Video - The future of local government services

A new video... The future of local government services

It was made with Anthony Kemp of London Borough of Hounslow and Mark Thompson of Methods to support an event - called "#HashHounslow" - which was a discussion between local and central government managers about shifting to more customer-centric services using cloud technologies. See the Computer Weekly write-up.


Right! Here we go: 4 minutes on future of local government services

Meet Martin Gaffer, Chief Executive, Citytown Council.

He and his team have been jolly busy lately. “Gosh we’ve been jolly busy lately”, says Martin

And they have been. Councils have been working hard to improve services. But this is a slog. Technology is a big part of the problem and frankly the council piggy bank has been taking a bit of a pasting.

I’ll explain Here is Citytown Council Delivering services to local people It’s one of hundreds in the country All doing the same kinds of things

Look inside Here’s are Citytown’s major services Housing, Children, Adults, Environment, Public Health

Let’s wind back to Environment... It is itself a collection of services, say: Development, Waste, Parks, Cleaning

In one way or another these all depend on technology Usually separate, proprietary technologies that are not very flexible and not easy to join up.

Looking at just one of these services. It’s made up of components... doing very similar things to the components of the other services. Things like Case Management, Mapping, Addresses, Payments and so on.

Usually only a small part is specific to the council’s own way of doing things.

Look at it all together. There’s quite a lot of costly stuff that could be more effective.

Now, Martin’s been thinking. Here’s a picture of Martin thinking.

What if were possible somehow to group the common tasks together. Putting all the red bits - lets say case management - one technology. Then the blue stuff - maybe mapping. Similarly with the green bits and the yellow bits.

Not only that, what if it were possible to group these, not just across a single council’s services but across all councils.

And perhaps we could find ways to put those specific, unique bits of the councils service together too.

So, this is where Martin’s Head of IT comes in. Meet Steve Techyman. Yes he does look a bit potty, but he knows his stuff; and he’s got good ideas.

“I think I know how to do this”, says Steve

And I think he’s right. It’s now becoming possible to access computing capabilities over the internet and to knit them together to create better services without many of the restrictions of traditional technology.

“Cloud”, shouts Steve

Which is quite a popular thing to shout nowadays. Many technology companies are getting involved. All of the big ones. lots of medium-sized ones and gazillions of small ones.

Together providing a rainbow of capabilities and funky new ways of doing things. At - much - lower - cost, than now.

Councils can package together whatever combination of these technologies they need Steve cos he’s a tech bloke, gives this a name - “platform”.

Whatever, the good thing is - this could make a huge difference for residents..

Here’s a Cynthia a Citytown resident.

Using Steve’s platform thingy the council can knit her just the services she needs

And knit different services for Cynthia’s son Cyril And also for Cyril’s mate Aziz And Aziz’s cousin Issi And Issi’s friend Lizzy And perhaps even knit a bobble hat for Steve

And there’s another thing... says Steve

This will change what council staff do. Because they will be less burdened with running the council machine and gluing its non-joined up bits together, they will be able to focus more on providing vital people-facing services that machines just can’t.

And there’s another another-thing... says Steve

This doesn’t have to be restricted to the council - It will be possible to knit in other services like... Health, Police, Charities, and Third Sector organisations

So… ...Councils all over the country could turn from deliverers of a standard set of services for all residents to providers of exactly what each resident needs.

All this enabled by new technology platforms made from bits of cloud.

OK. Hands up. All this does mean big changes in technology and in ways of working; and it certainly won’t happen overnight. But there are big prizes...

Better, more responsive, services, more openness, people more connected, increased growth, maybe even improved democracy.

Which is nice... Martin is showing signs of making friends with his piggbank. And steve’s so chuffed... he’s phoned his Mum

And that… as they say ...is it

Video - How new technology will change the mechanics of government services

Lately, I have had some blank looks from Mrs Foden when I have been talking about my work, particularly about how new technology ('cloud' computing et al) will alter the workings of government. I thought I'd have a shot, with the able help of John McCubbin, at a simple explanation in this video... How new technology will change the mechanics of government services (in plainish English)

There was a positive reaction to it, including...

See other reactions from folk like Mike Bracken, Liam Maxwell in this Storify.

Using this video

You are free use this video and its content according to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. If you feel you might want to go beyond these terms then please do get in touch.

In attributing the work you must make it plain that the ideas and rights belong to me - Mark Foden. Where material based on the ideas in the video is displayed on a website you must provide a plainly and continuously visible link to this page. Where it is presented in media - such as videos, images or slide presentations - the text "Mark Foden - markfoden.com" must be plainly and continuously visible.

Not a condition but if you do use this material I would really appreciate it if you let me know how it has been useful to you.

Foden Grealy and G-Cloud III in 60 seconds

This post was originally an announcement on fodengrealy.com - Changes in Foden Grealy explains why it is here. ---


We are delighted to hear this week that our services have been accepted for the G-Cloud III Cloudstore. The 60 second video above explains what we do and was inspired by the G-Cloud in 60 seconds video we made for the G-Cloud programme in 2012.

New focus: new website

This post was originally an announcement on fodengrealy.com - Changes in Foden Grealy explains why it is here. It refers to a previous website and not the 2015 version of markfoden.com. ---

If you have been here before then you may have spotted that our website and its livery have had a fairly major re-fettling. This post explains why.

