Daily note for 26 September 2023

Rather terrifyingly, I was invited to chat on this podcast, which came out yesterday, on all things local government, technology and digital.

Nice practical tips on Outlook etiquette from top localgov blogger Tass.

Two great jobs at City of Lincoln Council, joining a team that’s really going places under the awesome leadership of Emily Kate Holmes. Choose between being a Business Intelligence Officer or a Business Analyst in a beautiful city in the best county in the country.

Because we didn’t meet the threshold of complaints last time, the innovation igloo is coming back! MARVEL at my lengthy and rambling monologues on digital and technology. DELIGHT in the willingness of the igloo inhabitants to share their experiences and knowledge. BOGGLE at where the hell Nick might have disappeared to for the last 15 minutes after looking so uncomfortable for the previous 45. SIGN UP using the absurdly tiny register button on this web page.

Visit a National Trust place for free this autumn – why on earth wouldn’t you?

How to cultivate a writing culture – “Convince an engineering team to care about docs”.

I left a lengthy comment on Benjamin Taylor’s post on LinkedIn, which I will paste below for posterity:

My focus as you know is particularly on local government, but will try and be inclusive as possible with these comments!

I think you’re spot on with a lot of your commentary Ben… I like others have been guilty in the last 10 years or so as seeing the technological and cultural shift of ‘digital’ as being a way to genuinely transform entire organisations, but I accept now that this isn’t possible, or indeed terribly helpful.

What I do think is that for genuine systems-based change to happen – the type you rightly advocate – we need the institutions within that system to be operating as well as they possibly can be, and we are a long way from that. I think it’s ok for folk like me to focus on the digital/tech side of things, because it’s vital that we get it right, to build the platform for fixing the bigger, more complex issues.

Organisations have been starved of funding for over a decade now, and that is being felt particularly in the digital/tech space where leaders have been told that technology doesn’t really matter. Only, now you have infrastructure that’s falling to pieces, teams that can’t get their heads around doing anything differently, a supplier market that effectively holds its customers hostage – maybe, actually, we should have been paying more attention.

We need leadership types to understand their responsibilities here. We need middle managers to take ownership of the tech/digital elements of their services and not ‘outsource’ it to the IT team and then moan about them. And we need all public servants to understand that technology is an absolutely vital means to an end. It may not be, and should never be, the end in itself, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take it very seriously.

Finally (sorry) it has to be acknowledged that there are very few efficiencies in ‘digital’. The efficiencies are in the services themselves, or in the prevention of the need for those services in the first place. Yes, reducing duplication of effort, enabling those that can to self serve through the transactional stuff, bringing datasets together to identify meeting needs are all enabled by doing digital and tech better, but the efficiencies – if they come at all – will be from service budgets, not IT budgets. This is often weirdly unacknowledged and can lead to some pretty awkward conversations.