Building a Digital City with Bristol City Council
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.”
How to find the balance between discovery on the one hand and active development and delivery on the other.
Bristol City Council decided to call in Digital Place specialists, Placecube. Working as one team using Agile methods, they set about their first step: discovering what Bristol citizens wanted from a new council website. Tony Pitt, 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 refine if we need to. ” By working in short sprints and following up with user testing, Bristol City Council’s development team was able to deliver portions of the website quickly and flexibly, making changes as needed to help its citizens find and use the right services and information easily and in their own time.
Work using Agile methods, where small deliveries are made quickly and reworked according to user feedback as the project develops.
Placecube built the website using its Digital Place product, a comprehensive digital solution that incorporates a compelling set of Liferay features, all of which were tailored to the needs of Bristol City Council and its citizens.
“The new platform allows us to adopt more new features. It’s more flexible for us and simpler for our citizens.”
Bristol City Council has even set itself the ambitious task of re-writing 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, Tracy 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 Tracy explains:
“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.
Bristol is a smart 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 criticism has served them well and are traits shared by their close working partner, Placecube.
“We’ve certainly found a like-minded partner.”