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GOV.UK local digital dashboard – Phase 2 gets going

The GOV.UK local performance platform phase 2 kick off took place on the 9th June at the GDS offices in Holborn. There was a lively discussion, with great contributions from all participants. We had set ourselves an objective of identifying three new digital transactions to present on the Performance Platform and this is exactly what we achieved.

The hardest part was reducing the selection to three transactions – the long term vision is for very many transactions, but we’ll get there in manageable steps.

The next three digital transactions for the performance Platform are:

1) Renew a Library Book

This will be led by Warwickshire County Council and Kate Sahota. Once developed, the other phase 2 authorities with Libraries will also provide data.

This one has a vast number of digital transactions across local government with a growing digital engagement. It will be great to evidence this with some real time facts and figures.

2) Pay Council Tax

This will be developed by East Riding of Yorkshire and Amanda Wilde. And we’ll all provide more data when its ready.

Paying Council Tax is interesting as digital payments are received through many channels, including direct debits, web payments and other transactions, so there is much to think about in the design and data collection for this one!

3) Renew a transport Concession

Cambridgeshire County Council and John Platten will lead on this. This is about the allocation of bus passes and related travel concessions for students and the elderly. Some authorities do this directly and others do this via Passenger Transport Executive (PTE). Some PTE’s cover more than one authority, so lots to think about with this one too.

We also will be extending the missed bins dashboard:

4) Missed bins data from all Phase 2 authorities who have this service.

The authorities represented in Phase 2 are:

· Nottingham City Council
· Nottinghamshire County Council
· Kirklees Council
· Warwickshire County Council
· East Riding of Yorkshire Council
· Surrey County Council
· Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Other authorities had expressed a desire to be there and there will be plenty of further opportunities in the near future.

Other Debates

Two other main debates were aired at the kick off. One is around whether we should limit ourselves to transactions or include performance information about non-transactional digital services as well. For instance, as well as applying for a school (which is a transcation), citizens will use digital channels to find out more about schools and the entry process as well. Most thought that information provisioning was an important component of digital delivery, but its hard to evidence that a user has found the information they needed. We’ll come back to that in a later stage.

The second debate is around whether we should limit ourselves to performance data associated with digital channel use, or also extend to include service performance data as well. There are good arguments on both sides of this one, and we’ll be consulting more widely with service managers and users to help develop the strategy.

Next Sprints

We now go into an agile sprint to develop the dashboards and data selection for these transactions.

There is a DCLG Hot Topic event on 16th July, as part of the Local Digital Campaign, at which we will discuss progress with these four transactions, and set out the vision for further deployment of GDS assets in Local. This will be amongst the opportunities to continue the debates and shape the designs with input from attendees.


GOV.UK local digital dashboard prototype is live

Our GOV.UK local digital dashboard prototype is now live!

I recently blogged about plans to use the “digital assets” of GDS in Local digital service. The plan is to start with a dashboard of existing transactions and then build from that into enhancing local digital services and extending their range.

We agreed the plan on 5th of February and published the first dashboard just 9 weeks later on 9th April.

Here it is:

Dashboard prototype


Local user experience

For consistent user experience (and to avoid re-inventing the wheel) we are publishing all the information on the single GOV.UK  Performance Platform, where all the central government digital information is being published.

To make it local, we are starting with one local authority (Solihull) and one transaction (reporting a missed bin). We’ll then build out from there to other transactions and other authorities.


Its interesting to note that the digital channel trend follows the non-digital trend quite closely, as it does with many of the other transactions shown on the performance dashboard. Next step is to shift more traffic to digital channels. And, more importantly to use digital to drive down demand, as described below.

More Local – next steps

There is lots more that we want to achieve with this missed bins dashboard, particularly in making the information more local. The next piece of work for this dashboard is to be able to drill down to show the information at a ward and a street level. That makes it more meaningful to citizens and helps service managers continuously deliver improvements.

Transparent information

Most authorities use this sort of information in service management and aim to miss no more than 56 bins for every 100,000 collected. But we don’t usually publish this in a very accessible way in most local government authorities. So we want to update the dashboard to report on this measure.

