Keep, Fix, Enhance, Swap, Replace: Five options for public service reform
Of course, everyone knows that in the real world, options are limited by time, money and statutory responsibilities. Less obviously, the solutions we choose to implement may be constrained by our perception of what level of change is, in principle, possible.
change  digital  localgov 
Council code sharing project is up and running
Croydon and three other councils have just kicked off an MHCLG funded project to flesh out how our Drupal sharing is going to work at scale.
2 days ago
Local government transformation needs leadership support and understanding
Success for Croydon, and others like them, could cause a snowball effect. I expect to see more and more councils looking to develop the roles of their leadership team to meet the challenges of the digital age.
localgov  digital 
2 days ago
Your own hosted blog, the easy, free, open way (even if you're not a computer expert) ·
This post introduces fast_template, the easiest way to create your own hosted blog. There’s no ads or paywall, and you have your own hosted blog using open standards and data that you own. It requires no coding, no use of the command line, and supports custom themes and even your custom domain
5 days ago
What does good product governance look like?
As a product community we share many of the same stakeholders and user groups, at both a national and local level. This means that teams often fall under multiple governance mechanisms, presenting new risks; the inefficiencies linked to double or triple reporting, and the risk that different boards disagree on each other’s decisions.
governance  agile 
7 days ago
Our guides on delivery
It’s the role of our delivery leads to help the team find the right working pattern for the project. To balance the need for flexibility against the need for consistency, we’ve crafted a handful of guides to use for the various meetings (or ‘ceremonies’) and updates that we use on a project.
delivery  guide 
8 days ago
Why mission patch stickers matter (and how to get a Croydon Digital one!)
A tribute to the humble laptop sticker, used by CDS and digital teams everywhere to celebrate good work and communicate values.
8 days ago
What Ts&Cs should be in every local gov tech tender?
[it’s] clear that boroughs experience a number of common challenges and frustrations with certain technologies and a small number of suppliers. As a result, there’s an appetite to establish some common terms and conditions that could go into every technology-related tender and contract to ensure those shortfalls are designed out of future procurements.
procurement  standards 
9 days ago
Ethical technology?
So much of our lives are subject to the unconscious biases and technological evangelism’s of the people who create the virtual worlds and services we spend so much of our time in and our current fascination with ethics is a desire to create a controlling framework around the tools and systems which are now controlling our lives.
ethics  technology 
11 days ago
How to explain to CEOs why fixing the plumbing matters
Where we’re working to fix the plumbing, we should be doing so specifically to enhance capabilities that improve boroughs’ ability to tackle real-world problems. We can only determine if we’re doing that well by proactively working with colleagues to deliver some real-world outcomes.
loti  digital  leadership 
17 days ago
Chrome OS has stalled out
Nearly ten years ago, Google shipped an unassuming, totally unbranded laptop to a large group of journalists and tech enthusiasts as part of a 60,000 unit pilot program. That laptop was the CR-48, and it was designed to showcase a project Google had been working on internally for well over a year. It was called Chrome OS.
google  chrome 
18 days ago
The coming storm
I’ve seen enough of this now to know the cycle. You all know the cycle. Government business is being done badly. Everyone’s fed up. Influential voices outside the incumbent delivery team grow and grow. Eventually they get a go at it. Rinse. And repeat.
government  digital 
18 days ago
How to lose a monopoly: Microsoft, IBM and anti-trust
For both IBM and Microsoft, market power in one generation of tech didn’t give them market power in the next, and anti-trust intervention didn’t have much to do with it. It doesn’t matter how big your castle is if the trade routes move somewhere else.
technology  monopoly  innovation 
22 days ago
Making the Spaces of Cities Smarter: Why cities should embrace the digital public realm
Smart cities have long been discussed as conceptual ideas for how cities should be and what they could do. Rarely is the concept broken down into something that provides substantive meaning to the average city-dweller. Indeed ‘smartness’ for many, is far removed from their everyday life, rather just a hidden network of sensors and connectors.
digital  smartcities 
october 2018
Why hire an Internet-era CTO? What will they actually do?
