Hackney Council is planning to set up a ‘common tools’ team for digital initiatives that support its core business processes.
It will be tasked with working with service teams within the authority to develop workflow tools for processing service requests, elements of which can be re-used for other services.
Matthew Cain, its head of digital and data, said it is aiming to have the team in place next month.
The council is looking for private sector support in setting up the team, as part of its development of cloud native applications to perform common tasks. It is expected to work with other internal teams and, over time, to ‘swap in’ fixed term and permanent members of staff.
Hackney has previously run a number of projects to digitise various services, defining business problems and involving the relevant service teams to quickly develop solutions. Cain said these have begun to nurture some deep expertise within the council and shown that components of some services can be used for others, and that the creation of the team will streamline the process and contribute to building the in-house capability.
“We’re trying to keep the benefits of an expert team to develop solutions and create tools with an eye on re-usability across council services,” Cain said, adding: “The idea is to start small and work up, with partners well equipped with skills such as design, meeting user needs and software development, and an appreciation of the different areas of local government.”
But he emphasised that the council wants to place the long term emphasis on building up its in-house skills.
“The only way to sustain it in local government is to have the knowledge in-house,” he said. “We want to have the expertise and capacity to address problems quickly and over time reduce the reliance on third parties.
“For example, we have had a project to build our DevOps capability, and initially heavily leant on (consultancy) Digital, but our team has been able to gain skills so there is less need for support.”
Priorities for the common tools team include the development of a worktray solution for council staff to view, update and complete service requests, a shared plan for residents to see what they need to do and what the council will do to complete a request, and a two-way messaging tool for communication with residents.
Cain added that the council will share its outputs from the project through channels such as GitHub and the Local Government Digital Pipeline, enabling others to choose elements that are relevant to their priorities. Its solutions also use open source technologies.
Image: Hackney Town Hall by Tarquin Binary, CC BY-SA 2.5 through Wikimedia Commons