This will help citizens understand how good their service is, compared to others in the borough, or beyond. It also helps service managers to ensure their providers are delivering well.

Demand Management beats channel shift

Local authority service managers are continuously looking for ways to treat causes rather than symptoms and reduce demand for costly services.

One important factor to concentrate on is “failure demand”. When an organisation gets things wrong, it creates more work without creating more revenue. So its important to ensure the business process minimises the amount of failure demand. That’s important in any process oriented industry – manufacturing does not want to recall products; local authorities do not want to have to collect bins they have missed.

Some bin collection teams consistently deliver a high collection rate in all the streets on their round, but are consistently poor in one or two locations. Often this is because poor architecture on an old estate makes it hard for the residents to place their bins in a location that the collectors will find them. Having that conversation with residents is difficult, without good evidence. This dashboard will make it easier to agree with citizens how they will present their bins so that they can easily be collected.

At Solihull we have also put business process and digital measures in place (with in-cab technologies) that reduced the number of claimed missed bins by 75%. This dashboard should drive demand down still further.

This means that fewer bins will be missed. Shifting the reporting of a missed bin from the phone to a digital channel saves about £5.00 per transaction. Taking out failure demand – ie not having a missed bin to collect in the first place saves about £50 per transaction.

So demand management easily trumps channel shift, but both are important and both can be digitally enabled.

Beyond bins

Until we spoke in more detail with the service managers, we were not expecting the demand management benefit from the dashboard. Now I’ m looking forward to developing the next transactions with other authorities and finding out where else open digital reporting will add value.

I’ve been really pleased with the number of people who have wanted to be part of the next steps.  As well as the Socitm and Local CIO Council enthusiasts, I am expecting the next phases to include authorities with digital leadership from #localgovdigital and Better Connected. The DCLG has expressed interest, as has the LGA with the standard service list  and other standards. Local government delivers over 1,000 services, ranging from “abandoned bicycles” to “zoo licences”. There is plenty of opportunity for digital (and digitally informed “evidence based decision making”) in that mix. People from the third sector and other local public service organisations have also expressed interests, that I am sure we can accommodate.

We all share the same ambitions for Digital in Local Public Service; pulling together we can and will make substantial and positive impacts on the services we provide and on the lives of people who consume those services.

Exciting and transformative digital times are ahead.



Many thanks to Matt Harrington and Tom Halloran at GDS and Craig Hevey at Solihull Council for this prototype digital dashboard delivery.

Open Source council web site to share

I’m really pleased with what our web team has produced this year. We have replaced our Internet and Intranet sites with minimal costs and delivered something that is as good as I have seen anywhere in Local Government.

Our new site at is:

  • User focussed in its design
  • Adaptive to mobile devices
  • Open Source in its technology
  • Transaction oriented

The Intranet site is all that plus:

  • Dripping with social media


And all of that for just under £150K for the pair (plus some staff time). That’s £100K on hardware and page authors, £40K on software and £10K on “other” (including a grand total of £4K on consultancy).

At around £75K for our council’s web site, we think that’s excellent Value for Money.


We did all the design, development and testing in house, with a virtual team that included the Customer Contact Service, internal directorates, Communications, ICT and of course, users.

Our design is inspired by other local authority sites we liked and from those doing well in the “Better Connected” review. It was very important for us to have the digital transactions that citizens most commonly use right at the front of the website.

Open Source

For technical readers, we have gone for the Open Source digital solution Evoq from DNN Software (formerly “DotNetNuke”). Evoq  is one of the top five OpenSource web tools available.

We liked DNN because it fits with our .net & C# technical architecture. It also has an option to procure enterprise support, which is important for a small metropolitan borough.

These web developments continue our strategy to deploy Open Source wherever there is a business case. We recently celebrated 10 years of Open Source in our data centre, saving over £1 million.


So both sites are live now, and we continue to develop and enhance (the perpetual beta).

We would be delighted to give away everything we have done to anyone else who wants to use it.

