Shining in a new era – women and diversity in tech

4 Years ago BwD signed the Local Digital Declaration. Since that time we have grown our knowledge and skills in design and transformation with the help and support of the Government Digital Service and contacts we have made across the country. 

Here is the chance for you to meet some of our Team;

Laura Hodkinson, Head of Digital Transformation

Laura Hodkinson

I joined the Council shortly after the team had signed the Digital Declaration in 2019. My background is in Business Process & Outsourcing, Six Sigma, Lean and Business Transformation, so the Digital Declaration to me made complete sense as a framework to deliver service excellence.

Our Agile training was in full swing, and I was keen to see the whole team immerse themselves in a new way of working. The department I head up is quite broad, IT technical, Project Management Office, Information Governance, Performance & Reporting and Business Support Operations so it has been great to see how the agile tools and techniques have been adopted in different ways to improve our delivery. Ultimately these ways of working essentially set us up to ramp up our delivery during the pandemic, and proved very successful.

Diversity is of huge importance to me, I believe a team can be enormously successful through finding difference and the benefit of an alternative view. For me I want to create a positive environment where people can contribute effectively and be their best in the workplace. I also think our team should reflect the community we serve and we actively grow our own talent successfully through our apprentice scheme.

We have restructured this year following the publication of our new Digital Strategy to fully move to a team that is focused on Service Design, DevOps, Data and Information Governance. This has allowed us to introduce specific roles that focus on the continued investment to design and improving the way we work and deliver our services.

Leading this team is about empowering the staff to have creativity, initiative and the confidence that, they do make a difference to our staff and to the community we serve.

 

Laura Crabtree, Service Design Manager

Laura Crabtree

I’ve been at the Council over 15 years now and seen a lot of change, but even if you collated all that change together it still wouldn’t equal the change that has happened over the past 18 months.  I feel bad sometimes saying that COVID has been a good thing for us, when it has been a truly awful thing for many.  But having said that, the way I believe that we are designing services now with customers at the forefront of what we do, following GDS standards, embracing Agile and Service Design; then actually, everyone, hopefully sees a benefit. 

So what do I mean by that change?  Well it’s:

  • how we work together (openly, honestly, daily)
  • how we make sure we recruit the right people (passion, behaviour, success)
  • how we respect each other (appreciate, acknowledge, listen)
  • how we do more of the doing and less of the paperwork (prototype, S&T, talk)
  • how we gel together (diversity, culture, skill)

And we all have one common goal – to improve customer experience whilst transforming services to drive out efficiency.

Over these past 2 years my role has really evolved.  I’ve gone from being a Project Manager to inadvertently leading the growing Digital Customer Portal Team through the pandemic, to now leading a wider Service Design Team which encompasses traditional PMO roles, new roles and our corporate website. We’ve created a new way of working, which I just love, and there is a real sense of us all wanting each other to succeed.  We are definitely empowered to do what we think is right and there is lot less of the ‘I best check we can do this first’.  The team always have solutions to problems, persevere when things go wrong, and are able to laugh together and support each other when required.  Theory tells us that people are key – and they really are. This really is a super duper team which I am so proud to lead and I know we’ve got an exciting year ahead as we take on new challenges and launch our internal customer experience programme and get this into full flight.

Aspirations for this year – to look at how we nurture the talent in the team, to spread our service design and agile approach wider thought our internal O365 programme, to fix problems, to increase traffic to digital channels through exploitation of digital that the pandemic has brought about, to save money by bringing external websites back in house using @LocalgovDrupal.

 

Joanne Grime, Lead Service Designer

Joanne Grime

I started my BwD journey in 2004 and after more than 17 years I’m still here! There was no such thing as customer services when the Bdirect Contact Centre was set up all those years ago and trying to get colleagues to understand what a corporate contact centre could do for them and their service areas was a massive feat!!!

After all that time I’m still helping change the way colleagues work - by introducing Service Design into everyone’s world. This is a much easier challenge than some I have had in the past. It’s a no brainer for most people once they understand the main principles behind it. It starts by listening to the users, both internal and external – whoever they may be. We then design and build prototypes making sure to keep all stakeholders involved and then deliver something that is easy to use and understand.

Constant iteration and feedback moving forward is the key to the success! We shout about our achievements as a team through our Digital Blog and our week notes and stories are now becoming popular with colleagues following us from other local authorities.

Some pieces of work we have delivered over the past 2 years were really difficult as times, especially at the start of the pandemic, there was lots of blood, sweat and tears. However now we often look back as a team at our successes with a massive sense of achievement that we did that!!

It would be a great achievement to get our design principles working throughout all areas of the Council and this coming year we are targeting any services that have not yet begun this journey with us.

 

Amanda Hodgkinson, Systems Team Leader

Amanda Hodgkinson

I started working for my home town local authority in 2004. At that time I was involved in creating a digital system to accommodate the new licensing regulations for alcohol and entertainment. I picked up use of the chosen platform really easily and fell in love with transforming laborious paper based processes into streamlined digital solutions. I have witnessed an enormous amount of change within the Authority.

