Scaling service design and agile methods to transform services

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Councils increasingly have transformation teams with digital skills but they tend to be small teams struggling to manage the demand from services wanting digital change.

There have been small scale successes with design sprint and agile discovery projects utilising GDS’ methodology, however traditional council governance, culture and structure make it difficult to do this at scale and pace.

We want to understand the challenges to deploying this thinking, and why service design and agile methods are so difficult to implement in a local government setting.

We want to research and understand:

  • How useful current training and development on offer are to the teams involved in redesigning digital services.
  • Common experiences & pain points across Councils
  • Experiences of service teams trying to startup and run transformation projects
  • Experiences of digital and transformation teams and how they manage demand
  • How tools & methods can be used to facilitate digital transformation at scale
  • How to practically change the culture of an organisation so that we can transform at scale

We intend to deliver a discovery phase for this problem in line with the GDS service manual and principles. Southwark intends to collaborate with the listed partners in carrying out this discovery exercise.

While some in-house capability will be available from Southwark, we will run a Digital Marketplace procurement to appoint a specialist company to lead the discovery. The company will be asked to conduct:

  • User research with prioritised users and stakeholders
  • Research into digital transformation training and development on offer
  • Research into how useful tools and methods that are currently being used by service teams and transformation teams

The company will be asked to produce:

  • The benefits case for developing an alpha project
  • A user research report, justifying the project’s conclusions.
  • A conclusion proposing:
    • How different councils have approached transformation at scale and how effective those methods have been
    • Which tools, methods and team structures can be used to facilitate digital transformation at scale
    • How to practically change the culture of an organisation so that councils can transform at scale
    • Recommendations on which current digital services transformation training and development on offer are actually useful, if there are any gaps and how the gaps can be addressed

This project will be run using agile methods and we expect the project to last between 4 and 5 two week sprints, with valuable insights delivered and shared at the end of each sprint.

Projected project timeline:

  • Procurement and Inception: Dec 10 2018 – Dec 28 2019
  • Research sprints: Jan 7 – Mar 22 2019
  • Final report & documentation: Mar 25 – Mar 29 2019
  • Outputs to be published by Apr 1 2019

In addition to regular blogs through the discovery phase, outputs will be published for the wider community to share the findings, stimulate debate and ensure that any progression to alpha will meet common needs across councils.

Local government has made huge progress in enabling residents to carry out basic transactions online. However most councils have not transformed their services end to end, and back office processes remain manually intensive. More than 50 per cent of councils are manually re-keying over half of the data they receive from e-forms.

Councils have taken a number of approaches in transforming services, including creating and funding dedicated digital transformation teams and bringing in specialist companies. Success of these approaches have been limited to the availability and capacity of the teams – either demand for the digital transformation team outstrips capacity or there is not sufficient budget to sustain external companies in transforming services.

Research from Nesta’s Connected Councils Report suggests that if average savings from digitisation programmes can be replicated across local government, an average unitary council could save up to 13 percent of its total budget by 2025, compared to the status quo. This is a conservative estimate, as it assumes the fundamental business model of councils remain unchanged. For ambitious councils who are willing to change everything they do, the potential savings could be up to 40 percent. Given that total service expenditure by councils was close to £91 billion in 2017 to 2018 the potential benefits and savings if we used the conservative estimate of 13 percent could be £11 billion, in addition to better services for residents and less pressure on front line staff.

To ensure collaboration and as much variety as possible in a short discovery, the user research will encompass interviews with service teams, digital transformation teams, and other prioritised stakeholders  from the partner councils who are at different stages of digital service transformation and maturity.

As the project is being run in two week sprints, insights will be delivered and shared at the end of each sprint with partner councils to draw out feedback and inform priorities for the next sprint. In addition to regular blogs through the discovery phase, outputs will be published for the wider community to share the findings, stimulate debate and ensure that any progression to alpha will meet common needs across councils. We will be looking to use tools such as Google’s G Suite, open Trello boards and Slack to collaborate and share our findings.

By the end of project we will be able to publish:

  • The benefits case that explains the problem of scaling and sustaining digital transformation, the cost of the problem and the potential savings and benefits for councils, and hence residents.
  • A user research report including:
    • A prioritised list of user needs and stories
    • Common experiences and pain points
  • A conclusion proposing:
    • How have different councils approached transformation at scale and how effective those methods have been
    • What tools, methods and team structures can be used to facilitate digital transformation at scale
    • How to practically change the culture of an organisation so that councils can transform at scale
    • Recommendations on which current digital services transformation training and development on offer are actually useful, if there are any gaps and how the gaps can be addressed

The conclusion will also outline whether or not the project should proceed to alpha by building on the benefits case with evidence from the discovery and outline what the alpha will deliver.

We believe there are 5 priority categories of users:

  • Service teams trying to startup and run transformation projects
  • Senior managers responsible for delivering and transforming services
  • Digital and transformation teams supporting or delivering transformation projects
  • Senior managers responsible for creating and managing digital and transformation teams
  • Training and course designers delivering skills required for transformation

With such a short discovery period, it is only possible to prioritise an initial list of user groups. This will be agreed at project initiation and engagement methods will include workshops, interviews, shadowing and observations. Research will be done across partner councils.

This discovery will define the needs of a council in transforming services at scale. Proposed user research objectives include:

  • To understand what teams struggle with when running transformation projects to redesign digital services
  • To understand what skills are required, are lacking, and how useful current training and development are (including availability, cost, uptake and actual feedback from participants)
  • To understand how demand for transformation resources are and can be managed and prioritised
  • To understand what tools and methods can be used to transform services at scale

We have not been applied for, or have been granted, funding for this project in the past.

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