Everyone in a leadership position needs to have a sense of what should be easy and what should be hard. No-one should automatically switch off when technology becomes part of the conversation. But you also need strong technology leaders who can make sure the whole organisation is good at technology.
cto  cio  leadership  technology 
october 2018
A Practical Approach to Mapping & Developing Digital Talent
As organisations try to keep up with progress on digital innovations, demand for ‘digital talent’ has become a hot topic. There is much anxiety about the lack of existing digital talent – but do we have an agreed definition of what it is? Many focus on the purely technical skills and roles – e.g. finding programmers, data scientists or anyone who understands blockchain – and these types of role are hard to attract, especially if you are not a glamorous start-up or brand name.
digital  capability 
october 2018
Local Authority Registers
Creating consolidated, canonical data registers is a really vital strategic play, and it’s crucial that these are conceived of as separate to the digital apps that help maintain them.
localgov  data 
october 2018
Salesforce adds low-code tools so everyone can automate their CRM workflow
Probably the most important aspect of the new tools announced today is that they are based on the Lightning Design System, and so form part of the entire landscape of tools used to build Salesforce CRM applications. In earlier generations of the Salesforce platform, people often came up against what insiders used to call a ‘declarative cliff’, where they would come up against one small element that couldn’t be done via point-and-click, and then the whole process would have to be coded from scratch. Because the new tools are part of a single platform, the objects and process flows they create can be fine-tuned in Lightning App Builder, or handed over to a developer for more in-depth coding as required.
lowcode  crm 
september 2018
What’s happening with the service standard?
We first talked about updating the service standard around a year ago. Since then, we’ve talked to hundreds of people in central and local government.

It’s still a work in progress, but we think we’re getting close to a final draft which supports the government’s ambition to deliver joined up, end to end services that meet user needs. So we thought it would be useful to provide some details about the direction it’s going in.
digital  government  standards 
september 2018
People are not resources
Resource. If you stop and think about it, it’s a terrible way to speak about people. A resource is something you take and use. Applied to people, it carries dismissive and devaluing undertones.
language  change 
september 2018
Government technology procurement needs to get smarter
Despite some shining examples of progress, government agencies are lagging behind in take-up of technology which could transform services
government  technology  procurement 
september 2018
Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.
Write, plan, collaborate, and get organized. Notion is all you need — in one tool.
collaboration  productivity  saas  software 
september 2018
Tesla, software and disruption
When Nokia people looked at the first iPhone, they saw a not-great phone with some cool features that they were going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they were selling. They shrugged. “No 3G, and just look at the camera!” 
business  strategy  disruption 
september 2018
The Importance of Product Management in Government
...the approach taken to build and deliver digital products needs to evolve to take advantage of modern software development methods including agile iterative development, human centered design, and continuous delivery. Despite fancy design labs and alleged “digital transformation” capabilities, most vendors and government agencies continue to deliver digital products using traditional project management and waterfall development methods.
product  project  delivery 
august 2018
How to make conscious decisions about digital transformation
...a set of questions to help get to the why, as well as the what, of digital transformation.
digital  transformation 
august 2018
The World’s Oldest Blockchain Has Been Hiding in the New York Times Since 1995
...the world’s oldest blockchain predates Bitcoin by 13 years and it’s been hiding in plain sight, printed weekly in the classified section of one of the world’s most widely circulated newspapers: The New York Times.
august 2018
Apple, Sui Generis
Wall Street still doesn’t trust Apple’s future. The company is seen as an anomaly, it shuns accepted ways of doing business and defies categorization. Perhaps the categories are wrong.
august 2018
Slack must use cash hoard to find new ways to keep competition at bay
Slack’s success has always been a bit surprising because it’s facing off against giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Cisco, Salesforce and many others, all gunning for this upstart’s market. In fact, Microsoft is giving Teams away for free to Office 365 customers. You could say it’s hard to compete with free, yet Slack continues to hold its own (and also offers a free version, for the record).
