Bristol City Council has long been at the forefront of digital transformation. Over the past several years the council has been hard at work developing a number of new services to help its citizens transact with the council remotely – but it didn’t stop there.
According to Tracy Dodds, Service Manager for Digital Services at Bristol City Council, it soon became clear that the council’s existing website wasn’t doing these services justice.
“It very quickly became apparent to us that our existing website was clunky, rather old-fashioned in look and feel, and that services could be quite difficult to find. We recognised that we needed a new digital platform to house our new services.” – Tracy Dodds
The decision made, Bristol City Council drafted in the help of Placecube Digital Innovation. Working as one team in an Agile fashion, they set about their first step: discovering what Bristol citizens wanted from a new council website.
Tony Pitt, the web manager at Bristol City Council, says: “One of the challenges was finding the balance between how much discovery you do and how much actual building. Placecube have struck a good balance, they’ve delivered things quickly so that we can user test it and then refined it if we needed to.”
By working in short sprints and following up with user testing, the blended AGILE team was able to deliver portions of the website quickly and flexible, making changes as needed to help its citizens find and use the right services and information easily and in their own time.
“The new website really puts the user at its heart – we’re aiming for a site where people can find what they need straight away and quickly access council services.” – Tracy Dodds
The website itself is built around the Placecube Digital Innovation WebWorXX product, a Liferay application solution, and tailored to the needs of Bristol City Council and its citizens.
“The new platform allows us to adopt more new features,” Pitt says. “It’s more flexible for us and simpler for our citizens.” – Tony Pitt
Bristol City Council has even gone so far as to rewrite all of its website’s content, stripping out public sector jargon and replacing it with easy-to-understand information and instructions. And this is just the beginning. For her part, Dodds hopes that the new site, which will make council services available to citizens 24/7, will also transform the public’s view of local government.
“I’m hoping that it will shake away the old perceptions of local authorities, which is that we’re here nine-to-five and on our own terms. This is about turning that old model on its head.” – Tracy Dodds
“Bristol is a digital city. In the future, we’re hoping that the platform will be a place where people can engage, where communities can gather and where people can collaborate and deliver services that are really right for them.”
Tracy credits Bristol City Council’s internal culture for much of the local authority’s success in driving digital transformation. Being unafraid to try new things, putting citizens at the centre of all services and listening carefully to feedback (and even criticism) has served them well, and these are traits shared by their close working partner, Placecube Digital Innovation.
“We’ve certainly found a like minded partner,” – Tracy Dodds.