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Digital and Technology Strategy 2021-2024


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Introduction

This is Devon County Council’s Digital and Technology Strategy which runs from April 2021 to March 2024.

For the first time, we have brought together the Council’s digital ambitions with our ICT Technology Roadmap. This is to reflect our research that the users of our services don’t differentiate between digital services and ICT technology services. They want services that are joined up and simple to use.

To support this, we are changing the way we are organised to reflect a more joined-up and integrated way of working. This is our new Digital and Technology Service which puts the users of the Council’s services at the centre of everything we do and digital at the heart of business change.

We know digital is about more than technology, it’s about changing the way people live, connect, how we communicate and how we work.

This strategy complements a wider range of activities happening across the County Council together with partners and local communities which include:

  • the development of connectivity and infrastructure for a better-connected Devon
  • how we engage and communicate with people and our communities in an open, accessible way
  • how we create opportunities for people and businesses to learn, understand and share their skills and knowledge to help people make the best use of digital technologies to ensure communities in Devon become more resilient and thrive

This strategy describes a future direction for services delivered under the new Digital and Technology Service, key areas of investment and how we work with our users to design and deliver services to support the Council’s ambitions:

and help enable us to respond to strategic challenges such as:

  • climate change – creating a resilient, net-zero carbon Devon – where people and nature thrive
  • a changing demographic structure impacting the county’s health and care system, workforce, economy and society
  • fairness and equity – protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable and addressing inequality, poverty and tackling social mobility
  • trust and confidence – help people develop trust and confidence in one another, and for the Council to demonstrate why people should place their trust in it
  • resilience – the resilience of local public services depends on having sufficient resources to meet the changing needs of people and communities – COVID-19 is stretching resources to everyone’s limits

Definition of digital: 

“Applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations” Tom Loosemore, Partner at Public Digital

What we've done so far

A group of professionals working on laptops and tablets

In 2017, we set out an ambitious ICT Strategic Roadmap for 2020 ‘investing in your digital transformation’. This focused on:

  • investing in modern technologies that allow us to respond quickly to change
  • making better use of data for transformation and transparency and
  • continuing to build an agile workforce adopting new ways to collaborate and share

As a result of this roadmap we have delivered:

  • a future technical architecture ‘blueprint’ with technical standards that any new system or technology should meet to allow us to achieve our future aspirations
  • an embedded Adoption and Change Team helping people use Microsoft 365 services
  • A dedicated cyber security resource
  • A new data and intelligence platform
  • A new digital platform and Digital Transformation Team to understand user need and design and deliver new digital services

Devon County Council is a signatory to the Local Digital Declaration. This is a pledge to meet high standards for our digital and technology services, provide digital leadership, adopt new ways of working and create the right conditions for genuine organisational transformation to happen.

Over the next few years, we must continue to build on our successes to ensure we continue to meet these ambitions.

Why we need to keep changing

A close up of someone using a touchscreen laptop

In 2020, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed how our organisation and services operate.

From a digital and technology perspective, we were proud to be able to support people to work remotely, and design and deliver safe services in a fast-paced environment.

However, working and living with COVID-19 is going to continue to be a feature of life in Devon for the coming months, and possibly years.

Through this strategy, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on what has worked well, where we need to improve, accelerate areas of work and continue to invest to ensure our digital and technology services fit our ever-changing organisation.

The complexity and scale of the cyber threat landscape continues to grow. The Council must continue to respond to the evolving threat landscape to ensure Devon’s data remains safe and service areas can continue to operate.

Digital and technology services change quickly and this document is intended to provide a high-level overview of what we’re planning to work on and indicative timescales.

The creation and ongoing improvement of these services will be informed by insight gained through activities such as user research, service performance information, web analytics, user feedback and other available evidence.

We will regularly publish updates to the timescales in a high-level roadmap to show what we are working on, what we’ve learned and when you can expect these services

Digital and technology outcomes by 2024

We have six different digital and technology outcomes that we plan to deliver by 2024; educate, enable, engage, innovate, update and impact.

Educate

Teacher pointing at a whiteboard with students looking on

The government’s 2017 UK Digital Strategy set out to ensure that everyone has access to the digital skills they need to ‘fully participate in society’.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published two pieces of research examining current demand for digital skills in the UK job market, and looking at the digital skills needed to succeed now and in the next 10 years.