enterprise  collaboration  cloud 
august 2018
The Future of Software Is No Code
Today, companies like Quick Base, Mendix, and Zudy are pioneering a similar movement, attempting to transform code into visual interfaces. Much like in the shift from assembly code to FORTRAN, the underlying code is still there, but it can be represented more simply. These low-code/no-code platforms are beginning to disrupt how software powers enterprises.
august 2018
Not a technical founder? This is how you build a tech company
If your aim is to build a company that leverages technology to disrupt and dismantle some archaic experience but you don’t have those skills, then there are 3 things to keep in mind
startup  skills 
august 2018
Distributed teams are rewriting the rules of office(less) politics
I wanted to seek out the experience of these companies and ask: does remote work propagate, mitigate, or change the experience of office politics? What tactics are startups using to combat office politics, and are any of them effective?
august 2018
Reuse: a Recipe for Disaster
Authoritative, yet simplistic assertions about reuse routinely bypass past experience of just how much work it takes to make something reusable.
reuse  technology  notlego 
august 2018
All change is system change
All change is system change — to say otherwise is to ignore a fundamental truth about organisations being living breathing human systems.
august 2018
Technology innovation in government survey
The objective of the survey was to understand current activity across government in what might be termed new or emerging technologies that are related to digital or information technologies. Loosely defined, these are new technologies that do not currently have a critical mass, but which may have the potential to disrupt industries or generate significant savings.
technology  government 
august 2018
UK tax authorities Make Tax Digital, whether businesses want it or not
Simply put, if you’re already using a package such as QuickBooks or Xero, you should be OK (according to the list of those whose software will enable auto-uploading to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, HMRC). But many organisations are not, preferring to keep their books as, erm, books or indeed, spreadsheets. So, what if you don’t want to deliver your books digitally? Well, you have to.
digital  tax  government 
august 2018
Full stack decision making
I know that many organisations are still designed around that hierarchy but if your goal is to end up with an organisation that is less silo’d at the same time as being more collaborative, adaptive and flexible it seems sensible to look to the thinking which is designed to support a more sophisticated view of decision making then that of a hierarchy where things get rolled up and then down the hill to get an decision.
decisions  democracy  governance 
august 2018
From stand-ups to scrutiny
Marrying agile habits with traditional local government governance is easier said than done. If we’re not careful, bringing in agile can add another layer of governance, where stand-ups become daily team meetings and show and tells become programme boards and vice versa. It can lead to a hell of a lot of repetition, which in turn means people engaged with traditional governance have short shrift for agile.
august 2018
What will Liam Maxwell’s departure from government mean for digital? - Public Sector IT
It was Maxwell who overhauled the technology governance process, introduced spend controls, and was often credited as one of the main architects of government IT reform during the coalition government.
cloud  liammaxwell  government  technology 
august 2018
Why You Need To Know About Low-Code, Even If You're Not Responsible For Software Delivery
Low-code development platforms are emerging as a key strategy to accelerate app delivery to support digital business transformation. And they have the potential to make software development as much as 10 times faster than traditional methods.
august 2018
What’s Next for Google
Having invested over thirty billion dollars over the last three years in its infrastructure from hardware to submarine cables, Google has bought itself a seat at the adult’s table.

The question at Next wasn’t, then, whether Google belongs in a conversation with the likes of AWS, Azure and, increasingly, Alibaba. The question is where Google is choosing to invest that capital, and how those investments are paying off.
google  cloud 
july 2018
YC’s 2018 Summer Reading List
A post about summer reading on Hacker News inspired us to put a list together for 2018. Here’s what we’ve been reading.
july 2018
9 critical tools for designing a product
But, at its heart, design is about solving problems. Once you’ve defined your problem well and determined what you want your outcome to be, Lean UX encourages you to do as little work as possible to get to your desired outcome, just in case your desired outcome isn’t exactly perfect. That means doing only the amount of design you need to validate your hypothesis.
