• led by the Digital Experience Team at Renfrewshire Council

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Invitation to tender: Discovery for redesigning Renfrewshire Council’s digital experience estate

Renfrewshire Council is looking to partner with an experienced digital agency specialising in experience design, technology development and digital transformation to undertake the first phase of our Digital Experience programme and conduct discovery activities.

Outcomes of the Discovery phase

The aim of this phase is to produce a report with detailed recommendations that will seek to redesign our digital experience estate. These recommendations will include different timelines, resources, governance, support and processes to deliver a new web offering, starting with a new Renfrewshire.gov.uk.

The outcomes of our discovery phase are primarily to:

  • conduct research activities and deliver a prioritised list of detailed requirements, ideally in the form of user stories, service patterns and functional requirements, that can be used to inform recommendations and subsequent phases
  • identify suitable CMS/DXP platform(s) and supporting digital experience solutions such as automated digital comms, SEO tools, accessibility and compliance checker, and web monitoring systems
  • identify hosting environments adapted to recommended DXP/CMS platform(s) and supporting digital experience solutions
  • assess feasibility of integrating key internal systems (e.g., MyGovScotland authentication, CRM, ERP, GIS mapping system) to recommended DXP/CMS platform(s) and supporting digital experience solutions
  • draw up a robust and scalable technical infrastructure including integrations with existing internal systems and data/content feeds
  • review our resources and expertise, identify any gaps / barriers and create recommendations for the required skills, team structure, governance, support and processes (internal and external) to ensure delivery and maintenance of new web offering
  • execute cost analysis and identify investment required for each recommendation
  • design proofs of concept including user journeys and prototypes
  • develop delivery plans for all recommendations
  • identify potential risks and understand how we can mitigate them to an acceptable level
  • produce detailed report and potentially present findings and options to directors and the Digital Board to secure approval for the subsequent phases.

All outcomes will be delivered by both in-house resources and the chosen digital agency. Roles, responsibilities and milestones will be defined at the beginning of the work.

This phase includes Renfrewshire Council’s websites including Renfrewshire.gov.uk, intranet.renfrewshire.gov.uk, myaccount.renfrewshire.gov.uk, renfrewshire.hscp.scot and many other subsites that support the Council’s digital experience.

Supporting technologies and third-party systems such as our digital comms platform or web analytics tools will also be part of this work.

The review of our social media channels is out of scope.

Tender response instructions

Your proposal should include the following:

  • Details of relevant experience of proposed resources
  • Details of proposed approach to meeting all requirements
  • Activity and resource schedule with suggested timeline for delivering the work
  • Total cost on a Capped Time and Material
Check opportunity on the Digital Marketplace

About our Digital Experience programme

In the age of fake news and dependence on the internet, a trustworthy, reliable and transparent digital experience is a must-have and not a luxury for Renfrewshire Council. The Council has embarked upon an ambitious Digital Experience programme in 2019, with a vision to establish the foundations of a seamless, integrated, consistent, and personalised digital experience across all channels and devices.

Developed simultaneously with the Council’s Digital Strategy, the Digital Experience programme will support delivery of this strategy. It will transform our position as a Digital Council, ensuring a positive reputation and trust, complying with legal standards, increasing the uptake in self-service, maximising investments, making us ready and flexible to rapid changes and unexpected circumstances, improving our efficiency and reducing ongoing day to day support requirements.

You can read more about our digital experience vision and strategy on The Thread.

As part of the first year of the programme, we led an initial audit of our digital experience estate. It concluded that our ‘as-is’ estate is unable to support our programme and long-term ambition and it is the right time, and opportunity, to transform and future proof our estate.

Alongside that, the approaching end of our core Content Management System (CMS) contract means we must make a strategic decision on the future platform supporting our main websites.

Observations from our initial digital experience estate audit

We have listed the challenges we currently experience and seek to address, and have categorised them in three different areas:

  • Digital channels
  • Digital experience infrastructure
  • Core CMS

Digital channels

We provide information and online services to internal and external audiences for both transactional and non-transactional activities across over 25 websites and many other digital channels.

In 2019, Renfrewshire.gov.uk, intranet, online customer interface (MyAccount), and Paisley.is were visited by 2 million users. In 2020, traffic increased exponentially due to the pandemic, confirming that our public website is the go-to place to find out more about council services. We had more new visitors using the site compared 2019, and most visit using a mobile phone.

However, while our digital channels have become the place to find information and services, it is rarely a quick, accessible, and enjoyable experience. Through initial surveys and user testing performed before the pandemic, our stakeholders shared their frustration with our current digital offering and particularly our public website and intranet.

The most common expressed views say that:

  • it is generally difficult to find and access online information and services
  • our websites make it difficult to connect with the right person/service for help
  • our websites do not clearly say what the council can and can’t do
  • the messages on our websites are not person-focused, approachable and friendly
  • our websites lack personality and do not reflect what Renfrewshire represents.

Users also said that the council needed a better digital presence, with more digital information/services and highlighted that they expect content and communications to be easier to find and digest and the user journey more intuitive. Overall, people want the same quality of experience with us as they receive from the corporate sector.

The fragmentation of our digital channels is another reason why people are dissatisfied. We use 7 different types of digital channels:

  • websites
  • apps
  • digital communication mediums (e.g., emails, text message)
  • social media
  • digital advertising
  • digital signage
  • Microsoft 365 products (e.g., Yammer).