It highlighted that at least 82% of advertised vacancies required some level of digital skills, that digital skills are key to improving productivity and having the right digital skills is not only essential for employers but also has significant benefits for workers.

In Devon, we have already made good progress in helping staff adopt new Microsoft 365 services through an ongoing adoption and change programme, however technology continues to evolve, new skills need to be developed and different ways of working embedded. We will continue to encourage and spread innovative best practice.

By 2024, all staff:

  • will be confident in their digital skills and know how to access additional support.
  • will have an awareness about user centred service design and know how to access and be supported in identifying opportunities for innovation
  • will have an awareness about the importance of data and intelligence and be able to access the intelligence they need to measure performance, predict and anticipate future demand and make well-informed decisions
  • will continue to receive data protection and cyber security training

We will also aim to meet the ambition as described in the Local Digital Declaration to ’embed an open culture that values, incentivises and expects digital ways of working from every member of our workforce. This means working in the open wherever we can, sharing our plans and experience, working collaboratively with other organisations, and reusing good practice’.

How we will do it

The new Digital and Technology Service will be an advocate of user need and user-centred redesign and agile methodologies. We will champion this approach throughout the organisation and contribute to communities of practice and centres of excellence.

We will work with Human Resources and leadership groups to create learning and development programmes to provide ongoing learning opportunities for all staff to increase digital confidence, reinforce cybersecurity best practices, improve data literacy and embed greater digital culture, including agile methods and working in the open.

Enable

Mind map

Devon County Council wants to keep building a Devon where we all live our lives well. We want to really make a difference to people’s lives and do what matters.

To ensure we design and deliver the right digital and technology services, we will design our services around the needs of the people using them and put digital at the heart of business change.

The Local Digital Declaration asks organisations to ‘go even further to redesign our services around the needs of the people using them. This means continuing to prioritise citizen and user needs above professional, organisational and technological silos’.

We will ensure that we develop an understanding of users, the problem we are trying to solve with them, with a strong focus on the end-to-end service.

Digital innovation and technologies continue to develop rapidly and will radically change both the way we work and how we consume services.

Our customers will demand and expect first class digital services making everything they do easier for them.

Cloud hosting and cloud delivery of services is now commonplace, allowing commissioning models to take advantage of the agility, performance and quality these services provide.

The line between commercial offerings and personal consumer markets are blurring and raising expectations on usability in the workplace.

All of which means we need to build on our success and to continually evolve as a service to ensure we have the technology, skills, capacity and capability to meet these challenges.

“The real problem might not be the one you originally thought needed solving” GDS Service Standard

By 2024 we will have:

  • an integrated multi-disciplinary Digital and Technology Service which provides a consistent way of accessing our services and transparency about what we are working on, why and when
  • adopted a user-centred design approach across all of our services and have adopted a digital culture of agile, innovation and openness
  • a dashboard for publishing key metrics about digital transformation across different service areas, ensuring that decisions are data-driven, based on evidence in line with Devon’s Data Strategy

How we will do it

We will review our Target Operating Models for ICT Commissioning and Scomis (internal delivery) and join up our Commissioning, Delivery and Digital Transformation Teams.

We will invest further in user research and service design to ensure that we design our services around the needs of the users for all of our services and help services understand the benefit of this approach.

We will create a platform to allow us to collect, analyse and publish evidence about the performance of our services, user research, web analytics, user satisfaction and demand of our services. This will ensure we base our decisions on evidence and target our resources in the right place

We will encourage working in the open and commit to doing this ourselves.

We will appoint a strategic partner to allow us to scale up to meet demand and to bring in specialist skills when required.

Engage

Two people with one asking a question

Devon County Council’s Customer Service Centre (CSC) in Tiverton was set up over 15 years ago and the model was intended to primarily direct the people of Devon to use telephony support.

Since then, individual services have been successful in moving some of their own services online. However, the CSC continues to receive over 450,000 calls a year.

We know from our user research that in the digital era the people of Devon expect Devon County Council to match the same excellent experience that they receive as a customer elsewhere. This includes easy-to-use self-service, access to fast, flexible support and concise service updates.

As well as providing a service that meets people’s expectations, there are also potential efficiency savings for the County Council, meaning that time spent handling routine calls could be redirected to more specialised work.

Statistics showing the cost per customer transaction with the Council - Digital is £0.09, phone is £2.59, face-to-face is £8.21

Some trials have been undertaken with technologies such as web chat but there is not a consistent approach across the organisation.