product  design 
july 2018
Podcasting on
Did you know that allows you to host your own podcast, right from your website? And we’ve recently updated our podcasting tools, simplifying the process of starting or managing your podcast.
podcasting  wordpress 
july 2018
Review: A Counterfeit, $100 iPhone X
We disassembled the phone and asked security researchers to probe it to find out what it is. Verdict: It's wild.
android  iphone  apple  hardware 
july 2018
Outsourcing: The Socitm view
Today, the picture is very different. Socitm policy advocates ‘smart sourcing’ as critical for successful ICT delivery – more aligned with common sense than past Whitehall policies. This is particularly important today, with cloud models offering more flexibility in scale and cost than traditional ICT outsourcing.
ict  outsourcing 
july 2018
On Microsoft Teams in Office 365, and why we prefer walled gardens to the Internet jungle
Having lots of features is one thing, winning adoption is another. Microsoft lacked a unifying piece that would integrate these various elements into a form that users could easily embrace. Teams is that piece. Introduced in March 2017, I initially thought there was nothing much to it: just a new user interface for existing features like SharePoint sites and Office 365/Exchange groups, with yet another business messaging service alongside Skype for Business and Yammer.
collaboration  office365  microsoft  teams  productivity 
july 2018
IT Matters Again: The Enterprise of The Future Present
But the real answer to the question depends on how IT is defined. If narrow definition is used and IT is taken to mean nothing more than base infrastructure, then Carr’s viewpoint remains correct. If, however, the definition of IT encompasses the entirety of an organization’s technology portfolio and strategy, however, the assertion that IT doesn’t matter could not be less accurate today.
technology  strategy 
july 2018
Why MHCLG is backing a local government digital revolution
Our message is simple: when it comes to transforming public services to meet the raised expectations of citizens, our similarities are greater than our differences.

So, we are committing to work together to share knowledge, to get better services from our technology suppliers, and ultimately to pave the way for the next era in public service delivery.
localgov  digital 
july 2018
It’ll be different this time - honest! Cabinet Office Minister makes the sales pitch for the outsourcing industry
There should be a situation where outsourcing in the public sector can be managed appropriately and used to complement in-house service delivery and policy-making.

The problem is that such a balance demands in-house skills – and we outsourced all of them!
july 2018
Developing our API strategy [at Hackney]
Writing great APIs demands we use a range of techniques to improve the way we write code. Pair programming, test-driven development and coding in the open are all important attributes of writing great code and therefore making our APIs reusable outside Hackney.
api  programming 
july 2018
Professional blogs are a lot like reality TV
They’re part of “working in the open”, sure. Showing what you’re doing, and that you haven’t (yet?) replaced everyone by robots. But corporate blogs that are consistently a good read, and not done by a tiny start up, are not “open”. At least not in the way we normally think of “openness”, as a synonym for unmediated.
july 2018
How to guarantee an enterprise project failure. The Anchorage payroll example
The Anchorage payroll project, now in its seventh year and with costs ballooning from a projected $10 million to over $80 million provides a solid example of how to guarantee an enterprise project failure.
it  failure 
june 2018
Building the GOV.UK of the future
We need to prepare for a world where people might not access GOV.UK through their computer or smartphone, but could be using Alexa, Google Assistant or some technology that hasn’t even been created yet. We need to make GOV.UK understandable by humans and machines.
government  digital  web 
june 2018
What makes someone a good digital leader?
