We’re sprinting!

We’re coming up to six months since the Digital First team moved to Jubilee Library and started transforming the council’s services.

We’ve taken on a lot of projects since then, are learning more about the city’s residents and businesses, and are going faster than ever before.

Digital First is also sprinting now – as in we’re running the Scrum framework. This video about Scrum explains more.

We got to a point where there were many projects running at any one time and it was becoming difficult to keep track. Now we’re using Scrum, it’s really clear to see what we’re working on now, what’s next and the role everyone should play.

We’ll be sprinting all summer

Like everything else we do, the way we manage our projects is a work in progress. No doubt we’ll learn from this and improve.

Improving our online register service – reacting quickly and delivering results

Whenever we develop new digital services, we always put your needs, as a customer, at the heart of what we do.

We work in an agile environment. This means we can react and deliver results quickly.

We’ve recently been working with the Register Office. They were struggling with how their different pieces of technology were working together. We knew we could solve their problem, and after a quick team discussion we promised to fast-track a solution.

Four days later, the solution was in place. By being able to move quickly, we’ve been able to deliver a much better experience for the customer.

The challenge

Birth certificate - apply for a copy formThe Register Office team responds to requests from customers for copies of birth, civil partnership, death and marriage certificates.

Due to a lack of integration between our technologies, citizens had to use two separate forms to apply for a certificate and pay for it. The payment form also asked for information that the customer provided on the previous form resulting in duplication. This often led to mistakes where residents would complete the application form but not pay for it.

“We have problems with receiving forms without payment, and even payments without forms!”
Paul Wadsworth – Registration Manager

With two separate forms, our staff had to try and match up applications with payments which could lead to mistakes. For missed payments, staff had to phone customers and chase payments. This additional detective work slowed the entire process down and frustrated staff and customers.

At a significant time of their life – such as a birth or death – we didn’t want our citizens to experience stress and frustration because of technical obstacles.

The solution

We’ve simplified the customer journey and reduced the amount of time needed to process an application.

  • Customers now only need to use one form to apply and pay for a certificate because it is fully integrated with our banking system.
  • The form can’t be submitted without a successful payment so that staff don’t have to constantly check whether a payment has gone through.
  • Customers no longer have to input the same information in both forms which will make the process quicker for them and reduce errors.

The feedback

The solution has been in place for a few days and the feedback is very positive:

“Since the new form has been created it has taken a lot of stress and frustration away from our team and our customers. We are starting to spend a lot less time phoning customers chasing payments. We used to dread looking at the inbox in the morning for orders and now it takes a matter of minutes.”
Lucy-Anne Allen – Registration Officer

“The difference that this has made to the team is enormous! The time, stress and confusion, (for staff and customers) that the old system created was hideous. We now have a system that brings all the information together, no detective work needed. No matching up several orders to a payment. No calling frustrated customers for payment, despite their best efforts to order online. Thank you!”
Sarah Donnelly – Registration Officer

Dave Meakins is an information services analyst and works as part of the Customer First in a Digital Age programme at the council.

Working with Scrum

Scrum. To most people, scrum is what happens in a game of rugby. In the world of digital, it means something very different. Scrum is a way of developing digital content. It’s an agile working method that’s used heavily in companies like Amazon, Spotify and Netflix.

Scrum is all about developing digital content iteratively. Rather than having all of your requirements and specifications up front as you would in a more traditional project, these are less important than user testing and shaping content based on customer feedback. Testing happens throughout the process.

Scrum usually works in two week blocks called sprints. At the end of the sprint, the aim is to have something that works and that can be tested – even if it’s basic and un-user friendly. Any changes that are needed are fed into the next sprint. These iterations are crucial.

With more traditional project methods, user testing usually isn’t done until the end and this can cause problems. When the project has reached the end, requirements may have changed, which could mean the product is no longer relevant and lots of time would have been wasted. Customers may use it and decide it’s not good enough or not what they wanted. Again, this results in wasted time for everyone.

This is why Scrum is great for producing digital content. It’s flexible, failure is fine (if something isn’t right, no problem; you can start again in the next sprint) and testing with the end users is a core part of the process. This means you know that whatever you’re making is customer focused.

However, whilst Scrum is fantastic in certain organisations, in others it can cause problems. I’ll talk more about this in my next blog post.

What do you think?

As we work on new areas, we’ll blog about the work we’re doing. We always welcome your feedback, so please leave a comment below or email beta.feedback@brighton-hove.gov.uk