Local Digital with GDS and Socitm

[Update: The first prototype is now live. More here.]

We are about to deliver some local digital dashboards with GDS, the central Government Digital Service. There is much that Local and Central Government can achieve together with Digital. So we are learning how to collaborate more. And the best way of achieving that kind of learning is by delivering something of value.


Digital means many things to many people, but for this project we will be focussing on “transactional” digital. The ability for citizens to transact with government over the internet.

The development of Digital in Local Government is well advanced. Most councils have many years of experience delivering great web sites with transactional services for a good chunk of services where digital is relevant. Of the 900 or so services that a council operates, at least 100 of them are suitable for digital transactions.

Many services, are not ideal for transactional digital – like delivering adult social care and teaching children. But the 10% or so of council services that are good for digital transactions should be done really well.

The GDS objective of “digital services so good that people prefer to use them”,  is a good target that drives down cost and improves customer satisfaction. GDS is gathering digital transactions on the Gov.UK website, “the best place to find government services and information”.

Digital assets

Socitm and GDS leaders met up to decide what we could most usefully work on together. GDS have produced many “digital assets” and we wanted to identify the best ways of making use of them in Local Government. We agreed that understanding the data is a great place to start. If we collected data about local government digital transactions, it would tell us more about where to focus our digital efforts.


So this is what we are going to do. We’ll gather data from Local Government systems and display it in the GDS performance platform.  We’ll do this in three main phases.

In phase 1, we’ll take one transaction from one local authority and display some simple KPI’s for them. This is scheduled for April 2014, for Solihull Council’s “report a missed bin” transaction. Then we’ll look at what we have produced and what we have learned.

In phase 2, we’ll take a dozen more authorities and develop this first transaction reporting with their data. Then we’ll take three more transactions and develop those for these dozen authorities. Not all authorities deliver all services, so we will only display charts where there is relevant service data.

So when we start phase 3, we’ll already have 4 transactions well developed and displayed on the performance platform. We’ll also have worked out the governance to ensure we can agree what data to collect and how to display it. In phase 3, we’ll invite more authorities to develop more transactions. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot as we do this, so we may change the plan as we go.

Its a technically simple project, but ambitious in its scope. The people, process and culture challenges will need to be understood. Conceptually though its simple enough to show it on a single picture.

Local GDS


The vision is to encourage all authorities provide their digital transaction data to a single GDS performance platform where it can be displayed in a consistent and comparative way.

The purpose and values include the following and will be developed and enhanced through the project.

  • Information rich digital service design
  • Process performance behaviour improvements
  • Service efficiency
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Transparency and open data
  • KPI / Benchmarks
  • Cost reduction
Other dashboards
There are many other dashboards of Local Government performance information. This digital transaction initiative is intended to support not replace them. For instance, in Solihull we run an “observatory” which presents statistical information about the borough. Many other authorities do the same. LGA Inform provides council performance dashboards relating to KPIs like employment rates, GCSE achievements and looked after children statistics.
The proposed digital transaction dashboard will simply add different and complimentary information to this landscape.
And then what?
The digital transaction dashboard for Local Government should help shape the way digital services are understood.

As well as this, its the learning that we will achieve from working together that I hope will be of particular value. The projects that follow from the dashboard are yet to be identified, of course. But we do expect that they will be well informed, becuase we will have learned from the dashboard project.

Crowdfunding for Public Services Network (PSN)’s local Solutions Advisory Group (SAG)

Here’s something new in the land of Digital. And something not so new, with new innovation.

The not so new bit is that the local public services economy is fragmented into thousands of legal entities. That’s its strength (local arrangements for local people) and it weakness (national governance and funding is not straightforward).

The new bit
For one shared business opportunity, across local public services, we are seeking to provide national capacity that with an innovative “crowdsourcing” approach.

For those new to it, the word “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and can apply to a wide range of activities. I like Wikipedia’s definitions; “Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

“Crowdfunding” is the process of funding your projects by a multitude of people contributing a small amount in order to attain a certain monetary goal. The process is often used to subdivide tedious work”

In other words, you ask lots of people or organisations to contribute a little.

