West Berkshire Council

Digital Services Blog

Highlighting the work of our Digital Services Team

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Assessing our capabilities

Written on: 7-6-2017

Many services the council offers are supported by a set of basic capabilities. The ability to take a payment, the ability to record a request for service or information, the ability to store and retrieve specialist knowledge, and so on. When they're used to deliver an online service they're often referred to as "digital capabilities".

As part of our digital transformation work, the council's Digital Services Team will be asking all of our departments and the teams in them how they currently provide seven capabilities, and from this we'll build a picture of what we do now, and how we might approach these functions future. Our aim is, where possible, to provide one solution to support these basic functions across the organisation.

The seven capabilities

  • Record and process a request for service or information
  • Take a payment
  • Scan a document and display it electronically
  • Talk to a service user using online chat
  • Record and retrieve professional knowledge
  • Record and process praise, feedback and complaints
  • Send bulk correspondence

We're also already looking at booking a room, place at an event, a resource, or officer time, and administering and running a course.

There are many benefits to this approach. The economy of scale of providing the same IT system across many services and the ability to offer people more joined-up and consistent services. It gives the council the building blocks to transform existing and create new services much cheaper that we're able to currently.

By autumn we should have a broad picture of where we might better use digital capabilities across the organisation to deliver better, cheaper, more joined up services.



Seeing through the eyes of your users

How your colleagues see things probably isn't the same as your users

Written on: 23-3-2017

Making your digital services and information accessible to all is important. This includes everything from opening up the language so it's understandable by as many people as possible, to designing your forms and templates so they work with screen readers and other accessibility aids.

Something more fundamental than this that affects almost everyone is the size of screen they use, and yet it can often be overlooked. Most websites now use responsive design or even better RESS which is great, but it's important to check how each service or page looks using different screen sizes.

Sometimes colleagues don't understand this, but it's easy to demonstrate the stark contrast between the two groups by comparing screen resolutions. So based on Google Analytics from the whole of 2016 here's how users view the internet:



and here's how colleagues see the internet



so when building a service or designing content, to make sure it's accessible to all, remember to see through the eyes, or to be more exact the screens of you users.

Services so good people want to use them

We aimed to get more people to use our online services and information. How did we do?

Written on: 14-3-2017

In 2014, as part of our Choose Digital Project, we launched two new websites, one hosting over 100 online services, the other focusing on easy to understand information. The aim was to make our websites so good people used them over traditional channels.

To measure the success of the project we looked at website sessions, calls to our contact centre and direct calls to officers' phones.

Of course there are other methods of contact, face-to-face and email for example, but we have no consistent measure for them across the whole of the council.

Where we do measure them they're a tiny proportion of contact; for example less than 10% of requests for service to our Highways and Transport Service come via email.

What we found is a 15% shift from phone to online, and the latter is now our primary channel for contact with our customers, with a 60% vs 40% split between online and phone in the last quarter. 

We asked residents to choose digital and our analysis shows that more and more are doing so.


Booking Dot West Berkshire

Re-designing how the council takes bookings

Written on: 6-10-2016


If you've heard of digital transformation you'll probably know it means re-designing the services an organisation offers, so they use the internet to better meet the needs and expectations of residents. Without the jargon, what it really means is re-designing how our services work so they're cheaper to run and are available to you 24/7.

From arranging someone to officiate your wedding, to booking a slot to speak at a planning committee, there are lots of things our residents can book with us and we're starting to look at this as part of our digital transformation work. To help us with this we're asking for five minutes of your time to fill in a short survey on what you book online now please.

Whether you live in West Berkshire or not we'd be really grateful if you could take part in the survey here and share it with others please. Your answers will help us provide an improved service that better meets your needs, 


PALS get a little help from Digital Services

Written on: 11-8-2016

Here in Digital Services our primary responsibility is to our customers, residents and service users who will use our online services.  We're always working to make them better, easier and more joined-up to save time, money and give a good impression of our council.

But it's not just our day job - team member Lizzie Roe is a volunteer for a local West Berkshire charity, PALS, and has been doing great work to help our communities outside of work time.

PALS supports children and young people from aged five to 25, who have physical disabilities and/or a sensory impairment, to do different activities.

Lizzie tells us "I became involved in PALS a few years ago and was recently contacted by Helen, the manager, to see if I was available to volunteer for activities after not having attended for a time. I agreed, and now regularly help out at the youth club.

"Helen mentioned in passing that she was working to commission a new website and updating the information and images. I offered to help, and have since spent a little under 10 hours working with Helen to improve the site.

The website uses WordPress, and is hosted by a local company.

"The first thing we looked at was updating the information - which was horribly out of date!

"Previously the sections 'Who We Are', 'Mission Statement', 'Who Can We Help?' and 'Our History' were all on one page, so we split out the information onto separate pages. Moving the information to individual pages decreased the size of pages and makes it easier for the reader to find what they want. It also allowed us to use more images, giving a taste of the different activities.

"'The PALS Committee' and 'Activities We Run' are two of the pages that have seen the most changes.

Helen and I decided to include images and a small bio about the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee and images of the other Committee members, to be updated when more become available.

The 'Activities We Run' page has been totally rearranged and includes more images demonstrating the wide range of activities PALS does with children and young people. The information has been updated and rearranged into easy-to-read sections.

"We added several new sections to the website including, 'Testimonials' and 'News'. The donate buttons that feature on every page are also a new addition. As PALS is a charity that is entirely funded by donations, it is important for them to encourage donations and make it easy for people to make them."

Helen said "It's been brilliant to have Lizzie back with us; she's a fantastic volunteer and a great asset to have helping at our youth groups. Lizzie has also been the lead person in helping to revamp our website, a task I could never have achieved on my own!  We are all thrilled with our new website and it is thanks to Lizzie."

You can see more about PALS on their website!