As technology continues to advance, there will be opportunities to join up different communication channels to deliver a unified, seamless experience for the people who use our services, regardless of how they choose to engage with us.

Through the duration of this strategy, we will re-design the CSC and transform it into a customer engagement centre based on the needs of the people of Devon.

90.8% of the population living in Devon over the age of 16 have used the internet in the last 3 months          Survey of internet users, Office for National Statistics 2019

By 2024:

  • we will have worked with services to implement a customer engagement centre, with increased digital self-service opportunities and a greater choice of communication channels, built on evidence-based demand
  • all our services, that should be, will be made available online, supported by an assisted digital offer and providing alternative support channels for those who need more help
  • all online services will be accessible, have a consistent user experience and will be easy to use so that people choose these over other interactions

How we will do it

We will undertake user research and re-design the CSC to ensure a future model meets the needs of the people of Devon and the needs of individual service areas.

We will implement a best-of-breed contact centre and enterprise telephony system to ensure that people can engage with us through the communication of their choice, when they want.

We will work with and across, different Services areas to create consistent, user-centred online services, joining up information in line with Devon’s data strategy to ensure people only need to ‘tell their story once’.

We will create a performance framework and regularly publish service-wide quantitative data on demand, volumes and transactions.

Innovate

Lightbulb

The Government Technology Innovation Strategy was published in 2019 following engagement with government, academia and industry and describes the foundations that each government organisation will need to best use emerging technologies.

People: Having the right skills and culture.

Process: Providing an environment for experimentation and share learning openly.

Data and technology: access and analyse data safely and efficiently to benefit from emerging technologies and capture insights on their use. Provide up-to-date technology, including tackling legacy technology.

Alongside the strategy, the government published a guide to using artificial intelligence in the public sector and launched Spark, a marketplace for technology innovation that will allow the public sector to more easily find and buy innovation solutions using emerging technologies.

Devon actively participates in local and national events around innovation, including the Society of IT Managers (SocITM), national and local government learning and industry-specific events. We will continue to attend and share learning with and disseminate information from these events.

“Emerging technologies are data-intensive, in that they both use and create a lot of data”

By 2024 we will be:

  • using emerging technology, including intelligent virtual agents, robotics and automation tools, which will free up employees to focus on work which adds value for the people of Devon
  • ensuring that we consider the ethical use of emerging technologies
  • encouraging innovation inside and outside the Council
  • working in the open, proactively sharing learning with other organisations

How we will do it

We will identify and invest in emerging technologies, including intelligent virtual agents, robotics and automation tools, which will free up employees to focus on work that adds value for the people of Devon.

We will create centres of excellence to promote and share good practice and ensure tools meet user need across the Council.

We will investigate the use of the Spark framework with procurement and will regularly look at options for innovative solutions as part of the Early Engagement Service where we understand user need and design services to meet that need.

Update

Computer screen

Technology changes rapidly, even technology purchased a few years ago quickly becomes out of date and vulnerable to cyber security threats.

We are all used to receiving security updates on our personal phones in quick succession to protect our devices and data.

The Council must continue to adopt a similar approach to its own infrastructure.

We know that to be able to innovate effectively and at pace we must continue to use secure, up-to-date technology and systems.

Throughout the term of this strategy, we must continue to update the devices, software and infrastructure that we use to ensure Devon’s data remains safe and service areas can continue to operate.

To allow us to focus our time on the activities that will have the most benefit and value to the users of our services, we will continue to commission services where they already exist and meet user need (rather than building and maintaining our own), for example, Software as a Service, Desktop as a Service.

However, we recognise that switching over systems can take years and a significant amount of resource. Central Government are addressing this by changing the way they build technology solutions, aiming to avoid large, complex and unadaptable systems.

They focus on taking a ‘modular’ approach, which allows standard components to be changed, without having to transform a whole system at once.

They build digital services and technology services using ‘modules’, focusing on customising the modules to create systems that are flexible, adaptable and meet user need.

Through this strategy, we will increasingly look to take and promote a ‘modular approach’ where it is possible to do so.

We will continue to invest in and build on the success of the platforms that we commissioned in our last roadmap: the digital llatform, our data and intelligence platform, quality assurance tools and Microsoft 365 productivity suite.