The opportunity.
Right now, we have an opportunity to improve multi agency local service delivery across police, health, local authorities, third sector, passenger transport and beyond.

Very many reports complain of public service silo’s, so it’s a great idea to have a public service infrastructure to help us work together better. We are building a computer network that joins these organisations together securely. This computer network is already well developed and is known as the Public Services Network, or “PSN”.

We have found that getting the “secure” bit right is much more difficult than anyone had anticipated. This has resulted in many organisations voicing their aspirations and concerns, most recently at an excellent workshop co-ordinated by the Local Government Association (LGA). It was an impressive alliance of influential parties, with Local Government chief executives, senior officers from the Cabinet Office, the PSN team, the government computer security group CESG, the DCLG, the LGA, IT leaders from the Local CIO Council and Socitm, and other influential representatives.

We are all working as a team to ensure PSN offers the transformational efficiencies it has the potential for.

Great progress, but as ever there is more to be done. At an individual organisation level there are complex options to consider to ensure the business benefit of PSN is realised, without compromising security against cyber threats. A pragmatic risk balance is agreed to be desired, but this is different in each organisation. So, what we need is some more people who can understand what a local public service organisation’s needs are, what the technical issues are and what the security requirements are. And then help local organisations to deliver the pragmatic and proportionate security measures that make sense locally.

But each organisation doesn’t need a full-time specialist. We need a small pool of people able to help each of the regions in the UK. We need a Solutions Advisory Group (SAG) and need to fund some staff to populate it.

Seeking central funding through measures such as “New Burdens” or ordinary central budgeting are difficult, not guaranteed and time-consuming. And we have an immediate requirement.

The innovation
So I thought, how about if each of 500 local organisations contributed £1,000? That would raise enough to recruit some useful people for each of the regions. I was delighted when the organisations I suggested the idea to said “Yes, let’s try that”. The IT and digital leaders society (Socitm) and then the Local Chief Information Officer Council (LCIOC) both gave it their support and many individual organisations have indicated they would contribute. So, we have just launched a local public service Crowdfunding initiative, hosted by Socitm.

That’s the new bit. Crowdfunding for a shared local public services resource. There’s some more information on the Socitm web site here:

I hope it works, because delivering joined up public services is critical to the future of efficient, effective delivery that citizens like.

Digital 2.0 for “Wicked” problems

Twitter: #dgtl4wkd

Digital might just be moving into a second phase, where complex problems are resolved by people operating in a digital network.

A little while ago I was invited to Parliament to debate the central questions of Digital. The panel was chaired by the MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Chi Onwurah. Chi has 20 years experience as an ICT engineer and retains an active interest in Digital.

We were joined by Mike Bracken (Executive Director of the Government Digital Service – GDS) and the authors of an important new book called “Digital Government @ Work”, Rob Wilson and Ian McLaughlin. The debate was lively and informative, with great questions from the floor.

This blog sets out the opening address I gave (roughly speaking) and some of the conversation that followed, in order to continue and widen the discussion.

Three of the many forms of digital

I began by focusing  the debate on three aspects of digital:

– Transactional digital

– Social Media

– “Wicked” problem solving with digital

Wicked problem solving is central to Rob and Ian’s book and is at the core of this debate. I’ll talk a little more about what “wicked” means, below.

Of course these three aspects of digital are closely related –  and focussing on these leaves out other digital matters , such as assisted digital, cyber security, open data, digital legacy, identity management and so on.  But you can’t cover everything in an evening!

Transactional Digital

Transactional Digital is where the Government Digital Service (GDS) has firmly set its sights. And has created show case exemplars for how to make digital services that “are so good, people prefer to use them”.  A breath of fresh and an attitude of “lets do this quickly, cheaply and very well” has swept across central government. It is transforming the way web sites serve citizens and delivering great outcomes both for customer experience and for cost reduction.  Although Mike, would rather we talk about “users” than “citizens”, the point is the same.

Transactional digital is also where most local authorities have set their “channel shift sights”, many with excellent results.