Since those early days I continuously worked closely with the users of the system and slowly, using education, upskilling, benefit realisation, digitisation, and the adoption of digital solutions is now, not only being embraced by the users but more importantly being actively sought by the users. I have been involved in developing systems alongside our suppliers to suit the purposes of local government service delivery so that other local authorities can also benefit. However, my main focus has been on continuous development of various council systems, continual deployment and iteration of digital council processes, operating a one stop user support service, and keeping ahead of changing regulations and system updates and upgrades.

I am now part of a wider team, developing and supporting legacy and new digital systems, adopting GDS service design and delivered in an agile manner. My role has recently changed and involves managing and nurturing a small team of young, amazing and talented system support and development officers. I am really enjoying this new aspect of work life. It is so rewarding to pass on my own knowledge and understanding of systems change and the principles that guide system change such as quality data capture, longevity of use, and uniformity of use. When their new found knowledge slots into place and starts to make sense, it is great to see their confidence and enthusiasm grow and they start to see the world from a systems angle.

In the coming year I am hoping that as a team we continue to gain knowledge and deliver real digital transformation across many service areas so that the education, upskilling, benefit realisation, digitisation, and the adoption of digital solutions can continue being embraced and sought by more and more users.

 

Zahida Khan, User Researcher

Zahida Khan

I started with the Council as an apprentice in 2001 and have always worked within a customer service role, I have seen customer services change and evolve over the years. I have always loved providing a good customer experience.

I started a new journey as a service designer and it became apparent that users needed to be involved in the design process instead of us trying to guess what users needed to carry out a successful transaction with the council. I quickly realised that I had a genuine passion for improving a customer experience, I understood that users need to be at the forefront of our designs and I changed my journey once again and gained the position of the User Researcher for BwD.

Following this change we now talk to our users and find out what the user needs to be able to complete their journey.

  • Talk to us about their journeys
  • What works for them and what doesn’t
  • Test forms and give us feedback
  • Interviews and focus groups.

I have learnt that working in an agile team we all bring different skills to the table and using these different skills helps us to succeed with our work.

I will work with the designers, suppliers, and the business presenting back what we have found and we will redesign the product to meet user needs. It’s simple, if people don’t understand what to do, then they won’t use the service and will then probably contact us via phone.

I have seen the team grow and learnt about the systems we use and the capabilities of our low code customer platform as well as GDS standards and service design and this helps me when carrying out research with users.

My aspirations are to change approaches within the council and have users at the centre of all services and designs, to grow our customer panel and ensure that we are talking to the right people allowing users to access services successfully and increase our digital transactions.

 

Shazia Attia, Web Content Lead

Shazia Attia

My journey with BwD Council started in 2017 as a Customer Service Advisor, whilst the service was evolving with small changes, there was still a long way to go.

I progressed my career this year by taking on the Content Design role in the Digital Team. This was, what I felt, my opportunity to contribute ideas and make changes to help develop the website, pulling on my knowledge and customer service experience. I began my new role with vigour and passion, aiming to implement new skills such as content design and user research. I was able to use my experiences and highlight what the users wanted, what their expectations were and identify pain points within the customer journeys, implementing change as soon as I was able to. Examples include a feedback form on the site, redesigning the homepage and contributing to the Accessibility Audit.

After rigorous, and on-going, training and research, I have been able to bolster and define my new role whilst endorsing the importance of content design. Inevitably, this resulted in my role changing to Web Content Lead which was a very exciting opportunity and welcomed, as I felt my role thus far was making a positive impact to be offered this position. My purpose strengthened in ensuring we improve customer experience, meet user needs whilst transforming services.

I find the vigour and passion I had at the start of the year has multiplied. Each day brings new challenges and every so often I have a ‘wow’ or ‘yai’ moment, specifically when an idea is taken on board and I’m given the thumbs up to steam ahead with it. Working within the Service Design Team using the agile approach, has inspired me to focus on my objectives and promote Our Vision within the rest of the Council. My small achievements are a consequence of the change in approach and outlook taken on by the Team.

My future short-term and long-term aspirations are to primarily design and deliver a customer facing website which meets the communities’ needs. The first step to achieve this, was joining the LocalGov Drupal community, a collaborative model with other Councils to share code and design instead of re-inventing the wheels. When this approach was proposed and given the go-ahead, I felt empowered as I felt my contribution and opinions were significant, again accelerating that passion and excitement.

The next step is create a website which is the first point of contact for all, by bringing external websites in-house to showcase all our services at its best whilst saving money. Additionally, we have been learning skills to ensure our websites are accessible and usable for all. By focusing on digital inclusion, accessibility and usability we are enabling online experiences for everyone. From a content designer perspective, my overall aim is to create a digital world with no barriers, regardless of ability, so that everyone can participate fully and independently, providing access to our services digitally.

By Joanne on 7th Jul 2022
Lead Service Designer in Digital & Business Change