New beginnings for tech at the council as we launch CDS

How multidisciplinary teams are making the council's digital delivery more agile and less prone to silo working.

On Wednesday, we held our first Croydon Digital Service (CDS) all team meeting and officially laid the name “ICT” to rest. I may mention ICT again in this blog, but it will be the last time I ever do. Somehow, attending this meeting felt different in that we were all actually looking forward to what Neil, Dave and Annie had to say and how our digital team is going to work going forward.

The first half of the day focused on “why CDS really matters”, “what our objectives were for the day”, “the vision for the future” & “how will we get there”.

Our Chief Digital Officer, Neil Williams welcomed us all to the Croydon Digital Service and then presented how we as CDS needed to establish ourselves differently to the old ICT team, so that we could meet the needs we have for change. He stated that as CDS we are in transition to become our new service and focusing on areas of our strategic offer, governance & capability is key to our success. One of the things Neil reiterated was around meeting the needs of the user. We think we know what the user wants, but all too often we end up implementing something that doesn’t meet their needs. Therefore, we need to ensure we always ask ourselves the question “What does the user actually need?”. To do this we need to ensure we do user research to fully understand the user’s requirements. Then and only then can we start to deliver exactly what is needed, rather than what we think is needed.

The second half of the day focused on “multi-disciplinary teams”, an agile working exercise & “designing our culture”.

Our Digital Design Manager, Annie Heath presented on how we are going to start working in multi-disciplinary teams, where we have members from each area of the team working together and making decisions as we go along thus reducing delays and in our delivery, making us more agile. In our groups we each wrote down what the problems / challenges of our existing ways of working are, what were the opportunities and benefits of a multi-disciplinary team and finally what concerns and questions we had about working in this way going forward.

The next topic was an Agile working exercise, facilitated by our Change Delivery Manager Atika, where we were given a task of building a house with Lego (it’s fair to say the inner child in everyone came out) for a customer. However, we needed to build it in two different ways. One using waterfall methodology and the other using agile. Whilst this was a fun exercise it was also very thought provoking and allowed us to realise that working in an agile way allows us to be more flexible to speedily facilitate change as we work.

We finished the day with our Head of Digital Operations, Dave Briggs discussing our culture & the need to agree on a set of principles, slogans etc. that describe and guide us on the things we hold dear as a service. ​ A lot of good suggestions were put forward and once we have agreed these, we will share via this blog. However, a few stuck in the mind which may not make the cut:

“A user is for life, not just for Christmas” and “If you have any questions, just ask Jon” (we have a lot of Jons in the team).

So what was the key learning from today?

  • Always ask yourself “What is the user need?”
  • User research is a must. Without it, how do you know what they need?
  • Multi-disciplinary teams will make us more agile and less prone to silo working.
  • Whilst waterfall methodology works in some instances, agile methodology allows us to be more flexible to speedily facilitate change.

May the name ICT forever rest in peace and welcome to the new era of Croydon Digital Services!


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