Citizen Experience Digital Transformation Uncategorized

Apps, Platforms and Government

This one of a series of articles focused on transformation of government service, produced in association with Equiniti

A few years ago, we were discussing the app economy. Apps (i.e. applications, typically, on mobile devices) were revolutionary, or so it appeared. Everyone wanted an app and tech entrepreneurs fell over themselves to get in on the act. Even government departments and local authorities rolled out apps.

But not all apps were created equal. The app market became the ultimate long-tail exemplar – people used a few apps, but most of the rest were wannabes.

The problem with many of the apps was that they weren’t joined up. Each had to do its own convincing of its own importance. After a while, they failed. They were deleted. They died.

There’s something allegorical about the app story. Apps continue to be important – we all use them. But apps aren’t important in themselves…they are merely windows into information. Some provide huge vistas into a vast, connected world. Some don’t.

The API economy, on the other hand, is something different.

Where many apps were standalone and insignificant, APIs provide for a joined-up world of possibilities. The API economy is as important for government as the private sector. Here’s how an article in Forbes defined APIs (and why they’re important):[1]

APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) are the components that enable diverse platforms, apps, and systems to connect and share data with each other.  Think of APIs as a set of software modules, tools, and protocols that enable two or more platforms, systems and most commonly, applications to communicate with each other and initiate tasks or processes. APIs are essential for defining and customizing Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) too. Cloud platform providers all have extensive APIs defined and work in close collaboration with development partners to fine-tune app performance using them.

In short, APIs allow applications to be built without the need to constantly reinvent the wheel.

In a government context, this is very significant. APIs allow applications and user interfaces to share critical information and processes. But it also means that government can become more like a platform than a set of apps that don’t talk. This makes the process of government more seamless, less annoying and much, much more efficient.

The Institute for Government (IfG) has recognised this. In its report published in June (Improving the Management of Digital Government) it pointed out how the cyber-attack that took down hospitals and doctor surgeries across the UK (largely because Old PC operating systems hadn’t been updated) showed the fragility of government IT.  It also called into question the role of the Government Digital Service. The report, while recognising that the UK was considered to have one of the most digitally developed e-governments, also laid out what more could be done.

More recently, Francis Maude, the former government minister who created the Government Digital Service, also criticised the civil service in terms of its embracing of the need for greater efficiency and reform. In his speech, delivered in September 2017, he said, “imperceptibly, inch by inch, with a control dropped here or not enforced there, the old silos and departmental baronies are re-emerging, with nothing to restrain the old unreconstructed behaviours from taking hold once more.”

The Civil Service and GDS hit back. But regardless of whether criticism is due it’s clear that there are rewards waiting if the government can reject the departmental baronies and move towards an API-focused model for government.

The IfG Report defined what needed to be done:

  • GDS should create a store for Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for the public sector that encourages reuse and supports the development of API standards.
  • The Government should urgently clarify the roles of GOV.UK Verify and the Government Gateway, to spread the benefits of secure identity verification.
  • GDS needs to manage the market for digital services more actively, by: a) configuring the Digital Marketplace for different users b) ensuring that standards are enforced with vendors, including on shared services, to save money and provide a better service for users.
  • GDS should work with the Treasury to review practices around charging for sharing data within government and the public sector, and establish principles so that incentives to share data adequately reflect the public interest.

Sharing is the watch-word here. The creation of an API store for the public sector works to ensure reusability of core information assets – meaning that complex processes can be made seamless as far as the citizen is concerned.

Many of the services provided by government require (currently) multiple systems to be accessed independently of each other. That’s why the IfG is right to highlight the importance of identity verification. Silo verification is a key reason why interoperability doesn’t work within government – and it’s also a major source of citizen frustration.

With a commitment to efficiency and reform within government we’re tantalisingly close to all- digital government service. However, the government needs to create its own API economy before that’s achieved.


Citizen Experience Digital Transformation

The Emergence of the digital-native citizen

This one of a series of articles focused on transformation of government service, produced in association with Equiniti

There’s a lot of talk about how all businesses need to transform to become more market relevant and more efficient than the competition. A valuable tool in this drive for transformation is technology.  Digital technology promises to transform both the supply chain and the demand chain – as well as processes for managing staff.  However, an increasingly important reason for the drive towards digital is that customer expectations are becoming more acute – more attuned to slicker digital delivery.

Customers are also citizens. They occasionally (not always) have the need to consume government services. When they do, the experience is often not wonderful. It’s out of keeping with the type of experience provided by the commercial sector. While Amazon can provide little wifi-connected buttons to allow their customers to order (and have delivered) goods with just one push, government seems, by comparison, sluggish and complicated. It seems out of keeping with a digital-native population.

