Do you need a digital strategy? Yes, no, well…maybe

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Interestingly, two related posts from two local government CIO types pop up in my feed reader within a few days of each other.

Firstly, Steve Halliday points to the Solihull digital strategy.

Then Rich Copley says we really shouldn’t be writing digital strategies.

Oh dear! Who’s right?

Both are.

Some organisations need a digital strategy. They are at the point in their evolution where having some of this stuff spelt out in a separate document and process is helpful.

Others though can take a different approach, with digital being embedded in individual service plans, or what have you.

It all depends. Depends on how things are structured in your organisation. What the personalities are. How these sorts of programmes and projects have gone in the past.

It’s one of the reasons why I don’t think local government needs a single digital service. It needs several, with a plurality of approaches. If there is one thing that digital teaches us, it’s that one-size-fits-all approaches don’t work.

At Adur and Worthing, I will be writing a digital strategy. It will help focus on what I need to get done to support all the services areas in what they want to achieve.

More on that soon.

Update: Jason Caplin answers the question ‘why have a digital strategy?’

Coming home to #localgov: I’m joining Adur and Worthing

Worthing beach

I’m back, BACK, BAAAAAAAAAAACK!

Am super-pleased to be able to write that I’m joining Adur and Worthing Councils in April as Head of Digital and Design.

It’s a great time to be joining a great organisation, with fresh people in senior positions wanting to make change happen to improve things for the people, communities and businesses in the local area.

My job is to build a digital service within the Councils, building the team, designing the processes, putting the technology together and increasing capability across the organisations to deliver better, cheaper, services that people actually like using.

There’s also some interesting work to be done around innovation and creativity – enabling everyone to be involved in improving the systems and the processes within the Councils. The opportunity here is to be able to develop the Councils to be thoroughly modern, digital-age organisations.

There has been a lot of talk recently about digital in local government, which I haven’t been able to resist joining in. This is my opportunity to put my ideas into practice. What’s more, working out loud is the default for me and I will be bringing this into the Councils. Luckily I won’t have any trouble from the boss on this score, as he’s into that kind of thing himself.

For me, it’s a return to full time local government – I left in 2007 to briefly work in the further education sector, and then went freelance. Most of my freelance work has been with central government, but I have been fortunate to be able to keep my eye in with occasional work within the local sector and I’ve done my best to be helpful both online and offline, at events and so on.

It’s a full time role so means that I am going to be closing the freelancing chapter in my life. I’m more than happy to do so – it hasn’t worked for me, or my family, for a few years now, if I am honest.

Being able to focus on a single mission is going to help me deliver my best work, and also free up some attention for my wife and our two kids, and having a ‘proper’ job will hopefully lead to me living a more ‘proper’ life.

I’m moving down to Worthing during the week on my own to begin with whilst I get the lie of the land. Anyone who lives in the area who would like to invite me round for dinner, please do so. Our aim is to move the family down to the south coast in time – but it wouldn’t be wise to rush that.

I’ve been ruminating a fair bit on the last few years – the things that went well, those that went less than well – and will share some of that in future posts. There are also a lot of folk who need thanking, who’ve supported me in a number of ways in the last few years.

I’ll leave things here by saying that I am so excited about this opportunity, and cannot wait to get cracking.

Paul has blogged about this here.

Photo credit: Miles Davis

The Linx 7 tablet – so bad, it’s good

linx7So, as a bit of research and development, I bought a Linx 7 tablet the other day. It was pointed out to me by my pal Paul Webster, who thought it had some intruiging digital inclusion possibilities.

First up, the bad bits. The Linx is cheap, and nasty. It has a plastic case that feels less than sturdy, a tiny screen with a fairly terrible resolution, a pretty slow processor and a measly 1gb RAM.

It also runs Windows 8, which is just as weird as everyone has told you. The most bewildering part for me, still, is that you can have two copies of the same application installed and running on the same machine depending on whether you are in the mobile view or the traditional desktop view. The universal apps of Windows 10 will hopefully fix this.

So, a pretty damning review so far. However, here is the good news: The Linx 7 is £76 on Amazon right now, and that includes a year’s subscription to Office 365. That’s worth £79. Do the maths!

The Linx also features some rather neat connectivity options. There’s a mini-USB port which is used for charging, but can also be used with the included adapter to plug any USB peripheral into the tablet – such as a mouse, or a printer say. The mini-HDMI port means you can plug this thing into a standard monitor you have lying around, and it has bluetooth so a keyboard is no problem.

What all this means is that you can have a fully operational – if slightly underpowered – PC with the full and latest version of Office running on it, for significantly less than a hundred quid. That’s frankly amazing.

Anyone who makes heavy use of their computer is not going to be able to use the Linx 7 as a replacement for their laptop or whatever. Never mind an iPad, it makes a lot of the cheaper Android tablets look and feel well made. But what it does, thanks to the price point and the provided software, is put a proper computer in the hands of pretty much anyone who can spare 75 quid.

Given that the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, cost about $500 fully assembled in 1975 (which is over $2,250 in today’s money), and did little more than flash a few lights, I’d call that progress.

Making British Government easier to learn

My friend and colleague Jason Caplin pointed out today that the LSE have open up the lectures for their undergraduate course on British government and how it all works.

It’s a fantastic resource, and great that they have shared this openly, as it’s something that would be of use to anyone working in and around government.

However, the formatting isn’t all that great and it doesn’t work brilliantly on mobile. Plus, there’s no ability for learners to ask questions, leave comments or discuss the topics.

So, I very quickly threw together a WordPress site to rehouse the videos, using a nice simple responsive theme and layout. I also enabled comments, so there’s a bit of a social element there as well.

I’d be really interested to know from folk if this has been a worthwhile endeavour, and if you make use of the site. Also, if you have any suggestions for improvement.

The site is at http://britgov.learninglabs.org.uk/

Happy learning!

Skills for digital transformation

gds-skills

The Government Digital Service has released a big list defining the skills needed for transformation.

It’s certainly comprehensive. It’s fair to say that it is more a list of skills that people need rather than the details of what goes into those skills, or how you start to equip a team with them.

However, for anyone putting together a team to tackle digital transformation, it’s a great guide for what people you’ll need on board.

Solving problems by drawing toast

Another nice Ted talk for the collection.

Making toast doesn’t sound very complicated — until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work. Learn how to run this exercise yourself, and hear Wujec’s surprising insights from watching thousands of people draw toast.