In conversation with Jayne Glasgow: driving digital change with pilots

Having previously worked in the private sector, what skills and lessons have you been able to bring with you to Leicestershire County Council?

 Creating a Chief Digital and Information Officer role was a strong signal of the council’s ambition to modernise services in Leicestershire and a big part of the reason I was excited to take the role.  Our leadership made it really clear that they wanted someone who could see, and articulate, the art of the possible.

Many people have a perception that the private and public sectors are very different.  In my experience, they share many features and face similar challenges.  But there are notable cultural and policy differences.

I’ve been focused on taking the best attributes of the Leicestershire team and augmenting it with complimentary delivery and commercial approaches that help to improve the pace of change and agility of the organisation.  Specifically, implementing different working methods such as Kanban, agile pilots, proportionate governance, and developing closer ties with partner organisations – including suppliers, academia, other peer organisations.

You are a strong advocate of driving digital innovation through multiple short pilot schemes, can you explain the benefits of this approach?

 Working in a more agile way is often misunderstood and overused – especially in the public sector where it can clash with more traditional methods of handling projects and governance.

This was in the front of my mind when I started to approach the idea of driving innovation here in Leicestershire.  How could I drive innovation, whilst maximising the benefits and minimising risk?  We developed 3i: investing in innovation.

Wrapping a portfolio around this activity means that we can move quickly, experiment and learn fast, ditch what isn’t working and learn lessons.  Plus – we get approvals at a portfolio level, meaning a single idea can succeed or fail without jeopardising the whole thing.

It’s early days, but I’m already seeing the benefits of giving individual pilots the autonomy to drive their own progress.

One of the first pilots you launched focussed on Robotic Process Automation, can you explain how successful this was and at what stage the programme is now?

 This has been a really exciting starting point for our innovation programme.  We’re creating virtual workers who can pick up manual tasks and free up staff time to work on more valuable activities – such as talking to customers or working on more complex problems.

We’re in the test phase at the moment, so it’s still early days.  But, we have learned a huge amount already.  As a result of the initial work we have extended the pilot into early next year to give us time further evidence the business case and develop our strategic roadmap of process automation.

One of the areas I most excited about is the ability more rapidly establish and manage connections between systems that have traditionally been very difficult and expensive to integrate into.

In terms of organisational and cultural change, have you been able to use technology to change the way your team works?

Cultural change is really at the heart of any digital strategy.  How do people behave at home and at work?  What gets in the way of making the most of technology?  How can we enable people to make the most of their time, energy and ideas?

To help tackle this we’re launching our own digital academy.  A place for people to build their own skills and confidence levels.  It will include a range of learning activities – from expert panels to interesting podcasts.  Plus some basic skills for people who need it.

We’ve also launched a series of ‘Tech Tips’ – short vlogs to help increase digital adoption and skills.  We’re using reverse-mentoring method which puts our apprentices and junior staff in the driving seat, making recommendations to the leadership team.

One example of change becoming a reality is the roll out of Skype for Business. Whilst initially seen as a telephony switch, it’s fast becoming seen as a real enabler of change.  We’ve seen people embrace video calls and Skype meetings whether they’re in the office or on the road.  The average Skype meeting is much shorter than a traditional meeting, taking just 17 minutes to wrap everything up.

Jayne Glasgow is the Chief Digital & Information Officer at Leicestershire County Council, and will be speaking on the potential applications of robotic process automation, at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November. To register or find out more, please click here.