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Monday, 13th August 2018

Back after a short break - and pleased to be cracking on with another edition of the newsletter. A couple of inclusions here that had been emailed into me - it's always appreciated.

Remember - if you enjoy this newsletter, others might too! Please forward it on to anybody you think might like it, or encourage folk to sign themselves up! Got something I ought to include? Mail me!

Do you need a corporate vision?

One of the blockers to large scale transformation in an organisation is the lack of a corporate vision of what the future is going to look like. It's a reasonable argument that goes "if we don't know where we are going, how can we ever get there?".

In an organisation like a local authority this is especially tough as they are such disparate entities. Think about it, in what strange universe does it make sense for a single organisation to collect taxes, deliver social care, pick up bins and operate transport? None of these and many of the other services councils deliver have much to do with each other, apart from the coincidence of local delivery.  

Coming up with a single vision or operating model for such an organisation is pretty tricky therefore, which makes it less likely that transformation teams are going to get one. So, without a clear destination, what should they be doing?

I think the key is to think of councils - and other similar organisations - as groups of individual businesses, rather than a single cohesive organisation. Accept that one idea is unlikely to work for all of them - and treat those that say they have such an idea with scepticism. Instead focus on a flexible approach to transformation and technology that can support service managers in deciding for themselves what the right operating model should be for their service, and how that translates into modern, digital native processes.

Fundamentally, taking the approach of user centred design, focused on meeting needs and delivering outcomes, delivered in an agile way that breaks up big, hard problems into small, easier ones has to make sense, whatever the context. As systems leadership teaches us, we can only ever make progress, and will never be able to truly fix the complex issues that our services help to manage. So start small, iterate often, learn from mistakes, and be flexible rather than putting too much faith into single ideas or technologies.


  • Lots of lessons in here about making digital transformation work in government. Link.
  • It might seem an odd thing to do, linking to what is in effect a committee paper - but this report from Rob Miller at Hackney is full of strategic and operational nuggets. What Rob is building with his team is truly impressive, and probably the closest we have in local gov to an exemplar digital and IT service. Link

Tools and techniques

  • The OPSI toolkit navigator looks like it will develop into a really interesting resource. Link. But the blog post explaining the work that has gone into designing it is extremely insightful. Link.
  • A story about a really interesting and innovative way of procuring a new technology capability for digital transformation. Link.
  • User research on the front line of the NHS. Link


  • A useful overview of low code system development for those who aren't necessarily of a particularly techie bent. Link.
  • User testing online forms at North East Lincolnshire Council. Link


  • The Festival of Maintenance will be a celebration of those who maintain different parts of our world, and how they do it, exploring and recognising the often hidden work done in repair, custodianship, stewardship, tending and caring for the things that matter. Link


  • Digital Content Editor, Wycombe District Council. Link.
  • Assistant Director - Transformation & Digital, Walsall Council. Link.
  • Applications Analyst, Camden Council. Link.  
If you're on the lookout for a new public service digital job, then you'd do a lot worse than signing up for Matt Jukes' entirely job-focused newsletter.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and please feel free to forward this onto friends and colleagues - and maybe even encourage them to sign up!

If you have any feedback, or an idea for something to be included, please just hit reply and send me an email.

Until next time,

~ Dave
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