A pilot project is usually a smaller scale project or experiment designed with a specific outcome in mind. This means working within relatively small time and budgetary constraints while supporting an organisation as they consider larger scale investment in digital and service transformation.
I’ve found that starting with a small and focussed approach like this is a great opportunity to build momentum and interest in digital. I’m already finding that at FutureGov, and for some of the organisations we work with, taking small steps together in this way works really well — most importantly, it directly involves existing teams and staff in the design and development of new ways of working and service improvements.
When an organisation is new to digital it’s very important that we show the value of working in new ways, establishing new norms, cultures and expectations.
With this in mind, I’ve been thinking through what makes a good pilot project for digital? Where to start in order to build the momentum needed to deliver significant future change in local government.
A set of guiding principles
Since joining FutureGov I’ve already led a number of pilot project conversations so I’ve developed the following set of principles to help guide discussions.
A good pilot project for digital will:
- solve a real problem for users
We look at the problem, starting with user needs. As with the FutureGov Digital Maturity Assessment we clearly set out work towards delivering something that will create a significantly improved journey/experience that meets user expectations.
- have potential for obvious cost savings
We look at focusing on something that can demonstrate the potential of digital to generate costs savings within the organisation. This often means identifying and understanding the existing failure points within a service area, focusing on areas like transactions that generate the most incoming phone calls, or require the most manual work — in these cases we work to understand why failure is happening and whether focusing here might help solve significant problems in the short term.
- create momentum for full service transformation
We make sure that we avoid short term fixes and fully understand the bigger picture. For example, this means working quickly to understand the outcomes a council is working to deliver — simply digitising existing processes will not always be the right strategy and can even increase costs within an organisation of create new points failure.
- be technically feasible in the time frame
We make sure this is something we can deliver within the technical constraints that we’re starting with. This often means using the current tech platform, which may not be perfect but still allows us to start fixing some of the biggest failure points within an organisation.
- be operationally feasible in the time frame
We make sure this is something we can deliver within the operational constraints that we’re starting with. This means we don’t want short-term changes that make life more difficult or negatively impact operational staff on the front line of service delivery — it’s important that their expertise helps us to shape the future of how we deliver improved services.
- be a good visible story for the council
We look for a positive story. This means something that can become a good news story for everyone involved — being able to talk about the positive impacts of service improvements for both council staff and end-users.
- be something that supports a political priority
We understand political priorities balanced against limited resources. This is arguably the most important point — everything that’s the result of spending public money should be a priority. This means that we shouldn’t be prioritising things that are less important because they’re easier problems to solve, or less complex to work on (considering the technical and operational constraints already highlighted). This is also important because to make change happen decisions will need to be made (and scrutinised) appropriately through governance systems.
Starting with a conversation
When working with new organisations I usually find that people are excited about the potential of using technology and user centred design to improve how they work, and ultimately, to deliver improved product and services. There are always different ideas about where to start or where to focus project time and investment.
In a workshop situation we might look at all the options or ideas for how digital might start to help the organisation using these guiding principles as a point of reference, guiding conversations using the different sets of criteria.
Let me know if you’ve used a similar approach or how you’re creating momentum and interest in digital inside your organisation. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.