Two tools every council needs - No 1 to edge out legacy systems

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

I want to highlight to you the two missing - and most significant technologies - that councils should be aware of if they want to speed up modernisation of services in a way that is sustainable and prevents supplier lock in.

Council business applications are no more and no less than hard coded representations of business processes - with underlying data processing engines. Digital is just a new version of administration. The systems then have an interface for a member of public or staff to get information in or out (see diagram below).

It is a little known fact that councils have more than 700 lines of business, and often around 400 systems.

The more processing is handed over to self service systems, in theory, the more people we need working in IT teams to support and make changes to them. Most councils are choc a bloc with legacy systems with backlogs of business changes to support. At the same time a number of county councils are heading towards bankruptcy.

Everything needs to speed up. What options are there? It feels a bit like climate change - everything has now been left so late that we need to do everything at once.

And here is crux of it - it’s very hard to recruit more IT people because of the comparably low wages in the public sector and the fact that many are moving back to Europe.

Very few councils have the luxury of big development teams to support open source widgets shared with other councils. These star programmers move on fast - leaving unsupported systems that cannot be modified.

Something has to give. Why not make use of some tools that speed up the work of technology people themselves? Do more with less?

How much of this service redesign and even the building of the workflows can be delegated back to service teams? Perhaps It teams can then focus on the foundations for the organisation - the glue and the very few tools that everyone in the organisation needs

No 1 is for slick data capture

Data analysts often spend 80% of their time cleaning data when it should have been captured cleanly in the first place. These are rare and expensive staff resources that should be working on getting new insights from the data.

There are plenty of proven modern tools to blend with - and edge out legacy systems - providing slick mobile user interfaces. There are whole generation of these that are flexible, can build complex systems fast, don’t require hand coding (in python etc) and neither do they require extensive specifications, business analysis or documentation. They self document.

It sounds too good to be true. It isn’t because these tools have been in use in the private sector for years.

Are technology teams themsleves sufficiently open to working with new technologies and ideas?

We are very open to feedback. Particularly different perspectives and multiple levels.

My next blog is on No 2 - tools for matching and blending data.