Doing things better is hard because it presupposes you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. You have to understand and be clear on your goals and your vision, and the outcomes you want your projects, programmes and organisation to meet. And you have to have the trust and explicit support of everyone around you.
digital  leadership 
june 2018
After twenty years of Salesforce, what Marc Benioff got right and wrong about the cloud
It’s time to reconsider the SaaS model in a modern context, integrating developments of the last nearly two decades so that enterprise software can reach its full potential. More specifically, we need to consider the impact of IaaS and “cloud-native computing” on enterprise software, and how they’re blurring the lines between SaaS and on-premises applications. As the world around enterprise software shifts and the tools for building it advance, do we really need such stark distinctions about what can run where?
june 2018
Bridging the Digital Skills Gap in the Digital Workplace
Right now, there is growing interest in the role that learning can play in organisational change, but we are starting from a place where learning is seen as separate to the practice of work, and also something different from more operationally focused knowledge sharing.
digital  learning 
june 2018
Facebook and Google must start supporting Wikipedia, or it will die
The digital commons has become a common problem, clogged by disinformation, stripped of privacy and squeezed by insatiable shareholders. Online propagandists stoke violence, data brokers sway elections, and our most intimate personal information is for sale to the highest bidder. Faced with these difficulties, big tech is increasingly turning to Wikipedia for support.
june 2018
FixMyStreet Pro meets Salesforce: integrated street reporting for Rutland
This is our first Salesforce integration, and it was made possible through the use of an API, developed by Rutland’s own tech team. At our end, all we had to do was write the code to integrate with it, and boom, two-way communication.
salesforce  integration  crm 
june 2018
The wellsprings of UK digital reform part 2 – separating porcine lip enhancement from transformation
Transformation is a world away from simply polishing the way things are currently done (the “lipstick on pigs” approach – the tired web- and form-based service design ethos of the past few decades, stuck Groundhog Day-like inside the broken silos and reference frames of existing organisational services). Improving our public services relies on the ability to step back and rethink and redesign current public policy by focusing relentlessly and selflessly on improved outcomes, with a profoundly beneficial and positive impact on people and their experience of delivering or receiving public services.
digital  government 
june 2018
An open data standard for planning applications?
We’re working to find out what a digital planning application service would look like if it were “so good, people prefer to use it”. However, one of the early things we learnt was that high quality data is the key enabler of providing a better digital service. 
planning  data  localgov  digital 
june 2018
What if 1984 never happened?
The truth is, that businesses (and in particular, local governments) cannot afford armies of developers (or even one or two for that matter) building tools, forms and workflows every day. There are better things to do with those valuable and scarce people / resources. So called 'low code' platforms are simply an evolutionary step.
june 2018
The Cost of Developers
...lacking a platform with sufficient users to attract developers, Microsoft has to “acquire” developers directly through superior tooling and now, with GitHub, a superior cloud offering with a meaningful amount of network effects. The problem is that acquiring developers in this way, without the leverage of users, is extraordinarily expensive; it is very hard to imagine GitHub ever generating the sort of revenue that justifies this purchase price.
microsoft  GitHub  developers 
june 2018
Improving London-wide planning data: what we found…
There are bigger issues at work: software that does not reflect the needs of its users, a Planning Portal that does not collect as much data in a useful form as it could, and teams who might benefit from tapping into another’s information and workflows.
planning  data 
june 2018
GitHub, Glitch and the Future of Social Coding
Let’s put it short and sweet: Microsoft buying GitHub is likely to be good news for developers.
GitHub  microsoft 
june 2018
OpenStack in transition
OpenStack is one of the most important and complex open-source projects you’ve never heard of. It’s a set of tools that allows large enterprises ranging from Comcast and PayPal to stock exchanges and telecom providers to run their own AWS-like cloud services inside their data centers.
cloud  opensource 
june 2018
Delivery-driven Government
The movement to modernize government technology has been focused on the delivery of government services using modern technology and best practices. But that is only half the solution; now we must also learn to drive policy and operations around delivery and users, and complete the feedback circuit. Only then can we effectively achieve the goals government policies intend.
digital  government 
june 2018
What have we learned from the Service Design Conference (SD in Gov)
I’ve not heard anyone disagree that this is a good thing. There were many people at the event who were passionate about user centred services and about designing end to end services. Why is user research not given the priority it needs and why do we still continue to pay little attention to it when undertaking transformation activity and service redesign?
