Working in a digital council: Aylesbury Vale video

Aylesbury Vale District Council has been implementing an innovative and ambitious digital transformation journey to meet their changing and challenging customer needs in very different ways. But what does this mean for their workforce?

Maryvonne Hassall, the council’s Digital Strategy Lead, tells us about how they have been changing their leadership and employee models as part of a cultural shift to support this far-reaching transformation.


Workforce Change and Resilience

(Time: 00:00:00 – 00:00:03)

Maryvonne Hassall
IT Strategy Manager, Aylesbury vale District Council

We put customers at the heart of everything that we’re trying to do, so we’ve been looking at how to use new technologies that are coming onto the market to enhance the things that we do at work, so that we can actually deliver better services directly to our customers. It’s really important to know where you’re trying to get to, to make sure that all of the things that you’re delivering help you to get in that direction, so we’ve spent a lot of time understanding customers better, understanding what they want, to make sure that our strategy’s in line with that. 

So we’ve got a massive digitalisation project, we’re putting all of our services online so that people can directly transact themselves, rather than having to wait and contact us when it fits us. We’re operating a kind of three pronged approach, so we have an innovation strand running where we’re using some of the kind of cool technologies, we’ve got a transformation stream, which is about really challenging the processes that we’re doing and seeing if we can do them in a completely different way or whether we need to do them at all, and then we have a strand around replacing some of the legacy things that we have, the things that are holding us back and actually stopping us from making those steps forward. In terms of the piece across the top, the innovation piece, we’re doing things like using Alexa, which people have in their home already; we’ve written a skill on Alexa that enables people to engage with the council directly, so there are questions; how do I pay my council tax? When is my bin day? – The most common question we get asked.

(Alexa speaking: your next bin collection is for the waste bin and the food waste bin on Wednesday the 23 May)

And we have implemented artificial intelligence in our call centre, so we have an artificial intelligent agent that works alongside the real agent, the person. When you get a web chat in it reads the information in the web chat, works out what the answer is, puts that on the screen for the agent, the agent can then read it, work out whether it’s right or not and then press a button and send that back, if it’s right. We’re more recently building on that and actually starting to automate those processes, so where there’s over 90 per cent accuracy we can actually automate those, so the agent doesn't have to touch it at all. And what this means is we’re actually saving people’s time, so they’re able to deal with the web chats much quicker, they’re able to deal with emails much quicker, which frees up their time to deal with the more complex queries where you actually need a person to help somebody through the process. 

Actually having the right culture in your organisation, having the right set of skills, having the right staff who can engage with the process going forward is really important, so we’ve been through a very large culture change programme. We had a set of new behaviours, which were around very much customer centric, which is what we want to be, and commercially minded, very important to us, we put all our staff through an assessment process where they went for different levels within that and only if they got through that process could they then apply for the completely new set of jobs that were then also split out to split out management skills and technical roles, and they could then go through that process. What that’s enabled us to do is have a very engaged group of staff who are really up for change and moving things forward and that means that when we come to say now we’re going to introduce a bit of artificial intelligence, people want to do that, they want to engage with that, they want to be involved with that initiative and then to help learn and make that better. So the kind of skills part has come with that because then people have been able to make that journey and learn as part of going through that process and also to bring new ideas, so innovation is very key, they’re core to our culture behaviour set, and people bring ideas and that’s when it’s really powerful. 

For me it’s more of a kind of augmented intelligence, it’s more actually using the artificial intelligence to do the ground work, to do the 80 per cent of the task, and then the 20 per cent the human can do on top of that. The other thing is it’s actually going to change our roles, because the standard repetitive things we’ll be able to get the machines to do and then we can re-focus our energies on other things, on the more high value activities.       

(Time: 00:03:19 – 00:03:37)