People and processesDigital SkillsQ&A: Delivering Wigan’s Digital Deal

Q&A: Delivering Wigan’s Digital Deal

Alison Mckenzie-Folan, Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Customer Transformation at Wigan Council shares her thoughts on how the council is delivering its Digital Deal

To what extent has Wigan Council involved local people in the design process of its solutions and services?

Some of the initiatives we’ve been doing include:

  • Involving local people in the design and delivery of services is core to the Deal
  • We do this through a number of ways from formal consultations to the in-depth co-design of services.
  • We recently redesigned support for adolescents at the edge of care with young people in care and care leavers.
  • There are also examples within technology. We have been developing a community book – an online directory of community activity with our residents. It is an innovative three way partnership between the council, the developer’s info4people and a charity the community partnership. We started off by working with adult social care users to design how the platform would be used by them to tackle social isolation and loneliness
  • We also use social media for engagement and always fall in the top 3 in the country for this. Social media can have it downsides but ultimately it is fantastic in helping us get a quick temperature check of people’s views.
  • We are currently embarking on a large programme of engagement – the big listening project to develop our strategy Deal 2030. This is a place plan that we want to co-design with residents and partners. We are thinking of innovative ways to engage the community and are taking a big green sofa out to different areas of the borough. We are taking a video booth to schools and are asking our community partners to undertake engagement on our behalf. Not everyone wants to talk to someone with a council badge!
  • We also have a survey available within MyAccount which collates customer feedback about the portal. This feedback helps shape development and improve the customer journey.
  • We have also recognised the importance of visible leadership and as part of the big listening project we will hold two public open sessions with the Leader and CEO.

This is something which we have begun to get better at. As part of the Transforming through Technology Programme (TTT) we’ve been working through a number of projects which involve external partners, such as citizens and schools.

In the Children’s directorate, for example, we recently carried out a user pilot with schools in which we carried out pre-survey and post feedback sessions to gain insight into the existing user experience around the service received for a referral process and this  really helped to shape the final business process, user training and how we provided this throughout the pilot. It also assisted in identifying some system ‘tweaks’ for the solution which we have taken forward as well. We also did consultations with families to help understand the user needs for the consideration of their ‘digital offer’ and content that users would like to see which again has been taken on board.

Ultimately, where we have the opportunity to involve our users, our TTT projects are developing user workshops as part of the initial discovery and implementations (testing) phases as we recognise to get the greater benefits and efficiencies from our solutions we need to involve them.

Digital transformation often requires a shift in both organisational and behavioural culture. Have you employed any specific measure to help embed changes across Wigan Council?

We have the Be Wigan Behaviours and “Be courageous” includes embracing digital solutions. Our Be Wigan Experience has lots of celebrated examples of residents embracing and benefiting from digital solutions.

Other key points and initiatives include:

  • THE DEAL – everything we do in Wigan relates back to The Deal and its principles.
  • IDEA Award – rollout to staff to enhance digital skills. A survey was conducted prior to the rollout to see what basic skills staff already had, and then evaluation at the end from staff to state the benefits.
  • Awarded Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year 2018 for Pioneering iDEA.
  • Each year we hold a Get Online Week
  • Mobilised the workforce to work smarter through agile working

Through TTT projects we identified pretty early on that solutions need people to embrace them to work and have potential achieved, again our internal projects we work in collaboration with services and actively encourage Service users to become ‘Champions’.

User governance is critical to the success of the projects so we instill this as a core piece of the delivery by giving the confidence to the users with training  and suitable methods of reference, we run IT workshops/user groups/drops in’s regularly which are started whilst in project then encouraged to continue to maintain growth of the solutions.

While implementing Wigan’s digital strategy, how have you engaged with digitally excluded staff and citizens?

I think there are six key stages, which can be summarised as follows:

Skills and Learning

  • IDEA Award. For both staff and residents. Held workshops, Wigan Badge to monitor uptake and successes, and also made it part of the induction programme for apprenticeships.
  • Taskforce partners engaged with residents to enhance basic digital skills and children and young people (with coding sessions delivered).
  • Delivered and supported residents to Get Online and reduce inequality – Get Online Week, Be Online drop in sessions at our Wigan, Leigh and Atherton Libraries, provide wifi and computer access points from within our libraries, support national campaigns (i.e. Get Online Week, Internet Safety Week), work with community partners and volunteers throughout the Borough to ensure that a wide range of digital support is available for our residents (ie, assisted digital support for Universal Credit claimants, job searching)
  • Destination Digital/Digital Leaders Week
  • Worked in partnership with schools to raise the aspirations of young people – Schools Competition – TfGM
  • Embedded digital inclusion across the life course
  • Case studies embedded in staff culture change programmes like Be Wigan Experience
  • We offer learning for key skills in MS Office to all employees to help  them get online – does this need mentioning
  • In relation to provision of IT related areas such as the rollout of devices or the Transforming Through Technology projects and new solutions, we build and provide training via classroom methods, we have ‘how to guides’ via videos and electronic, we encourage ‘buddy’ working to help colleagues through initial use of the system. We run IT workshops/user groups/drop in’s to help with general use of devices, troubleshooting and then more specific solutions.

Intelligence and Analytics

  • Expanded Wigan’s offer around Open and accessible data

Customer Journey

  • Encouraged and enabled self service through the use of My Account and Report it
  • Enabled people to be in control of their own records
  • Enabled people to access wider opportunities such as mobile applications to support public health

Building Self Reliance

  • Supported residents to connect into their local community – Community Book
  • Provided innovative technologies within residents homes; to connect them into their local community and support them to be independent and at home for longer – Smart Bungalow tech
  • Provided access to Community Wifi to reduce digital inequality

Ways of Working

  • Developed integrated Health and Care Records
  • Agile devices
  • Consumer tech to enable people to remain at home/ assisted living projects

Business Development

  • Led and delivered a more coordinated partnership through public, private and voluntary sector to drive improvements and market the borough as a successful digital place to attract new business.
  • Supported the digital sector to create an online platform to digital business
  • Development of Wigan Works online hub
  • Encouraged Businesses to access digital skills

In your view, what digital skills should local authorities be aiming to develop and attract in the coming years, and why?

Councils have so many processes to deal with, which means we’ll need a wide range of digital skills, including:

  • Programming and web development
  • App development
  • Digital design
  • Project management
  • Product management
  • Digital marketing
  • Big data
  • International team working experience
  • Systems analysts/business analysts
  • Consumer researchers
  • Market researchers – how we live our lives is changing rapidly so we need to be agile

We are always looking to widen our skills base especially as the world around us changes almost daily with new digital tools becoming available.

The skills we need will complement and fit with our overall strategy, as we look at more solutions, if we consider how we would like to further develop data,  RPA  and apps as solutions, it would be beneficial for the authority to develop in-house skills around  areas such as digital product design, Programming, web development. It is key that we can become more adaptable internally and can be more agile in our delivery without having to always bring in external specialists. Expansion of social media platforms are key as well to help support the overall growth of the Wigan Borough, the opportunities for service redesign and providing public services with new digital tools changes everyday so we  need to ensure that we are on top of our game.

Alison Mckenzie-Folan is the Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Customer Transformation at Wigan Council, and will be speaking on “Reaping the rewards of process automation” at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November. To register or find out more, please click here.

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