localgov  digital  servicedesign 
june 2018
Growing communities beyond the edges of the organisation
In digitally mature organisations we are used to seeing strong communities of engaged, self-selecting members gathered around a shared purpose beyond that of their day to day jobs. Organisational communities thrive because they add an extra dimension to the organisational structure, and can increase the number of connections each individual has across the organisation’s network.
communities  workplace  culture 
may 2018
The Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook
The Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook compiles what we’ve learned from four years of delivering digital services for government clients. Our playbook builds on and extends the Digital Services Playbook by the United States Digital Service. The USDS playbook is a valuable set of principles, questions, and checklists for government to consider when building digital services. If followed, the plays make it more likely a digital services project will succeed.
government  digital 
may 2018
Throw away your corporate training plan
Transforming an organisation is fundamentally about working with people to help them do new things and work in new ways. There’s a whole industry built on workplace training with courses, curricula and training providers to fit almost any skills gap. But when it comes to digital transformation, this way of thinking falls short in several ways.
training  learning  digital 
may 2018
UK Home Office's £885m crim records digi project: A 'masterclass in incompetence'
In a report published today, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the modernisation programme was yet another example of a Home Office project "marred by poor planning, delays, spiralling costs, and a failure to understand what service users want".
technology  government  failure 
may 2018
To take the next step on digital, we dropped the word ‘digital’
Although digital technologies are a powerful way to change a service, what really matters is the method with which change is done: user research, UX design, agile working, co-design, and solving problems in experimental ways. We now want to apply those methods to a wider set of problems, not all involving digital tech.
charity  digital 
may 2018
Understanding legacy technology in government
“I think we have to accept that there's going to be legacy stuff out there, and there's going to be unsupported systems. So it would be better to accept that we’ve got that and come up with strategies for how we're going to manage that.”
legacy  technology  gds 
may 2018
Data maturity [self assessment]
This tool is designed to help you make an honest assessment of how advanced your organisation is at dealing with data. You can compare your assessment with others from your own organisation, and from around the country.
may 2018
Top tips for nonprofits building digital services
Digital technology, coupled with design approaches, can help third sector organisations expand the reach of existing services, sense and respond to new needs as they emerge, and achieve more for less.
digital  Charities 
may 2018
The Hitchhikers guide to Engaging SMEs and Local Government in Innovation
Due to time constraints, many Local Government Service leads are inevitably ‘heads down’ and perhaps overwhelmed by the variety of technology on offer. It can be hard to team up with neighbouring boroughs because that adds complexity and may slow things down through collaborative decision making. They need more ‘heads up’ time to reflect and review what is going on elsewhere, and try to be open minded and consider wider options – we as SMEs on the other hand need to present our products in terms of their benefits, in plain English, not as a technology offer.
procurement  digital 
may 2018
The Bill Gates Line [when is a platform actually a platform?]
'A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.'
business  platforms 
may 2018
Ignore the hype over big tech. Its products are mostly useless
The endless noise emanating from Silicon Valley essentially has two complementary elements. One is all about dreams so unlikely that they beggar belief: the idea that the Tesla CEO Elon Musk will one day set up a colony on Mars; or that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg can successfully marshal an attempt to “cure, prevent and manage” all diseases in a single generation. Whatever its basis in fact, this stuff casts people and corporations as godlike visionaries, and then provides a puffed-up context for the stuff the big tech companies shout about week in, week out: stuff we either don’t need or, worse, which threatens some of the basic aspects of everyday civilisation.
may 2018
Why Local Government must share the driving to accelerate transformation benefits
There is a huge opportunity for local authorities to share common digital service patterns for highly defined, commoditised services that are repeated across multiple organisations. For services like reporting missed bins, FOI requests and complaints for example, how fundamentally different should the user journeys for these services be between individual authorities? Or, put another way, at a time of such pressure on public finances, can we continue to justify the level of local variation in the design and delivery of these services that we continue to see across the country?
digital  localgov 
may 2018
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