Prompted by the start of a new year and new decade, we found ourselves recently ruminating about the following quote by Bill Gates:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten…”

In 2020  the Greater Manchester digital blueprint will be launched, setting out the aspiration for communities through an ambitious blueprint that brings together local people, businesses, public sector, innovators, tech and digital industries and education, to place GM firmly at the forefront of digital change.

For Stockport too this represents an exciting and timely opportunity. With our Borough Plan running until 2020 we will be looking ahead to what Stockport will look like in the next 5, 10 or more years. We see digital threading through this (even if we are still debating what this is called) and are looking beyond what our organisation does, to the digital eco-system in Stockport and Greater Manchester.

While we’re not entirely sure what the next 10 years may hold, we are working on the ingredients of what it could and should contain. That’s why as we step into 2020, we’re really excited about what we are working on.

Understanding and co-creating with our users

14 months ago, the Council launched its corporate values, with first and fundamentally foremost:

“To keep the people of Stockport at the heart of what we do”.

With this in mind we will be further developing how approaches such as user experience testing, user research, co-creating new ways of working and understanding lived experiences are applied more widely and habitually. We will be launching our community conversation (more on this later in the year) and developing a shared community of practice across engagement, user research, consultation.

Image: Stockport Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Parents and Carers Co-production event

Developing our Service and Design Patterns

Last year we focussed on developing our approach to service design and understanding how we could apply it in Stockport. Through the mapping and design of a number of end to end journeys, and learning from other colleagues we have begun identifying common service patterns that bring consistency to customer experience, are repeatable across different service areas and can help us better prioritise time and public monies.

This coming year we are initially looking at the ‘book something’ service pattern, with a view to making online forms for a wide variety of council services more consistently designed as well as compliant with the new EU Directive on Accessibility by September 2020.

Expanding our DigiKnow alliance

We are proud to say that Stockport’s Digital Inclusion Alliance, set up in March 2018, has already helped over 6,000 Stockport residents to get online and build their digital confidence. With the help of Good Things Foundation, our local partners, Digital Champions and community groups we have created a network of digital support across Stockport, making it as easy as possible for residents to find help in their local community.

Our aim was to establish a grass-roots ‘movement’ which would continue to sustain digital skills support and we are well on the way to creating this with a network of 13 Alliance partners, 35 community organisations and 40 Digital Champions.

To further support this we have been awarded a £50,000 grant from the Greater Manchester Digital Fund which will enable us to grow the network’s resilience and to target harder to reach cohorts.

This runs alongside looking at how we work with education and skills providers to develop digital skills and a digital workforce of the future.

Improving how we work on the floor

At the end of last year colleagues across Business Intelligence, Strategy, Reform and Inclusion, Digital by Design and IT and Systems teams held a series of all hands sessions to learn more about each other’s work, look at our goals, plans and challenges for the year ahead and collaborate on great ideas that could benefit Stockport citizens and our organisation.

From joining up how we work across our teams, to doing our part to tackle climate change and support sustainability, to understanding more about the needs of our customers, here are some of the reflections shared from our teams.

Software Development

We are currently creating a bespoke ‘Formbuilder’ as part of our service and design patterns work. This will reduce coding time of simple forms from about a month to 1-3 days each, enabling us to efficiently apply this pattern across multiple services.  We are extremely excited to see this nearing completion and will be writing more about this soon.

We will continue to invest in ourselves, building in-house where appropriate, creating capabilities that can be reused in order to react quickly to issues and changes. Central to this is working ever closer with the other services within the council.

Technically we will continue to challenge ourselves. We don’t just do the comfortable option – we embrace new ways of working, new languages, approaches and coding principles, new ways of testing our code base and new ways of monitoring that highlight issues before they get reported.

This year we are also looking forwards to bringing in some new developers so we can support each other and the rest of IT better and we will be following colleagues in other Local Authorities to learn how we can better share across Local Gov.

Business Intelligence (BI) and Performance

Business Intelligence and the ability to predict patterns and change and how this will affect people, places and budgets is key to our digital transformation strategy. Alongside further developing our performance and management dashboards, we are excited to be expanding our data science capability by welcoming 2 new data scientists to the team over the coming weeks.

We are also preparing our Open Data Strategy which, in line with our commitment to the Local Digital Declaration, ensures that our data is more accessible for other public bodies to use and analyse for the benefit of society. More details to follow soon on this blog.

We’re also looking forward to:

  • the introduction of a replacement for our current web mapping
  • a Master Data Management capability or ‘Golden record’, that provides greater insight and the potential to give a more holistic view of an individual’s interactions with the various services in the council
  • a new BI knowledge base to assist colleagues across the council
  • the next phase of the Family Context Project

Information Governance (IG)

Last year we welcomed the IG team to our extended open-plan office space, co-locating them with IT, BI and our software developers and designers and in 2020 we look forward to even closer collaboration on privacy by design and the facilitation of safe and effective sharing of data (we will be writing more about this soon).

Ways of working

We’re looking forward to completing the technical phase of our migration to Office 365, moving everyone from network drives to cloud-based storage with role-based access. With almost 3,000 users it’s been a big job to move mailboxes, mail data and files, with lots of learning along the way, but we hope to be finished by spring.

Over the coming year our focus will move to how we maximise the opportunities from O365 to work smarter and with agility. We will be experimenting and trialing different approaches with teams over the coming year. First step – on-line sharing and collaboration, hopefully reducing the numbers of emails and unnecessary data storage (doing our bit for the planet!).

Service Desk

As mentioned in a recent blog, we’ve been working hard to encourage our 4,000+ users to self-serve and use our knowledgebase and service catalogue in preference to creating a service ticket. For 2020 we plan to re design the online portal to promote Intelligent search and Knowledgebase usage. We also plan to link into many of the new features of O365 and to promote increased usage of our chatbot Freddie. We’ll also be working on the inevitable challenges relating to the retirement of Windows7.


Liquidlogic, the council’s new social care system, went live for Children’s Services in 2019 and we are looking forward to seeing it rolled out for Adults in Spring 2020. This will give us closer harmony across people’s services and enable better reporting and data control.

We are also excited to see the new public facing portals go live and to get the Liquidlogic Data Warehouse working. We will also be looking to resolve the issue of non-WAN schools using Liquidlogic to read and create Early help Assessments and completing the remaining user forms and workflows as part of Children’s Phase Two implementation.

IT Infrastructure

2020 is a big year for our underlying IT infrastructure. We will be starting the construction of our new dark fiber Wide Area Network. This will provide higher speed data and opportunities for data sharing across GM. We are also refreshing our core data center infrastructure and planning a brand new cloud based disaster recovery service. This will keep all our systems and data safe, secure and available for use should the worst happen.

Leadership style

As leaders we also set our own resolutions for our teams. Interestingly there were some common ones which I’m sharing here:

  • Experiment and be rebellious (be more pirate!!)
  • Enable and support teams to problem solve and do
  • Prioritise strategically and tactically

We’ll let you know how we get on over the course of the year!

Come and join in and get excited with us!

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