Vicky is MD at Boilerhouse Communications and programme director for both the Better Connected Programme and the Connected Care Programme


Transformation in local public services? Time to drop complexity, inflexibility and a provider-centric approaches says Local CIO Council.

A new paper from the Local CIO Council tells local public services that if they really want to achieve transformation using digital technology they must ‘simplify, standardise and share’.

The LCIOC document says that progress on digitally-enabled transformation has been held back by tolerance of complexity, duplication and fragmentation, by inability or unwillingness to share data, and a tendency for provider organisations to prioritise their own needs over those of the citizen.

Simplify, standardize and share cites an adult care assessment process involving 44 application forms to access 133 services from 29 agencies, feeding 63 eligibility entitlement processes and 56 assessment processes. And yet 95% of the data required was covered in just two forms with the rest being duplication. Another example shows an adoption approval process taking up to two and half years, with up to 50% of applicants dropping out, mostly from being worn down by the process.

It doesn’t have to be like this, says the Local CIO Council, which is working alongside the LGA, Solace and Socitm within the Local Digital Coalition. A recent collaboration between Warwickshire County Council and the Government Digital Service (GDS) has shown how an eight-week application process for blue badges (for disabled drivers) could be reduced to 20 minutes through redesign and digital transformation of the process, producing significant savings (up to £12m a year across England on this single service) and much better outcomes for service users.

Simplify, standardize and share says that ubiquitous digital technology and the new diversity of the IT and digital market is a great opportunity because technology based solutions can be aligned readily to an individual’s needs and wants. But it is also a challenge for public service organisations stuck in old ways of working that do not embrace interoperability and integration and remain vulnerable to organisational “lock-in” to rapidly obsolescing technology.

Open design principles and standards must be adopted to achieve interoperability between systems used by different public service organisations. This doesn’t just mean technical standards - information governance and citizen requirements should be covered too.

If providers are required to commit to open standards, and the approach is adopted by significant numbers, there is potential to create new marketplaces and break the stranglehold of some proprietary vendor solutions.

This will then provide the opportunity for local authorities to work with local communities, networks, individuals and developers to identify and co-produce solutions to local issues that are interoperable and sufficiently flexibility to meet individual needs.

Taking a collaborative, place-first, organisation-second approach to technology and data decision-making will require ‘trade-offs’, says LCIOC, but working towards one digital transformation strategy and roadmap for a place, with investment decisions referenced against place-based outcomes rather than organisational priorities, will deliver dividends.

The ‘simplify, standardize, share’ approach means doing things a bit differently – for example not accepting that a process can’t be simplified or standardised, releasing ‘minimum viable products’ early to test with actual users, and not being afraid to scrap a prototype that isn’t working and start again.

The Local CIO Council is working with the Local Digital Coalition to sponsor five projects that embed and prove the ‘simplify, standardize, share’ approach:

  • Standardisation within local waste services
  • Fully online blue badge applications
  • Integrated digital care records (across health and care)
  • Digitally delivered driver, vehicle and licensing services through collaboration with DVLA
  • Application of GDS Verify for citizen registration, identification and authentication in local government services

Watch our video with Dylan Roberts, chair of the Local CIO Council where he discusses ‘place as a platform’; open standards & sharing; and how to avoid reinventing the wheel.

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