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Birmingham mulls transactional service options after website revamp

Neil Merrett Published 04 October 2016

Authority exploring options with suppliers for providing new online functions while also considering interoperability potential as part of combined regional authority

 

Birmingham City Council is in the process of reviewing its key needs to overhaul online transactional services after completing the launch of a new website that has revamped the authority’s content management functions.

With the council now part of the West Midlands Combined Authority initiative, the new site will continue to serve as a front-end portal for users, although the authority is looking at how data transfers and transactional service development may be shared with other members of the organisation.

Paula Buckley, assistant director of customer service with the council, said that Birmingham had opted to replace its seven year-old site to tackle concerns around a lack of mobile responsiveness and a jargon heavy service that she said was “not popular” with users.

Buckley said that the design for the new site had been informed by a citizen panel, with the council and developers reaching out to different groups and previous critics of its website to gauge views on what was needed for a more effective service in a bid to be more collaborative.

Costing £225,000, the council hired Spacecraft Digital to design and build the new website with a focus on citizen needs through eye tracking and user journey testing. The new site also uses Jadu Continuum, a more modern content management service.

“We were focused on ensuring the platform we chose for powering birmingham.gov.uk was modern, robust and could scale to a city the sheer size of Birmingham,” said the authority’s service director of customers services, Chris Gibbs.

Having initially gone live on August 24, Gibbs said the launch had been low key in order to try and deal with any technical issues that may arise.  However, he said the new site has met with positive feedback and limited technical issues to date as part of a launch described by the authority as “overwhelmingly positive”.

As part of an ongoing development focus, the council said the next stage of its work would be focused on overhauling transactional services that would link with the site. 

Gibbs said that the authority was exploring options with suppliers about its transactional needs, with one key aim being trying to ensure a seamless integration with back office functions.

“End-to-end delivery is really important,” he added.

Among additional challenges facing the council, Birmingham is having to tackle a reported £37.5m hole in its budget at a time of increasing financial pressure on local authorities.

Birmingham City Council has also become part of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Despite joining the combined authority, Gibbs noted that Birmingham City Council was expected to retain its online identity by having a unique website for citizens.  The new website is not therefore expected to be impacted by the combined authority focus.

However, Gibbs said he expected the council’s ongoing efforts to review future transactional services would take into account the possibilities of a more cross-authority and government approach, particularly in areas such as open data and information sharing arrangements.

According to Buckley, Birmingham was already in the process of talking to other councils within the combined authority about digital transformation work and their online service needs in areas where more collaborative work may be useful, particularly around curbing duplication of work.

She said, “If one authority is moving ahead with developments in specific areas, why aren’t we therefore looking to use it? How can we do these things better together?”

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