Designing our digitally-optimised future services
It has been an intense but exciting six months since Hounslow’s new Digital Strategy, a central plank in how we will achieve our transformational ‘One Hounslow’ vision, was agreed by Cabinet.
We have designed and implemented an innovative, lean governance to support the implementation of the strategy and embed service design thinking into all digital projects.
In the first six months, five major projects have been shaped and agreed through our Design Authority covering a diversity of areas such as Children’s Safeguarding, Regulatory Services, Planning and Building Control, and Educational services.
This has all been achieved through remote working – something which none of us imagined when we were developing the strategy!
The Digital Design Authority is designed to give a rounded view and agreement from a wide range of disciplines that reflect the council’s broader needs. So, in addition to the core IT capabilities you’d expect in a Design Authority (such as technical architecture, security, information governance), we also have professionals from Communications, Procurement, Finance, HR and Organisation Design and two senior representatives from Services.
The power of commitment from a Service Owner
Our Design Authority works by inviting a ‘Service Owner’ to sponsor and lead the presentation of an outline business case on the proposed digital project to the group, supported by Digital and IT. Service Design works with the Service Owner and others to develop the business case – in a genuine collaborative, co-design effort.
Some other things that we believe also help are that we use concise PowerPoint slides rather than long word documents. Over time and with some internal coaching, our Business Relationship Managers will take on this role. Also, we have focused on ‘Futures’ priorities project where service design has the most potential benefits.
This approach has been very well received and has been instrumental in helping to build in service design thinking and moving forward at pace on a number of key projects.
“This (Design Authority) is a breath of fresh air and an absolutely sound approach” Sarah Scannell, Assistant Director Planning
Last month we held a retrospective on our first six months of Design Authority. We used a retro tool to do this online, asking the group what they liked, learnt or thought was lacking.
The feedback was brilliant – highlighting the positives that the group sees but also being very open about what could be improved or changed. For example, some members of the group felt we need to provide more detail on full costs and outputs, even if only estimates. We were challenged whether there was more we could do to quantify outcomes at the outset. And the need to identify efficiency savings (as well as user benefits) was reinforced – no prize for guessing which department that came from!
Service owner Martin Forshaw, Assistant Director Children’s Safeguarding led the case to our first Design Authority back in March. The proposal was strongly backed and some very useful steers and inputs given. He told us afterwards:
“The thought of being the first to do this was terrifying! But it went well judging from people’s response and comments in the meeting. We have a great opportunity to take a fresh look at how we design our services and I’m looking forward to seeing this as we work through it together.”
Following agreement on Children’s Safeguarding at the Design Authority, we brought in a partner to deliver a discovery phase, working with a ‘blended team’ drawn from the Service, Digital & IT and service design specialist skills. We are coming to the end of that discovery – and it has been done completely remotely. But that is a story for another week…
Keep in touch
If you would like to contribute to, or talk about any of the work, you can get in touch with Franco Degan, Andrew Connor or Barbara Munden in the Digital and IT Team