf, and I have recently turned it into a Miro board template, which anyone can use.

Interesting links 18 March 2022

Things I’ve seen that are worth sharing.

The Policymaking / DDAT Divide – Jerry Fishenden

Despite politicians’ grand ambitions for DDaT since at least 1996, it’s had relatively little impact on radical government renewal and reform. Yet the political ambition has remained fairly constant during these 26 years: to ensure users are the focus, not providers; to design services more closely around people’s needs and lives; and to deliver more effective, and higher quality public services.

Think Links icebreakers a Miro board template that you can use – Emily Webber

These two quick lateral thinking icebreaker games will help participants flex their creative thinking muscles before jumping into your workshops. I love that they help get people checked into the session and open up new ways of thinking, particularly good if you want creativity in your workshop.

How we’re building our data platform as a product – Osian Llwyd Jones

While companies large and small have made considerable gains in building a scalable and sustainable architecture, we’re left with the uncomfortable questions: is what we’re doing truly providing value? Do we really know who our users are and understand their needs? If so, can they generate insights in a fast and reliable way? As long as users don’t complain and pipelines don’t fail, does that mean all is well? For all our investment in data, are we seeing the return?

The Birmingham Digital Approach – Peter `Bishop

As we enter this new phase, I am keen that we now move away from being seen as just an IT provider to the rest of the council to one where we can start to work more collaboratively in partnership with our service leads so that we prioritise, manage our demand, design and shape and build great digital services together; a place where we cultivate and nurture an environment of working in the open; grow our digital talent and become centres of excellence of good practice across our various digital and technology disciplines.

Sharing our new user research templates and guides – Helen Calderon

Today we’re sharing the first of our new user research templates and guides. We designed these for teams working within the council, and they can easily be adapted for teams working in other councils. You’ll find these on GitHub. Download them, make them your own, and let us know if we can make them even better.

Open source revenues and benefits

Am really chuffed to be a part of this project, funded by the team at DLUHC, to see how portable the in-house developed revenues and benefits system from Sedgemoor council is. We will also be looking at the licensing and governance model for making the system potentially open source – potentially a revolutionary move.

What’s also nice is that the project needed a home for its blog, and in an, er, semi-professional capacity, I was able to knock something up on LocalGov Blogs, along with the free version of the Blocksy theme.

As always when I run into WordPress issues, Steph Gray is on hand to help me. Thanks buddy!

Interesting links 11 March 2022

Things I’ve seen that are worth sharing.

The next ten-years of digital government – Scott Colfer

For what it’s worth, my instinct is that the NHS might be the place that leads (by doing) the settler phase over the next 10-years. Showing by doing. The work of the last 2-years during the pandemic, the recent restructuring, and some conversations with people leading this work all make it sound like they’re explicitly investing in the work of the settler phase. Looking closer to my old home, the Office of the Public Guardian is doing this at a smaller scale.

How to build a team and effect culture change – Lisa Trickey

In 2017, I was asked to ‘make digital happen’ at the council. Digital is such a broad agenda and needs to permeate everything we do and think about in the organisation. Although the ICT function in the council initiated ‘digital’, I didn’t want technology to be the focus of the change activity.

Two opportunities presented themselves in different service areas when we were about to experiment with service design. We engaged FutureGov, who worked alongside service leads, ICT business analysts, content designers and application support officers, exposing them to user-centred design and working in multi-disciplinary teams.

Why these Welsh weeknotes are so good – Giles Turnbull

I’m always looking out for good examples of teams working in the open, and this WRA team are doing everything right. If you want to write good weeknotes about a digital project, just do what this team are doing, and you’ll be doing a great a job.

From the Made Tech content factory:

There’s no substitute for experience: lessons from central government software delivery – Vincent Farah

The important thing to pass on from our experience is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Patience and conviction of cause will help solve one problem at a time. You need to forge alliances and earn trust that will help change to happen.

International Women’s Day: what would you change about the tech industry? – Laxmi Kerai

Today is International Women’s Day. So, we asked a few of the women working in technology at Made Tech to share insights about equality and working in the industry, including how they’d change the tech industry for the better. Here’s what they said…

Local government: from product, to platform, to service – Glenn Ocskó