Why has Essex County Council invested £2m/year in a permanent Service Design team?
Jason Kitcat is the former Executive Director, Corporate Development at Essex County Council and is on Twitter @jasonkitcat. Jason will be speaking on the Understanding your user when delivering accessible and inclusive digital services panel at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 25th June 2019.
Many organisations in the public and private sector have been developing ‘digital transformation’ programmes of one sort of another, usually for a 3 to 4 year period using a one-off slug of money. They can create some successful outcomes, such as moving off a legacy system or decommissioning costly services by in-sourcing them, for example.
But my take is that they can risk missing a bigger picture if they’re not carefully scoped. Too many colleagues may think “digital is being handled by that programme, so it’s not my problem” and there can be an underlying assumption that digital change can be “once and done”.
I would argue otherwise. Firstly in many cases digital has become too vague a term to use, we need more precision with our language to ensure that we are all clear on what we are talking about. Rather than risk people sprinkling ‘digital’ into their documents in the hope they get approval, I advocate using more specific terms so we can be clear if we’re talking about user research, product management, technology infrastructure and so on.
There is no doubt that we are in the Internet era and that it fundamentally changes how citizens are living their lives and so their expectations of public services. To remain credible, and quite frankly solvent, in these changing times we need to accept that this isn’t a “once and done” change. We need to fundamentally change how we think, how we make decisions, how we work and how we conceptualise and deliver services, if we deliver them at all.
In my view service design (including user research, content design, user experience design) is one of the key professions of the Internet age, along with data science, delivery management, strategy and policy, communications and technology. Given Essex County Council’s commitment to change, and our adoption of the Government Digital Service’s Service Standards, then a permanent service design team of 15 is one of the essential components for taking us on our journey of continuous change and improvement to better meet our citizens needs.
To find out more about what the team do, read their blog at https://servicedesign.blog.essex.gov.uk/