Digital transformation delivers council savings in Cumbria
The same team of four have created 16 different systems within 12 months, each one making huge financial and resource savings.
- Services transformed within 12 week periods
- Each system made huge savings for council services
- Achieved industry leading response time – from 6 weeks delay to zero backlog
- Staff upskilled with more interesting roles
- Influencing change to council culture
- Direct impact on improving council user experience
Growing everyone’s ambition to embrace digital
Cumbria County Council knew that customers wanted to change the way they interacted with them. Protecting front-line services was essential, which meant finding efficiencies in other areas. They needed to accelerate their digital transformation strategy, but on a limited budget and with a small team.
Change typically makes teams uncomfortable. So, first, the Digital Team helps departments grow their ambition. Armed with their vision, teams are able to remove standalone, paper-based processes and actively take part in a multidisciplinary, inclusive agile approach to change.
The cutting-edge innovations that they developed are exceptional.
A ground breaking journey
Cumbria was one of the first five UK councils to use low-code. This was a paradigm shift. The Digital Team needed to reimagine their rules. Innovation must become a central theme in everybody’s job description.
They were attracted to Liberty Create, because it offered them cost-effectiveness and training included in the package, plus e-learning is always available. Netcall’s history of focus in local government meant that we would understand their challenges. Plus the Netcall Community connected their team to a wider peer group, with an AppShare allowing free-to-use applications to be downloaded, which enabled their platform growth to be rapid. It also helped Cumbria to meet their Digital Declaration objectives by sharing their work and collaborating with other authorities.
Service redesign actually bought teams together
Starting with a team of two IT specialists and two business analysts, who embraced multidisciplinary work roles, they thrived by extending this approach to other departments. The active participation from departmental users, as well as feedback from specific user customers, was vital to their success.
“Lift and shift” was not an option. Total service redesign meant starting with probing questions and working past objections with a show and tell approach, making use of early successes to show just what could be achieved.
During the project, the digital team organically began working closely with their departmental colleagues. People in other departments saw these changes getting rave customer reviews, prompting a new willingness, plus a little healthy competition, to adopt similar ‘shiny new services’.
Continuous improvement has become part of the team’s DNA at Cumbria. The corporate digital transformation strategy has been superseded by the revelation of how fast things can be improved. Resistance to change is actually diminishing.
Digital transformation results
The Create platform, working hand in hand with this new methodology, delivered faster results with improved process outcomes. Development timescales are vastly reduced – what could be done in 4 months, can now be done in 4 weeks.
We’ve seen an increase in people using the new systems, skips and scaffolds is up to 73%, blue badge is up from 43% to 68% since we launched that – we are starting to see a definite shift. We want to provide digital services that are so good that people choose to use them, not to entirely replace telephony, but to offer a user friendly system that is more cost-effective for the council.
Test case #1 Skips and Scaffolds
This was a paper-based, manual service which was open to interpretation. Now, it’s automated, fast and transparent. All delivered within a twelve-week development, from scoping to go-live.
The Create system incorporates features like photo upload, and has introduced automation into the inspection process.
This has improved customer experience as contractors can apply easily online. 77% of all permits are now received through this method. The online form has opened payment method choices, giving contractors the choice. The easiest way to pay is online using Gov-Pay, and most choose to do so.
It’s had a vast impact on processing time, reducing 6 different processes by 80-90% of their previous handling times. This provides days and days of freed time for staff to deal with other processes.
Plus, there is new reporting functionality and improved visibility of workload for the Streetworks Team. All this has increased the time for contractors to receive a response to their application, on average a permit is now received within 3h 45m.
But, most important of all, there are huge administration savings, totalling 804 hours a year. Inspection savings are even more staggering, at 2,936 hours. And that’s each year ahead as well.
Printing needs have diminished, providing even more savings, particularly from an eco and storage perspective.
Test case #2 Waste permits
In four weeks, the team developed and launched a full end-to-end system. It included a fraud checker with an integrated number plate checker resulting in an 83% reduction of admin time in chasing and eliminating fraud. Now this is needed for less than 5% of applications.
Staff have thanked us for introducing the new systems. I have worked for Cumbria County Council for 10 years and I’ve not heard words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘it’s bloody marvellous’ to describe a system that we are using.
Test case #3 Blue badges
This system took fourteen weeks to fully develop and launch. It integrates with the central badge record and gov.uk/pay and allows for same day processing, when applications are correct. It has achieved a zero day backlog, which is an industry leading response time, and previously there was a six-week backlog when the applications were heavily paper based. This represents a 75% overall time-saving for blue badge customers, one of whom commented “Probably the best form I have used. So quick and easy to order a replacement badge.”
We’ve seen an increase in people using the new systems, skips and scaffolds is up to 77%, blue badge is up from 43% to 68% since we launched that – we are starting to see a definite shift. We want to provide digital services that are so good that people choose to use them, not to entirely replace telephony, but to offer a user friendly system that is more cost-effective for the council.
Technology and culture change
The team of four people in the Digital Team have been able to create 16 different systems within their first year using Liberty Create. Each of those systems has made resource and financial savings.
In recognition of their achievements, Cumbria was awarded the Bronze Winner for the Best Use of Digital and Technology Award at the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards 2020. Finalists in this category had to demonstrate innovative use of digital tools and technology, from remodelling existing services, to creating totally new services which lead to improved outcomes and build dynamic local public services.
Create is an enabler. Very short feedback loops speed up the development process – something that might have taken four months in the past can now be done in four weeks. Fine tuning once launched can be done really quickly because everything is done in-house. The Digital Team can work closely with service managers to co-design services and then build them in-house without the need for developers, they’re involved in testing and trialling.
The buy-in that this generates is infectious. Each success motivates the “next department” to join and make a difference. The team host, “show and tell” sessions for interested colleagues so that everyone can be part of the digital change plan, and share blogs and videos to showcase outcomes.
Kate and her team freely share their learnings about how low-code works and how it can deliver against digital transformation strategy for other councils the UK. Listen to Kate Hurr on CLGdotTV.