#DPSX Jan 2016 meet up – Drupal Distribution for local government

DPSX-jan-2016 Our January meet up was in the making since the #DPSX BoF at DrupalCon Barcelona in September 2015, the sign up for the 13th Jan event was great but logistical challenges mid December left quite a few folks confused. In retrospect the meet up needs a permanent abode, if you’d like to host the next meet up please get in touch.

Despite that the turn out was good, we had 11 from a possible 29 and one late arrival found the venue doors locked! apologies Chris, have expressed much annoyance with the venue management.

We had Greater London Authority, Crawley borough council and Lambeth Council representing the public sector along with folks from the Drupal community.

The theme for the evening was ‘A Drupal Distribution for Local Councils’ though discussions as always went beyond the theme, other subjects that made for a lively discussion included Agile colocation, G-cloud for local government procurement, user lead design and next steps to making a local gov distribution happen!

A Drupal Distribution for local councils in the UK

Obvious place to start the conversation was GovCMS, as it turned out Andy from Lambeth had a look but did not go with it, likewise the general consensus was there is too much there for a local council and by the time you’re done stripping stuff out and adding to it you’d have forked it significantly! and of course there is the ’not invented here’ factor too. GLA tried Panopoly with one supplier only to have the next one rip it out, which turned out to be the right decision for GLA.
General reluctance towards distributions; few found them to be cumbersome and perhaps best suited for proof of concepts and demos but not the real thing. Consensus was getting to a distribution for local councils in the UK ought to start by utilising a local council’s existing platform as the base, the requirements are likely to follow the 80/20 rule – 80% common across and 20% custom, with the custom requirements most likely to be integrations with back end systems. Questions raised included which council’s platform would be the base? this would require a discovery, setting out a minimum viable product (MVP) criteria, an evaluation criteria, getting buy-in to the concept, evaluating contenders etc.. the other key aspect to consider for a local council distribution is keeping it minimal! if overloaded with features it will fall by the wayside as cumbersome.

The discussion went on to how could we make it happen? Chandeep is certain there is an initiative in the making (shall reach out to the local community to explore further) and if you happen to be involved in it please reach out to the #DPSX community here. A to do for me is to reach out to Ben Goward from Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham councils and explore their initiatives on shared digital platform and services. For the next meet up it would be invaluable to get a few more councils represented, explore if there is an initiative on a local gov/council specific distribution and to put in a process to capture the minimum viable product (MVP) criteria. Shall update everyone with a followup post as and when I have news either way.

For this post I will pick one more topic from our meet up to keep it brief, that being User lead design at local councils and making the most of the Government Digital Services’s (GDS) user testing lab and services. Agile co-location and G-cloud shall share in separate posts. 

User testing and GDSs research lab

Graham informed the group that GLA placed a great deal of emphasis on ensuring the solution followed user lead design principles and practises, and for that the GLA called on the Government Digital Services’s (GDS) user testing lab and services, GLA accessed the GDS testing lab and had the benefit of working with the GDS’s design team. This is a huge takeaway for all local Gov representatives reading this post, for local council product owners it would be hugely beneficial to enquire that sort of access and service costs, or reach out to the GLA to share the learnings. I’d like to point out to an earlier post on better understanding your jury (your users), and if you’d like to learn more about persona driven user journeys then you’d benefit from the following resources:

This is relevant to our conversation on distributions too, for most if not all distributions appear to me as engineering lead, whereas they ought to be user-need / problem-solution driven. If approached from the problem-solution view I have no doubt we would have leaner, more focused distributions that address vertically focused user needs which in turn would mean increased uptake, lower cost of ownership and quicker release cycles. A valuable exercise to under take would be to develop a empathy map for local councils to identify their digital behaviour as an organisation, I sense a #DPSX workshop evening in the making!

The resolution for 2016 is to hold more frequent DPSX meet ups and with that in mind I’ve set up a meetup.com group which ought to make it easier to coordinate and grow the community, you can sign up and keep track of our meet ups here. The next meet up is planned to coincide with Drupal Camp London, we’ll be holding a BoF at Drupal Camp London (4-6th March 2016) (details to be confirmed).

Lastly I’d like to thank our sponsors Acquia and FFW for their support with the venue and refreshments for the evening.

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