Over the past year or so there have been earthquakes in Government IT. Good ones. Some enlightened folk in the Cabinet Office with the right mindset and a sensible approach have begun a substantial and workable-looking reform.

This week, for example, the last of the 24 ministerial departments has switched off its website and moved to the new centralised gov.uk website created by the Government Digital Service. A striking technical achievement certainly; but it is the deft cat-herding of so many diverse organisations that has most impressed us.

Having worked in Government IT for a dozen years or so and watched (through our fingers) some of the quite dreadful things that have happened, it is hugely cheering that there are such changes in the air.

We intend to focus our business on supporting these changes. Specifically - and you'll see this plastered over our home page in big letters - to provide "Sleeves-rolled-up help to implement the Cabinet Office’s IT reform agenda within Government organisations". (If we are completely honest, we will mostly be doing the same things we have always done; it's just that now we don't have to be quite as stealthy.)

We are delighted to say that we have been successful in our tender for the latest G-Cloud contracting framework (G-Cloud being a noteworthy Government IT success in itself). We have been on the framework since its inception and have done work for two departments. We wrote the change strategy for the G-Cloud Programme and helped set up an agile change programme within Defra to improve information sharing and collaboration. See the G-Cloud supplier sales leader-board: we are one slot above Microsoft. Sure to change, but nice while it lasts.

And, incidentally...

...although we are not a tech firm, we have built this website ourselves. In the vein of the G-Cloud ethos, we gave up our traditional web services provider and took on more of the responsibility of creating and managing the site ourselves. In the process, we learned that the service we had before was not that good and we could do better by being a little bit adventurous. Again, in the spirit of G-Cloud we used pay-by-the-hour cloud services and free open-source software. We were amazed at how quickly we made progress and how enormously helpful dozens of people, from all over the world, were in resolving the technical snags we came across. Fine-tasting dog food.

FG and G-Cloud

This post was originally an announcement on fodengrealy.com - Changes in Foden Grealy explains why it is here. ---

We are properly chuffed to announce that Foden Grealy (Ltd) has been awarded a place on the Government's new G-Cloud Services Framework.  The framework has been set up to make it easy for UK public sector organisations to procure low-cost, flexible cloud computing services from a wide range of suppliers: see the announcements - CloudStore open for business .

We believe that the Government's approach to IT is very clearly changing for the better and G-Cloud is a good example of the positive stuff that is happening. Moving to cloud-based services is absolutely the right thing to be doing; but what is really encouraging is the way that it is being done. G-Cloud has a refreshingly open inclusive approach and, crucially, is working in an incremental, learn-by-doing, non-big-expensive-bang kind of way.

Great too is the change in attitude to small companies: there are hundreds on the G-Cloud framework including us (big smile). It's a huge breath of fresh air for us to be able to contract directly with Government (soulful violin starts up in the background) as it's not always been easy to maintain our independence, and work in the way that would like to, in a marketplace dominated by big firms.

We will be doing our usual helping-out-with-change-management stuff: for details - and an opportunity to listen to Bananarama and the Fun Boy Three from 1982 - take a look at the description of our service. Hurrah!

There is not "No chance for G-Cloud"

I was stirred by an article in the Guardian's government computing section: No Minister: No chance for the G Cloud which questions the viability of the Government's approach to cloud computing. Whilst doing anything transformative in government IT is going to be hard, I see much to recommend in the approach being taken. I wrote this comment in response (copied here)...

If you'll allow me a pinch of counter-rhetoric, I can't help feeling this is wrongheaded old-think.   To me, it seems likely that 'Cloud' is the beginning of the maturing of computing into a utility. This maturing will probably take some time, but it is inescapable. It is a fundamental economic tide that public sector culture and government interests will not (in the end) hold back. So, it absolutely makes sense to experiment with these ideas now, even if it is not immediately possible to see how things will turn out. The incremental approach being taken with G-cloud seems spot on.   The post talks of the 'public sector not being ready for' G-cloud. It may be that much of it isn't; but it only takes one Department to be ready - one to show how it might be done. If genuine value is demonstrated, others will follow; behaviours, and eventually culture, will change. There is no need for 'selling' or 'being pushy', particularly not 'being pushy'. I would be deeply worried if someone had successfully persuaded Government that this was the way to go (and another farm-sized bet was being placed).   The bit about Bill McCluggage caught my eye. I do not know Mr McCluggage or anything of the circumstances of his moving on, so please don't take this as a judgment of him. The paragraph picks on 'tough talking' and an ability to 'drive through' as principal qualities needed to make things change in this situation: but I just don't believe they are. They are (perhaps) needed to deliver big technical programmes; but I don't see the move to utility computing, or the other changes needed to put government IT on its feet, in this bracket. Genuine, transforming change happens organically. It happens as a result of planting seeds, nurturing them and keeping back weeds: it does not get 'delivered'.   I see signs of gardening. There is not 'no chance’ for the G-cloud'.

What do you think? Perhaps post a comment yourself, either here or on the original post?

Update: Foden Grealy is now a supplier to the G-Cloud framework contract. Here's what we offer.