An afternoon with the Digital Team…

By Adrian Clarke at Buckinghamshire County Council

As part of the ongoing alignment effort to dovetail the work and approaches of the BCC Digital and ICT teams, I recently spent a fascinating afternoon with Matthew and his team and wanted to share a few thoughts that stayed with me after the session.

People aren’t talking about technology

This is a point that would probably be a surprise to a lot of people. This is digital right? Surely that means the air is full of tech-talk and impermeable jargon?  Wrong. The buzz (and there is a buzz) is more around desired outcomes, the business process, what needs to be delivered and the approach  being used to deliver it and how it could be improved.  Of course technology is part of the conversation but it is very much a means rather than an end.

Know what’s flexible and what isn’t

Though the approach to individual projects within the digital team is very  flexible and responsive to the shape of the particular project in hand, this is in contrast to the framework that projects are delivered within which is very clearly defined, collectively owned and rigorously applied.  Team operating and design principles, tools and methodologies  have been  discussed and agreed and are visibly on display around the office.  This clarity acts as a daily touchstone for the team to ensure the key elements that will support  delivery  are kept front and centre and are not unwittingly diluted or bypassed. More importantly, this ability to help define the environment you operate within is an important group engagement mechanism and also serves as a cultural lever as it clearly states what is important to the team.

The quality of the engagement determines the quality of the output

This is not a principle unique to Digital but it certainly applies here.  Great things can be achieved with a shared clarity of purpose and  resolve between a supplier and a customer. If the engagement gets too lopsided then the quality of the of project/outcome can be significantly compromised or, in extreme cases, derailed before it has even really started.

You need to be prepared to draw lines… and then step across them

One thing that came across loud and clear in talking to Mathew’s  team was the willingness and need to facilitate the desired outcome even in less than ideal circumstances. Clear roles and responsibilities are obviously key to any endeavour  but so also is a willingness to step beyond boundaries in order to support each other and the goals of the group. Being prepared to step into the each other’s shoes helps give a shared perspective both of challenges and solutions.

All in all a very worthwhile and informative session and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to others who wish to “Think Digital” as well as “Do Digital”!

The HR help desk pilot

The HR service desk provides valuable advice and guidance to employees of Bucks CC along with staff from schools and academies across the county.

Just how valuable? In the last 12 months, the team received over 24,000 emails and over 14,000 calls. If you include contact made through other channels, they get about 180 new queries a day. That’s a lot. It’s not going down and it’s not sustainable.

That’s why we have started building the HR help desk form. It’s a digital service that allows users to find out the answer to a HR question by either asking a HR advisor, or be directed to where they can find the answer online.

Why we are doing this work

As I said at the start, it’s a service valued across the county, but it’s getting trickier to manage demand, so we’re currently speaking to users and looking at different ways we can offer aspects of the service.

We believe that by reducing the queries that come in and speed up how quickly we can resolve those queries, we can improve the experience for users whilst securing the sustainability of the service.

It’s not about closing the phone lines, it’s about reducing the queries by phone so there’s someone who can pick up your call when you really need it.

How we are speeding up query resolution

Quite often, questions come through that are missing crucial bits of information, like the month a copy payslip is required.

Instead of the advisor responding with the answer, they have to ask more questions first. This makes the whole process longer for everyone involved.

To make sure an advisor receives all the required information up-front, the HR help desk will ask for specific information depending on your question. This will mean a lot more questions can be answered first time.

How are we going to reduce the queries

There’s a wealth of information on the intranet or on schoolsweb. Chances are, the answer to a question is there but it’s hard to find. We know this isn’t good enough.

We are going to improve the content of our pages, starting with the topics that generate the most questions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be more information, but it will be better quality and easier to find.

The pilot

We’re taking a digital approach to this work. A digital approach mean means smaller, faster, incremental improvements. These improvements are tested early and often with users, to ensure we are building the right thing. Which is why we have chosen to run a pilot.

We know the service is not finished, but we feel it’s developed enough to test with users and check to see whether we are building the right thing.

In fact, the service should never be finished. Using data and user feedback, we will be continually improving how the service works and the information it provides.

Better yet, we also hope this data will provide the insight needed to fix some of the problems that generate confusion and questions in the first place.

The pilot takes place from 8am – 6pm, Thursday 22 December
Feedback can be sent to userresearch@buckscc.gov.uk