Social Media

Many people have sped away with the power of social media in government – and many others remain dubious of its value. Others are alert to the value of social media, for “telling people things” and believe its value stops there. It does not. Social Media’s great transformative power is in creating networks of people facing similar issues and quickly enabling them to shape solutions. Think Arab Spring. Also think of the clever ways communities are “co-producing” new services for themselves.

“Gig Buddies” (see below) is a great example of this, where people use social media to pair up people with and without learning disabilities to be friends and to go to events together. This gives carers time off and provides people with more freedoms.

It’s the sort of outcome a council would want to provide, but its not delivered by a council.

Wicked Problems

A great proportion of the costs incurred by Local Authorities relate to solving “wicked” problems. The term comes from the academic study of problem solving. Problems are not only “simple” or “hard”. Beyond hard to solve problems are wicked problems. A wicked problem is one where, an effort to solve one aspect of a problem, reveals or creates others.  Wicked problems abound in the complex territory of social care.

The book “Digital Government @ work” presents us with an example wicked problem. Mrs Canybody is a charity worker in an organisation safeguarding children and young people.  We are introduced to Mary, who is a single mother, who after seeking to resolve some complex issues has been re-housed to move her physically away from the cause of some of her problems.

We then meet Derek. He has been Mary’s pimp, but after a spell in prison has declared himself to be a reformed character. He is the father of Mary’s child and wishes to be re-united.

Both are now receiving counselling from the same charity.

Clearly, solving Derek’s problem may create an issue for Mary.  And solving Mary’s problem may create an issue for Derek. And their neighbours. And Mary’s child. A wicked problem indeed. And massively simplified for the purposes of a quick blog.

Mrs Cannybody is grappling with the problem of how to act in Mary’s best interests. This is typical of the sorts of problems social care teams address all the time. If you want to know how to solve a wicked problem, ask a team of social workers!

Transactions in local government

The LGA shows that large local authorities deliver around 1,050 products and services. Socitm has shown that a good 100 or so business processes lend themselves to online customer interactions, or “digital transactions”.  Simple (non-wicked) issues like fixing pot holes, removing graffiti, collecting missed bins and so on are good candidates for digital transactions.  Its an important 10% of what a council does, and authorities up and down the land are working hard to do it better, many with spectacular results.

But the authority’s bigger worries relate to the 90% of social care, housing, schools, planning and so on. Sure, not all of the 90% is wicked – but neither is it possible to reduce it all to a “transaction”, digital or otherwise.

Wicked:  ICT is not the answer?

Conventional ICT integration and transactional digital may not be the best answer.

Back in the book, the charity’s head of ICT thinks he has the answer. He commissions a business case for a data warehouse. All the information relating to Derek and Mary would be stored in the database and be accessible to anyone working with either case. Many Councils already have such a system and there is much work going on to join them up with charities, health care and other agents who might also share interests in Derek and Mary’s welfare.

There is great public demand for such agencies to work together more effectively, as the Baby P, Victoria Climbié  and  Soham reports all showed.

Mrs Cannybody is not convinced a big database will be in the interests of Mary or Derek. She is concerned that the relationships in which Mary is embedded are complex.  And while sharing some information might very well be in Mary’s interests, sharing other information absolutely might not. These information sharing decisions, Mrs Cannybody realises, cannot easily be automated. They are contextual and depend on trust, understanding and other human factors.

So, if Transactional Digital and ICT Integration are not the answer, what is?

An alternative digital

Digital Government @ Work offers a vision of a “federated virtual agency”. That sounds very academic (not surprisingly, the book is written by academics), so here’s what I think it means. The problem with merging all the complex information is not only in who gets access to it, when and for what purposes. It is also that it creates another problem. Instead of lots of agencies in separate silos, it creates one big silo with all its data management overheads and all the necessary information compromises required to create a “one size fits all” solution.

So instead, the separate agencies might continue to manage and govern their own information to the specific needs of the organisation’s purpose. But individuals might, through the ubiquitous power of digital, know who talk to in another agency about a particular case. And those humans can make a case by case judgement over which information to share.