The difference, of course, is that what government does is complicated – and complicated in a way that commercial business isn’t.

For one thing government often provides services that are not related to markets. Indeed, government sometimes insists that people ‘engage’ when they would prefer not to bother. The engagement often relates to a legal requirements or regulation. For example, no-one (of right mind) would voluntarily engage with local government over the provision of dog licences. Or planning control.

There’s no reason for these engagements to be fussy, complicated or arduous. The problem is, they often are.

However, they needn’t be. Indeed, there’s a compelling argument for taking the fuss and complication out of routine processes – in a way that the commercial sector clearly has.

Earlier this year the Government Digital Service (GDS) published a policy paper that, some might say, stated the obvious:

For government to deliver excellent public services to users it must be equipped to do so properly. A culture of open, digitally enabled policy making and service delivery is critical to our future success. The tools that public servants use, the space they work in and the governance and processes in place to support, enable and assure delivery of brilliant public services are therefore all essential to digital government.[1]

However, the fact that GDS exists, and is addressing these issues, is clearly a step in the right direction. Often the best means of addressing problems is to accept that they exist. In all organisations, there are bound to be people resistant to change. Having a champion to remind everybody that there’s a need for change is clearly a good thing.

There are also different challenges in central and local government. Although, of course, from the citizen’s point of view they often can’t see why government can’t be more joined up to ensure that processes aren’t being duplicated or information unshared.

And, of course, there’s the issue of transformation. Little, bitty bits of change often don’t really have much impact on digital citizen experience or on efficiency benefits hoped for by government itself.

In October last year the Institute for Government published a report called “Making a Success of Digital Government.”

The report addressed this need for transformational change. It also highlighted the approach adopted by GDS when it was established by Francis Maude in 2011. The GDS approach, under Mike Bracken, was not to write grandiose reports that said how digital transformation might be achieved. Rather, it identified major transformational opportunities and set about introducing digital approaches to doing things better.

The GDS ‘exemplar’ programme was an expression of this principle: GDS supported the departments with the highest number of ‘transactions’ with citizens and businesses to quickly develop digital services to demonstrate the value of their methods and principles. Of the original 25 exemplars, 16 are now live, fully operational online services, which collectively processed over 22 million transactions in the past year. In spite of some high-profile failures – such as the withdrawal of online applications in the rural payments exemplar at a crucial moment, and the temporary collapse of the voter registration system prior to the European Union referendum – most have achieved high levels of user satisfaction. Even where the projects did not go live within the original timeframe, the programme catalysed digital activity – for example at the Land Registry, which won an award for its MapSearch service, which grew out of its exemplar project.[2]

This ‘let’s do it’ approach by government is refreshing. At the heart of the approach is a commitment to doing things in a more agile way – rather than fixating on immutable planning and control before looking at the detail of the problem and how the solution might make things better for the consumer of the service – the citizen.

Government can get better. Complexity is no longer an excuse for inaction. And citizens are demanding better services, delivered better. That’s a good thing.



Citizen Engagement Citizen Experience Workshop Videos

Delivering Transformation

At our workshop in London a few weeks ago we asked Abigail Gilbert of think-tank NLGN and Stephen Morgan of Squiz to discuss how digital initiatives might work to enhance public service provision.

Abigail and Stephen chatted about how authorities are engaging, increasingly with platforms and smart city infrastructure to improve things – with a strong focus on procurement issues, as well as citizen-driven attitudes.

Citizen Experience Workshop Videos

Nick Vat: From Fashion to Public Service

Nick Vat, in his recent presentation at our London workshop, used the example of a major fashion retailer to make some pertinent points about the importance of people, process and technology in providing excellent customer service.

In the context of digital transformation of public service, he discussed the importance of focusing on understanding the needs of citizens before embarking on a technology project. His presentation included some sequences from a video interview with a major corporate client in the fashion industry.

Citizen Experience Workshop Videos

David Moody on Digital Transformation

In our recent Conversations Workshop in London we had several speakers discuss what might be needed at city and local government level to transform citizen services through technology. In this presentation, David Moody of Verint talks about the ‘digital tipping point.’ He also touches on the frustrations of establishing standards (such as Open 311 and Verification) in government.

However, the main thrust of his presentation focuses on how more complicated transactions can be assisted by the human touch (augmented by technology).


Citizen Experience Workshop Speakers

Digital Transformation and Policing

The Digital Policing Review Capability Assessment 2017, to be published in April, surveys progress towards digital transformation in the UK’s police forces.

