Finding digital opportunities in unexpected places

I’m Liam and I recently joined Bucks CC as a digital lead and service designer. My job is to support the digital projects already underway, along with exploring new opportunities to fundamentally reimagine how services are delivered across the council, ensuring we meet both the needs of the user, and those of the business.

Don’t just ‘digitise’ an existing service

At a time when councils have to cut the costs of delivering services, residents and businesses are expecting the same, if not better, level of service. Using digital has been seen by many as the solution to both.

Traditionally, this has involved attempting to ‘digitise’ an existing service with a focus on the operational needs of the council rather than those of the people who use the service.

Quite often, this neither manages to achieve the savings or meet the user’s expectation.

The design of services

Recently, the focus has moved towards using digital approaches to design how services should be delivered. This approach includes:

  • Starting with the user
  • Understanding needs before finding solutions
  • Making small, iterative improvements
  • Breaking down silos and collaborating

As proven by organisations like GDS, this approach is an opportunity to deliver savings and deliver better outcomes for residents and council alike.

Spotting opportunities

Quite often, opportunities come out of high level board meetings, specifically looking into where digital has yet to be utilised to meet the latest round of saving targets.

It’s unfortunate that this is the focus, but we’re also lucky in knowing that using a digital approach, we can meet both the savings target and user’s expectation of the service.

Over time, these ‘untouched services’ are going to become harder to find, but during my short time at Bucks CC I’ve spotted a goldmine of opportunities.

The goldmine

When I started, the two projects that were handed over to me were:

  • Digital post room
  • Paperless office

Now I must admit, they didn’t fill me with excitement, in fact at first, I struggled. However, I very quickly realised that both these areas held the key to identifying so many other services across the council that had not yet started using digital or were only partially taking advantage of its capabilities.

Even after a brief look through postage data or printing volumes, I’ve uncovered so many new areas to explore. Ones that could really benefit from digital to help them save money and more importantly, meet user needs and expectations.

Relationships

Furthermore, post and printing are services that stretch right across the council, so it turned out that these were the perfect projects to kick-off my role here at Bucks CC. They have allowed me to meet lots of people very early on and quickly apply one of the most important skills of a service designer, building relationships.

Through these new relationships, and developing knowledge of the teams and services in the organisation, I hope to continue the wave of culture change to put the user at the heart of ‘digitisation’.

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