Working in the open makes things better

16 Aug 2017

Part of the collaboration theme in our Digital Strategy talks about making our data open so that people can make their own informed choices. But being open is more than just sharing data.

We sometimes have good reasons to keep things to ourselves, like personal privacy, data protection requirements, commercial confidentiality and licensing conditions. However, these are often the exception and it can actually end up creating more work and reducing trust.

That’s why the Digital Development Team is following the Government Digital Service design principle of ‘make things open: it makes things better’. Here’s how.

How we work in the open

  • We publish our Digital Strategy on this site as HTML rather than a PDF. This means it’s easier to find and read on any device, and doesn’t require a download of anything. It also has the benefit of allowing us to update statistics as they change.

  • We publish our Digital Strategy Action Plan and our team workplan on Trello so that everyone can see what we are doing. We think this is a smarter way to work as people can subscribe to updates if they want to keep up with actions as they change. It also keeps us on our toes as we know others are watching! We’re encouraging more of our colleagues to start using digital tools like this through leading by example.

  • We publish our performance metrics so that it’s easier for the public and our colleagues to see how we are doing. We also have a live Google Analytics page so that anyone can see what is happening on our main website. Our Customer Service colleagues are also reporting their performance (it’s catching!)

  • We use a public website uptime monitoring from Rapidspike so people can check if any of our services are down. This also makes sense from a business continuity perspective, as any member of our staff can check for problems from any location or time of day.

  • We blog about our work so we can share our successes and failures, just like we learn from others through their blogs (such as the excellent HackIt blog from Hackney Council).

  • We use GitHub to store our code, and where we can we make this openly accessible. We started with our website templates so people working with us to create themed sites can easy access them.

  • We are working with our Smart Oxford partners to run an open data platform. We are still finding our feet on this and want to do a lot more in future.

  • We publish our Digital Design Standards so that it is clear to any digital suppliers what we determine as acceptable and unacceptable. This is so we can ensure higher standards for our customers and offer services that they will want to use.

  • We run this microsite on GitHub pages as it’s free, easy to use and open.