By 2024:

  • corporate devices will be secured against evolving threats, designed to meet user needs and suitable for a digitally transforming and increasingly mobile organisation
  • all staff will have access to modern corporately provided cloud collaboration and productivity software to enable them to communicate, safely share and store information, and work with increasing efficiency
  • we will work with services to ensure that line of business systems meet user needs, work well together and remain secure
  • we will have re-designed our internal network to increase the resilience of our services

“Legacy technology and infrastructure will always exist and new will always become old” Government Technology Innovation

How we will do it

Devices and software 

We will establish a new device replacement programme. This will include the replacement of all existing laptop, mobile and desktop devices.

We will commission a new corporate desktop with faster start up times that benefit from ongoing functionality developments to Microsoft 365.

We will understand and support the new meeting experience and refresh ‘technology enabled meeting rooms’ to ensure people can connect wherever they are based.

We’ll build on our use of Cloud Identity to streamline secure staff, partner and public access to our services.

We will review and internally publish a map of all the re-usable ‘modules’ that are available to create new digital services. We will fill any gaps based on user need.

We will continue to work with service areas and other organisations to design, procure and implement key lines of business systems, for example, Care and Health Shared Care Record, Adult Social Care case management system, Finance and Highways.

Infrastructure 

We will continue to invest in and improve services that protect the security of our systems and data.

We’ll build a fit-for-purpose modern private network for staff use – reducing the complexity, scale and cost in-line with greater remote working and cloud service use practices. We will design our infrastructure using Future Networks for Government (FN4G practices) and look to utilise SD-WAN technology.

Building on our successful, and now mainstream, remote working capabilities – we’ll progress this approach further with Zero Trust Networking – developing end-to-end services where connectivity is transparent and security is assured for our services.

We will proactively manage our technology and infrastructure by ensuring systems are continually upgraded, decommissioned where appropriate to ensure we stay ahead of threats and actively manage risks.

We will continue to invest in the support and development of our data and intelligence tools ensuring that the Council is an evidence-led authority, gathering accurate and timely data, turning robust information into intelligence as the basis for decision making so people in Devon can live their lives well.

Impact

Environmentally friendly plug

Devon County Council has declared a climate emergency. We have committed to facilitating the reduction of Devon’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the latest and have collaborated with other organisations in Devon to implement a response to the Devon Climate Emergency.

By 2024 we will:

  • surface awareness as to the environmental impact for the technology services we use as an authority
  • report on the carbon footprint and emission detail for the services that we use and support the continuous improvement of these services.
  • proactively look for ways to support the Council in becoming carbon neutral by using technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning

How we will do it

We will work with procurement to embed measures about electricity usage and CO2 emissions for all suppliers and measure and ensure suppliers with a lower carbon footprint are prioritised in tender evaluations.

We will continue to advocate and educate the use of collaboration tools to reduce the need for business travel and support people working flexibly.

One of our largest suppliers, Microsoft has declared an intention to “reduce and ultimately remove its carbon footprint by 2030”. We, therefore, intend to continue to increase the adoption of ‘Microsoft Cloud’ services and file storage.

We will promote the use of digital notifications using GOV.UK Notify to reduce the Council’s dependency on printing and encourage a cultural change to a paper-lite, digital environment.

We will support and prioritise projects that have a positive environmental impact.

High-level road map

From 2021 2022-2023 2024 onwards
Modernise the Customer Engagement Service to embrace self-service and digital opportunities Modernise the Customer Engagement Service to embrace self-service and digital opportunities Modernise the Customer Engagement Service to embrace self-service and digital opportunities
Continue to promote a learning culture and ongoing support to staff and teams through M365 Adoption and Change Team Commission and deliver digital and data literacy learning and development programmes for all staff Commission and deliver digital and data literacy learning and development programmes for all staff
Create climate change performance measures and proactively work with suppliers to improve these Proactively support the Council in becoming carbon neutral using technology
Refresh of new corporate desktop and new devices Refresh of new corporate desktop and new devices
Refreshed meeting experience to support flexible working
Creation of centres of excellence to support innovation and promote and share good practice Investment in emerging technology including virtual assistants, machine learning and automation based on user need Investment in emerging technology including virtual assistants, machine learning and automation based on user need
Review Target Operating Models, further investment in user research and service design Creation of platform to collect, analyse and publish evidence about the use, demand and satisfaction of services
Appointment of Strategic (Technology) Partner to allow scaling and access to specialist skills Newly designed network Newly designed network
Ensuring systems and infrastructure are continually upgraded, staying ahead of threats and actively managing risks Ensuring systems and infrastructure are continually upgraded, staying ahead of threats and actively managing risks