Building a blogging platform for Essex County Council in 8 days

Last month one of our delivery teams worked with the service design team at Essex County Council to build them a new blogging platform. In just one two-week sprint.

Their first blog went live this week, so this seems like the perfect time for a celebration and a short story about the project.

“We’re not unique and special”

So how did we build a blogging platform in a two-week sprint?

Firstly, we focussed on a minimum viable product. What was the smallest possible thing we could deliver in partnership with Essex County Council (ECC) for their team to start blogging? We started the work by defining a clear scope and focussed on the most important user needs first.

We also looked at what’s already out there. As Nic says, the guiding principle was to not reinvent the wheel. We decided to re-use the existing GOV.UK blogging platform which already has the style and functionality that ECC were after. With a team of two front-end developers/designers and a delivery manager, we deployed a copy of and with some tweaks, had a production-ready in just 8 days. We even had some time at the end to build in some extra features for the site, like two-factor authentication for users.

This project is a fantastic example of what you can achieve by sharing existing patterns and products, and by working in the open.

Creating a culture of openness and collaboration

The blog, like many before it, will exist to allow staff and teams to talk about their work in the open. It’s for sharing their successes and what they’ve learned from failures. Most of all, it’s for showing the work of the council and giving others the opportunity to engage and give feedback.

This interaction is even more important in an organisation spread over multiple sites, including remote working, and in buildings which don’t have open plan offices. ECC are also entering a new phase of change to embed a truly user-centred design culture, and are setting up new teams to lead this change.

Merely giving teams the ability to communicate on a shiny new blog is the easy thing. The challenge ahead for Jason, Nic, and their colleagues will be creating a culture that encourages people to work in the open, and to support constructive feedback, however uncomfortable it might be. It’s about ignoring the bias of “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”, and stimulating change.

The journey to digital transformation – the holy grail – is full of attempts at making that great leap forward. But as dxw has seen over recent years, the actual rate of change doesn’t always keep up with everyone’s best efforts. If you’ve worked in, or with, public sector teams, you might be familiar with this idea, especially the “make a great leap forward only to stumble backward”.

What’s exciting about the work going on in Chelmsford, Essex, is their dedication to working in the open and following principles of others who have succeeded in bringing about change.

The service design team have started blogging, and it’ll build from there. We’re looking forward to following their journey and reading about all the great work they’re doing to make services better for citizens.