FutureGov has been working with Stockport Council to meet targets established in their Medium Term Financial Plan. The aim was to design an end-to-end finance service that could make real change in the lives of Stockport citizens, while also achieving savings of £650k. We were brought into the project to support the Council, building on the work done by the Digital by Design team, to go beyond digital in the development of better, more cost-effective services.
The Medium Term Financial Plan has acted as a real catalyst for change within Stockport’s processes. To achieve their goals, the council recognised a need to build the right services and products for their citizens, helping in the transition from a product design focus to a user design focus. This change in direction was implemented to fulfil citizen needs across the region, lessen stress on existing services and reduce overall costs.
We ran a discovery phase with members of staff, services users and IT personnel to understand current services and technology used by the council. We looked at the technology used internally by council employees and what was deployed externally for use by the residents. Looking at both experiences, we were able to visualize the entire technology offering within the council, uncovering opportunities for wider improvement that would have maximum impact.
During this phase, we identified common problems within the council’s digital services, such as:
- difficulty navigating services online
- inconsistent use of information
- restricted payment options
By understanding where the opportunities for change existed, we were able to understand whether the council had the right digital and design capability to deliver and inform its thinking about investment for the next phase of its digital programme. This included areas like data, governance and vision & strategy, rather than direct delivery or technology improvements.
Looking at these opportunities for change during the prototyping stage helped focus the design of a transformation roadmap, taking the context into consideration: who needs the service, what needs do they have and can we fulfil those needs in different ways. Our next step was to develop prototypes across four areas:
- shifting payment channels
- delivering consistent services
- connecting services and citizens
- designing debt out of the system
This approach gave us clear insight into whether the current technology used by the council could be repurposed, or whether they required investment in new technologies. By testing our theories quickly and cheaply, we developed an understanding of replicable patterns that exist across services throughout the council’s ecosystem, testing prototypes and recording the solutions we expected to see before implementing.
For our solutions to be embedded, we needed a clear vision for the future of the council’s services. To define this vision, we brought together senior leaders from across Finance and Place to help determine what the future should look like, develop a common language for how to articulate this vision and identify how they measure ongoing progress. This vision provides a clear agenda for an improved financial landscape, in which Stockport Council will work with customers and communities to design the future of the services to respond to their needs, with secure and easy to use payment platforms.
New ways of working
A second strand of this project equipped staff with the knowledge and tools to deliver on the council’s newly defined vision. We identified ways of improving leadership practice and service delivery, to subsequently develop leadership skills and approach. Through a series of extended learning sessions, we brought together corporate colleagues across the council to embed the tools and techniques we used, alongside sessions with the most senior leaders to help them articulate what sort of council they want to be in the future and the skills they need to deliver.