Managed networks

I have been interested to see how this is currently developing in health. Professor Ferlie of Kings College London has argued (see below) that a governance model of “managed networks” may be a way forward in tackling health policy problems.  He suggests that “networks represent the ‘least bad’ governance mode for these complex ‘wicked problem’ based policy arenas, when compared to markets or hierarchies. We also see such ‘wicked problem’ arenas as pervasive in scope and we argue they should be influential in policy design.” Elsewhere he suggest that managed networks need to be driven by “a small energised, ‘hybrid’ leadership team, containing a mix of doctors, nurses and managers”.

In other words people having quick and easy access to colleagues who can help create solutions. Sounds like social media…

Back in Local Government, some very innovative solutions are emerging that offer managed networks in social care.  A good example of this is Patchwork. This is a secure social media site for “Connecting professionals across public services to deliver better results”.  Staff from multiple agencies can see who in other networked agencies are working with their clients and then talk with them about how to help ensure the client’s best outcome.  This (and there are others) is a simple, cost effective solution that understands the heart of the problem and offers an appropriate solution.

The next digital

In Chi’s LSE review of the Digital Government @ Work book, she applauds the profound analysis of the current state of play. But laments the absence of futurology – setting out the path to the “sunlit uplands” of the future is not the purpose of the book.

As the President of the Society for IT Leaders in public service (Socitm), I’d like to have a stab at a little future gazing. Its one of the perks of the role!

Digital, beyond transactions and integrated data bases, has a great deal to offer to help creative people solve “wicked” problems, in my view. Managed Networks of care professionals, may just be the new digital flower about to flourish.

A nation where staff from multiple agencies can see at a glance which agencies are working with their client and how to contact them, sounds like an improved nation.  A nation where agencies alert others when they have a concern about a client, sounds better still.

Simple, secure, social media style interactions like these may deliver substantially more than a multi agency integrated database of case records – at a substantially lower cost. With considerably less information safeguarding risk.  This requires a maturity in the understanding of the “networked power” offered by social media, so it can’t be part of “Digital 1.0”.

Conclusion:  My crystal ball suggests that the next wave of digital innovation (or “Digital 2.0”) will have a lot to offer multi-agency teams grappling with “wicked” problems.

What do you think?


Twitter note: There has been a flurry of twitter chats about this blog post. To keep track of them, pls now use the hashtag:  #dgtl4wkd

[For people new to twitter, thats “Digital for Wicked”-  but in fewer characters!]


Some links of interest

Here’s some stuff that expands on some of the points raised in this blog.

– Wicked Problems:

– Gig buddies:

– Digital Government @ Work (LSE book review):

– Managed Networks in health:

– Patchwork:

Digital, PSN compliance, business agility, leadership – the conference


All under one roof, discussions, presentations and round tables that cover many of the ICT leadership themes of the moment – The Socitm conference is soon to be with us on 9th and 10th of December.

Its shaping up to be a particularly valuable conference this year.

Some key people:

Mike Bracken.

Recently voted to be Digital Leader #1, Mike Bracken  (Executive Director of the Government Digital Service) will shine a spotlight on “digital by default”.

Catherine Howe.

The influential strategist Catherine Howe, will enthuse about the networked power digital can create to deliver solutions with, not just for, the citizen.

John Seddon

Outspoken critic of call centres and big IT projects, John Seddon will offer us all an opportunity to consider the wisdom of our endeavours.

Jon Williams

PSN (Public Services Network) Programme Director, Cabinet Office, Jon Williams will join the panel debate on PSN

Some key themes

PSN (Public Service Network)

Many are concerned that the security compliance issues of the PSN risk overwhelming the benefits. Hear the arguments and join the debate. Presentations, a round table and a panel debate with Cabinet Office and Local Government officers are scheduled.


As austerity bites harder, the Socitm members are seeking and finding new ways to be “better with less”.


Socitm is a membership organisation for leaders involved with IT in local public services. The Socitm conference will consider, stretch and challenge leadership views and perspectives.

I’m looking forward to it. Here’s the link: