Transform by doing: scaling the use of multidisciplinary teams at Croydon council

We started working with Croydon council back in February to help them turn their vision for service focussed IT and digital delivery into reality. Read about that here

That initial workshop enabled the Croydon Digital Service to set up their first multidisciplinary team, testing new ways of working while building a quality service for residents and businesses in the borough – the croydon.digital blog.

We’re now scaling this approach to cover more council services.

Screenshot of Croydon Digital’s blog

Learning through delivery

Delivering a product with a multidisciplinary team is the perfect way to build capability while also demonstrating credibility for doing things differently in an organisation. 

Croydon didn’t have all of the roles they needed in this first team, so dxw partnered with them to build a truly multidisciplinary team and support learning through coaching and knowledge sharing. 

The team demonstrated the value of continuous user research to challenge assumptions and build a product that meets real needs. Their approach to product management kept them focussed on delivering features at pace. 

There were challenges – not all of the team were able to solely focus on the product. But importantly, by co-locating, introducing agile ceremonies and working in the open, they really reaped the rewards of working in this way. 

Scaling and prioritising

This first team will scale to take on responsibility for delivering and operating IT and digital services for one of the 3 council departments, allowing the team to see and prioritise the whole service they are delivering for their users. 

This is a far bigger challenge than delivering the croydon.digital blog in a greenfield setting. The crucial question is how to harness the positive energy and momentum built up through the initial project and not to overwhelm or break the team by suddenly dropping a whole unprioritised portfolio in their already full backlog.

To help determine the next steps, the dxw team have worked with the Croydon Digital Service management team to review and advise on the organisational design for the future model. 

Setting up an organisation to transform through doing is at the heart of our approach. The core of our advice is to:

  • establish your guiding principles for change – be clear about the problem you are trying to fix
  • don’t over-design an organisation – risks will materialise that you didn’t foresee, define your minimum viable product for a team and iterate
  • develop an approach to transitioning between models – there will be inflight work that might not survive a sudden shift to a new delivery model
  • always know how you will operate a service or technology before you deliver it
  • have the right governance and oversight in the right places – be sure that you can spot opportunities for join-up and sharing and don’t over-engineer controls 

Collective ownership

To ensure collective ownership of the next steps, we held a further workshop with the management team and the team that delivered the croydon.digital blog, to better understand:

  • how a project should qualify for the new delivery model – what needs to exist, or have been thought about, before a project is ready for delivery? What is a ‘project’ and does that even matter?
  • how projects should be prioritised – what makes one project more important than another? How should demand for digital projects be managed?

The answers to these questions are complex in a mixed IT and digital delivery context. For example, an IT infrastructure project might need a much clearer set of up front requirements than a project to deliver a digital service to solve a problem. 

What all projects have in common is that the user need must be real and well understood. There are many overlapping criteria that can make a project a high priority. The key is to agree how projects and items on a backlog are prioritised with the people who are ultimately responsible for the service. This makes difficult decisions about what to do (and what to stop) much easier.

Next steps

We’ll continue to support Croydon to help the team turn their IT project portfolio into a prioritised backlog, and to help them grow and develop their first multidisciplinary team to deliver against that backlog at pace. 

It’s exciting to see the energy that has developed in these early stages. Together we’ve laid the foundations for applying user-centred, service design approaches to tackling some of the stickier and more complex IT and digital challenges that all councils face.

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