Shared pattern and process library for local government

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Every local authority is tasked with hundreds of functions, and through individual transformation programmes many are redesigning them to provide better, cheaper services. There are hundreds of councils across England all delivering similar services, often to meet the same statutory requirement.

Whilst it’s impossible to quantify the cost of duplication, if you multiply hundreds of services by hundreds of councils it is obvious there is huge a potential for reducing waste and sharing innovation, through collaboration.

We would like to develop a solution to share patterns (how a service manifests itself to the user) which incorporate the GDS design system, and processes (how a service is delivered) that is managed by local government, for local government. This would not only help prevent duplication, increase innovation, it would also give councils a blueprint with which to start their service redesign, speeding up the process and reducing cost in every council.

We would look to appoint a specialist partner through Digital Marketplace to lead this work and we will publish and share our findings and outputs to the wider community.

The alpha phase will be successful if:

  • We build a prototype version of a library where councils can share, easily find and reuse information, knowledge, processes and patterns for services
  • Councils not in the partnership, commit to using the library
  • We create a backlog of of user needs for a beta phase
  • We produce a paper detailing options around governance and sustainability for a beta phase

We intend to deliver an alpha phase for this problem in line with the GDS service manual and principles. Regular show and tells and retrospectives will allow a wide audience to review the work carried out and ensure that it continues to meet user needs. To ensure our objectives have been met, we’ll carry out a service assessment against the government service standard at the end of the alpha phase.

While some in-house capability will be available from Southwark, we will advertise an opportunity on the Digital Marketplace to seek a specialist partner to:

  • build on the user research from discovery and produce a user research report
  • build prototypes of the library and test the prototypes with users
  • demonstrate that the library is technically possible to build and meet users needs.

The project will be run using agile methods and in sprints. We expect the project to last between 6 and 7 two week sprints, with valuable insights delivered and shared at the end of each sprint.

Projected project timeline:

  • Procurement and Inception: Dec 10 2018 – Dec 28 2019
  • Research sprints: Jan 7 – Apr 19 2019
  • Final report & documentation: Apr 22 – Apr 26 2019
  • Outputs to be published by week of Apr 28 2019

In addition to regular blogs through the alpha phase, outputs will be published for the wider community to share the findings, stimulate debate and ensure that any progression to beta will meet common needs across authorities.

This project will deliver a sharable output that can be used all councils; a repository for best practices, processes and patterns for local authorities which can act as blueprints for digital service delivery. Whilst individual councils may still wish to research local user needs and adapt the blueprints to meet them, it will give every council a head start when re-designing service delivery around improvements the internet and technology can provide. Other benefits include:

  • Allowing councils to take a more strategic approach to a larger range of services, rather than be limited by learning on a service by service, authority by authority basis
  • Allowing for universal “blockers” to be identified that can lead to new standards or new platforms and components
  • Reducing risk as you can learn from what others have got right and wrong
  • Reducing the time to delivery
  • Giving access to additional funds through several local authorities working together and attracting new investment
  • Offering collective insight and being able to benefit from one organisation’s specific skills or knowledge to deliver a service
  • Allowing new opportunities for partnership – not only between existing partner authorities, but successful partnerships can drive ambitions for future, additional cross-boundary working
  • A central resource where the outputs and learnings from the other MHCLG funded projects are shared and published.

Potential savings could be calculated by looking at activities for a typical discovery. A delivery manager, user researcher and business analyst would work with a service team and users to carry out a discovery in 4 x 2 week sprints. Using a conservative internal day rate of £200, a discovery would cost £8000. If councils were to procure a discovery from a specialist company, typical costs range from £40,000 to £80,000. The library could in part, replace some of the costs. Multiply the possible savings for 353 councils in England alone and transformation of services through discovery, alpha, beta and live, the library has the potential to save millions of pounds and speed up digitisation programmes.

As part of discovery we spoke individually with numerous councils and ran three research sessions, two in London, one in Birmingham. Research attendees also included:

  • Platform suppliers who combined are used by 50% of the local government market
  • The Government Digital Service
  • TechUK
  • iStandUK

We used these sessions to gather individual user needs and asses whether there was  consensus for a platform to allow the sharing of patterns and processes. The sessions found that:

  • An overwhelming percentage of participants working in local government felt they would make use of, and contribute to the library, because this would assist them with re-designing their organisation’s services.
  • The library, if used in conjunction with service assessments, would provide a quality control for the re-design of local government services.
  • Most suppliers thought the library would help users of their platform create better services.

We would also like to expand on the work already started by individual suppliers, such as Jadu’s Library by taking their discovery work, building on it to meet the identified user needs, and making the library platform and technology agnostic.

Our work will also build on projects such as Pipeline ( and Hackney’s research library (, learning from their discoveries and ensuring we compliment and integrate with their work, not replicate it.

We have already engaged with numerous councils, platform suppliers such as Jadu and Netcall (Matssoft), GDS, TechUK and iStandUK as part of our discovery to prove that there is a need for such a library.

As part of the alpha we will collaborate with the listed council partners to ensure needs from different councils in different stages of service design and transformation are captured, designed and tested with. At the end of each two week sprints, insights will be delivered and shared at the end of each sprint with partner councils to draw out feedback and inform priorities for the next sprint. In addition to regular blogs through the alpha phase, outputs will be published for the wider community to share the findings, stimulate debate and ensure that any progression to beta will meet common needs across councils. We will be looking to use tools such as Google’s G Suite, open Trello boards and Slack to collaborate and share our findings.

By the end of the project we will be able to publish:

  • A benefits case that explains the problem of not having a process and patterns library, the cost to councils and the potential savings that could be realised if councils use such a library
  • User research report with the overall user journey and a prioritised list of user stories, needs and pain points
  • A basic working library with limited functionality which can be demonstrated to users
  • A set of instructions on how to use and make most use of the library for users including how to reuse information, processes and patterns in the library
  • An initial set of illustrative patterns and processes
  • Some basic metrics to measure the library’s success
  • An understanding of existing libraries that we may need to replace or integrate with
  • A conclusion proposing:
    • A decision on whether or not to progress to beta phase
    • A plan for beta and a less detailed plan for live

The discovery identified the following categories of users:

  • Council staff that have something to share or are looking for help on a service
  • Suppliers of local government services and platforms that have something to share or are looking for new opportunities
  • Organisations such as iStandUK, TechUK and HACT that have something to share and/or find opportunities to develop standards  

The alpha phase will continue user research with the primary users, including identifying other priority users. Engagement methods will include workshops, interviews, shadowing and observations. Research will be done across partner councils. The objectives of the user research include:

  • To understand how users currently share documents, processes, patterns and information about local government services
  • To identify existing libraries that are currently used, understand whether there is a need for separate libraries or to consolidate and understand how useful they are to users
  • To understand how users will find relevant information about a service, how they can reuse information and knowledge, and whether in doing so actually does make transforming or delivering a service easier and delivers benefits
  • To understand how users will be able to support and manage a central library

The research will also consider how patterns can be recognised, developed and assured so that councils can reuse quality patterns.

We have not been applied for, or have been granted, funding for this project in the past.