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Blog TADS Weeknote #1


We are committed to working in the open, but if I'm honest, its harder than I thought.

We built this site so we could regularly blog about the work we are doing, but none of the team, including myself, are bloggers and finding the time (or just remembering to blog) has been a lot more difficult than I expected. So to force myself into blogging more often, I'm following the example set by the amazing team at Essex and taking a leap into Weeknotes. I've been a regular reader of many great Weeknotes over the last few years so a Transformation and Digital Services (TADS) Weeknotes seems like a good first step in forming a habit of blogging.

My Maidstone

The biggest project we are working on at the moment is the My Maidstone project. I'm reluctant to call it a customer account (although it is) as I see it as a much wider project to draw together all of the digital services in the council and provide a better, more integrated and personalised experience for residents when they contact us online.

I'm excited (some would say too excited) about the project and a lot of the updates over the next few months will focus heavily on the progress we are making before the launch in November.

While the rest of the team have been doing the real work on the project, this week I have been working on the internal comms and engagement plan. Booking in events to engage with every level of the organisation from Senior Leadership through to front line staff. We haven't always been good at sharing the progress of our work with the whole Council so these events should be interesting.

User Research

Part of the My Maidstone project involves a refresh of the website homepage to improve navigation. We've already moved news content to news.maidstone.gov.uk to enable us to make the homepage more transactional based and on Friday, Rob, Kathryn, Ethan and Paul ran a session with residents to test out various navigation options and get their views on proposed designs. I was there for part of the session and it seemed really positive, with residents discussing everything from their confusion with icons to their frustration with finding out what events are on in Maidstone. We got a lot of useful feedback on navigation and content which will help inform the beta design.

Kathryn also blogged this week about the work she is leading on to make user research part of the organisations culture. Its worth a read.

Content & Dev

Linked heavily with the My Maidstone project, Digital Officer, Michael is working on a complete replacement of our Street Cleansing forms and mobile working processes. Phase one of the new Fly-tipping report form was released for closed Alpha testing on Thursday and we are excited to showcase just how much of an improvement for users the new process delivers.

Our designer, Rob has been busy working on design options and discussing the Information Architecture for a new website to promote bio-diversity as part of the Go Green Go Wild project aimed at highlighting the fantastic work being done by community groups across the borough and providing them with a platform to gain new members, share stories, events and network.

Steven from the Transformation Team is currently working on a prototype of a system to send text reminders to residents about upcoming and overdue council tax payments using GOV Notify. He's had some technical issues to overcome this week mainly focused around date formats within the database and ensuring the correct next installment is displayed in the message, but we finally have a working prototype which we plan to test next week.

Service Design

Another project that I'm excited about is the new staff induction process which is being led by Transformation Officer, Lisa. What started as a simple project to reduce the amount of paper given to new starters has evolved into a full review of the whole induction process, from the point of job offer to the end of the probation period.

We have a number of high profile commissioning reviews in progress at the moment and our Service Designer, Kathryn has been supporting each of them. The final options report from her review into how we deal with stray dogs was circulated on Thursday and a number of us helped facilitate a session with Councillors to get their views on our current Street Cleansing service as part of the discovery phase of our clean streets review.

New Ways of Working

Steven has been pulling together information and data from various sources as part of a presentation we will be giving next Tuesday to the Councils Wider Leadership Team on the development of a Staff Travel Plan to support the Councils strategies around transport and air quality. This isn't the usual type of project we get involved in, but I am keen to see how we can change policies and processes to help the Council reduce it's impact on the environment.

And this week we got final confirmation of the install date for the new suite of MFD's and print software that we believe will help support our aims to reduce the volume of print output across the organisation. More to come on this subject in future weeknotes!

Gary is the Transformation and Digital Services Manager at Maidstone Borough Council. If you have any questions you can contact transformation@maidstone.gov.uk.

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The Digital Service team at Maidstone Borough Council lead on the research, design and development of user centered services for residents in Maidstone

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