We’re delighted that Stephen Roberts, who oversees the Review, will be presenting at our upcoming London workshop on April 27.

Stephen will summarise ambitions, drivers and inhibitors across the service for digital engagement, deployment, intelligence and investigation. He will also report on cross-sector information management, analytics and tasking, especially in regard to vulnerable individuals and joined-up intervention.

A leading commentator on public sector ICT, Stephen founded Vigilant Research in 2015 after many years as chief analyst and MD of Kable. His primary focus is the Digital Policing Review, which provides the service with free, independent analysis and insights into the use of technology across the UK’s constabularies.

If you would like to pre-register for our workshop please complete the form on the event page.

Citizen Engagement Citizen Experience Workshop Speakers

International Fashion Retailing and Government?

At our upcoming workshop in London on April 27 we’ll be welcoming Nick Vat, Managing Partner of Syzergy Limited, as a guest speaker. Nick has been working with local government clients on transformation initiatives designed to make them much more citizen-engaged. He has also applied some of the approaches he has adopted with commercial sector clients.

In fact, Nick will co-present on April 27 with one such private sector client – a major international fashion retailer. They will describe how a focus on the non-technical elements of the transformation was critical to delivering the change and, in particular, why they believe this will ensure the benefits are sustainable.

Our speaker line-up for our London event also includes:

Mark Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, University of Cambridge, Judge Business School

Charbel Aoun, Digital Innovation and Transformation Evangelist, and Non-Executive Director, Future Cities Catapult

Abigail Gilbert, Researcher, New Local Government Network (NLGN) – a ThinkTank focused on local government

David Moody, VP & Global Business Leader | Digital First EM at Verint

If you would like to register for a place please visit our event page and complete the web form.

Citizen Experience United Kingdom Workshop Speakers

London Workshop: April 27

Our next Conversations Workshop will take place on the morning of Thursday, April 27, 2017 at the wonderful Town Hall Hotel in Patriot Square, East London.  This beautiful 5* hotel is an architectural gem and is (as the name implies) a former Town Hall. It’s a very fitting venue for a discussion about government tech.

Workshop videos are now now online…

The London workshop follows our first two events in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and San Francisco.

The theme of the London workshop will be digital transformation of government. We’ll be discussing how leadership and an unalterable focus on citizen experience can drive digital transformation strategies. We’re keen to get people involved in digital transformation initiatives at local, city and national level to come along, share their experiences and chat with our speakers and guests.

Confirmed speakers include (please bookmark this page for the latest speaker information):

Mark Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, University of Cambridge, Judge Business School

Charbel Aoun, Digital Innovation and Transformation Evangelist, and Non-Executive Director, Future Cities Catapult

Ricky Morton, Digital Transformation and Smart Cities Lead at Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

Nick Vat, Managing Partner of Syzergy Limited

Martin Taylor, CMO, Redwood Technologies Group Ltd

Stephen Morgan, Co-Founder of Squiz

Stephen Roberts, Director, Vigilant Research/Digital Policing Review

Abigail Gilbert, Researcher, New Local Government Network (NLGN) – a ThinkTank focused on local government

David Moody, VP & Global Business Leader | Digital First EM at Verint

We have guests confirmed from (among others):

  • Hackney Borough Council
  • Ealing Borough Council
  • Sutton Borough Council
  • Slough Borough Council
  • Department of Health
  • Government Digital Service (GDS)
  • Urban Peer
  • Adapt2Digital
  • Digital Governance

As before, the workshop will run from around 10am and will finish with lunch. We’ll record all the conversations and presentations and feature the video content here on this site.  You can watch videos from our previous workshops here.

To register your interest in our London workshop please complete the form below.

Please note: we’re now full but you can register for our cancellations wait-list below.  Note our wait-list is for government employees only (local, city, devolved and national).

Fill out my online form.


Citizen Engagement Citizen Experience Workshop Videos

Cities and Accessibility

In our recent Citizen2020 Workshop in San Francisco I had the opportunity to discuss government website accessibility issues with Stephen Morgan of Squiz.

Squiz works with many government departments, and city government, in the USA, UK and Australia, helping to develop interaction portals and information resources designed for ALL citizens (including those with visual impairment).

Citizen Experience Smart Cities Workshop Videos

Where Next 311?

At our recent Conversations Workshop in San Francisco we had the chance to get the latest thinking on 311 services from the Deputy Director of San Francisco’s 311 service, Andy Maimoni. Andy was joined by Verint’s VP for Government and Public Sector, David Moody. Both discussed how 311 might evolve in an increasingly multi-channel future.