Although diversifying our channels is a good strategy to reach a larger audience, our digital experience estate is mostly underpinned by websites that are sending people back and forth, making the experience more disjointed and confusing. These websites work in silo and sometimes inadvertently compete against each other for the same audience and can carry contradictory information.

They also lack consistent application of content, design and technical standards, making them not well-structured, accessible, compliant with web regulations, and consistently recognisable as council sites/information.

You can read more on the challenges our users experience on the two following articles.

We’re one Council, we’re building one website

As home and flexible working becomes more commonplace, we’re building an open and reliable digital place where our colleagues can feel connected.

Read this article

Improving how Council staff access and use digital information

Does Renfrewshire Council need more than 40 websites to meet the needs of its internal and external users? This is the question we asked ourselves when developing our Digital Experience programme.

Read this article

Digital experience infrastructure 

Renfrewshire Council’s digital experience infrastructure has become decentralised over the years, as teams and departments have adopted systems in an ad hoc way. Departments with available budget, an appetite for digital transformation or a need to review their digital requirements for contractual or regulatory reasons, have grasped the opportunity to innovate. This often results in a much better experience for their client groups. Unfortunately, the technology is not accessible to other services, who then must seek their own solutions. This approach represents poor value for the organisation and duplication of resource.

Through mapping the technical architecture of the systems supporting our digital channels, we identified 14 Content Management Systems or similar solutions across the organisation that we know of. This duplication leads to a lot of technical debt and is unsustainable in terms of ongoing budgetary investment and management of these assets.

The fragmented and decentralised governance has also created the following issues:

  • The technology implemented isn’t always the best option available, scalable or accessible to other services.
  • It is difficult for other staff to lead the development of digital solutions without digital expertise. Technology vendors and suppliers have not been fully evaluated from a digital experience perspective, which can lead to requirements not being met and a risk of non-compliance.
  • Systems have duplicated functionality and there is a lack of clear instruction on what system to use when (e.g., we have multiple platforms that can create online forms and it is unclear for internal users which one to use for their needs)
  • There are no established organisational standards and principles or monitoring of their application across our channels. This can present a high risk of not meeting legal requirements from current and future web regulations.
  • Due to the lack of integrations or connections between digital channels and systems, it is hard to improve the user experience and gather data and gain user insights to fully assess digital user journeys.
  • It is difficult to identify channel owners and create solutions that are synchronised and effective across our digital offering.
  • The lack of collaboration between teams managing these systems limits the effectiveness and impact of change / transformation programmes.
  • Internal content publishers find the process to maintain information difficult and cumbersome. There is an over reliance on non-digital channels and managing digital channels and content is often considered as a secondary role by channel owners.
  • There is a lack of integration between online and offline content leading to duplication of effort.
  • The Total Cost of Ownership around the development and management of digital experience solutions is unknown.

Core CMS

A key driver for the Digital Experience programme is the end of the current core CMS contract in 2022 (with the option of a one-year extension renewable twice) and the limitations of this CMS as a longer-term solution for our digital needs.

The CMS, which is a closed-source and proprietary system, supports our biggest websites (Renfrewshire.gov.uk, intranet, and Health & Social Care Partnership website).

When reviewing the full capabilities of the system and its place within our digital experience estate, it became clear that the CMS was not flexible enough to design and deliver new and optimised digital services through a range of channels.

We’ve also identified some limitations with the CMS through a comprehensive review. The main limitations are as follows:

  • The technology vendor provides the CMS and licence for the system and acts as the only digital agency for the product. This framework impacts on the council’s ability to respond effectively and to offer best value.
  • The CMS is considered as a traditional CMS and does not offer ‘headless’ or ‘decoupled’ technology to deliver modular content and online services from one platform to a wide range of digital channels.
  • The platform offers limited features in key areas such as SEO and internal search functionality.
  • We do not have access to the source code of the CMS to develop and integrate new functionality without involving the current supplier.
  • We have limited access to the staging, development and test environments associated with our websites.
  • It is challenging to integrate the CMS with our existing ecosystem of IT solutions and datasets.
  • We use a set of web templates supplied by the vendor. These templates have not been built based on our users’ needs and organisational requirements. We have no ability to amend them without involving the supplier.
  • Our public website and intranet currently rely on 6 different page templates and few components.
  • Our content publishers find the CMS not user-friendly.

Strategic actions from our programme

Following the initial audit of our digital experience estate, we then identified strategic actions to address the challenges described above.

Overall, we want to make sure we can rely on a fully functioning digital experience estate that is easier and more efficient for residents and businesses to interact with the council, support our corporate priorities, enhance the council’s reputation and be more resilient.

These strategic actions, as outlined below, have been agreed by our Senior Management Team and Digital Board and they will be further defined during Phase 1 to ensure they work accordingly with the future recommendations.

Websites & other digital channels

Consolidate our digital channels to meet users’ needs better, starting with the development of a new Renfrewshire.gov.uk which will be the flagship and nerve-centre of our information and services.

Reduce the number of disparate websites and mobile apps that are part of the council estate:

Diversify our digital channels and touchpoints to support transactional and non-transactional services, for example, adding automated digital comms, mobile apps, chatbot, voice device technology, etc.

Technical architecture

Develop a coherent digital experience / technical infrastructure that reduces technical debt, duplication and unnecessary costs.

Implement a CMS/DXP platform that meets our requirements.

Implement additional technologies and third-party systems to further support and improve the user experience.

Develop integrations between digital experience technologies and internal systems and datasets when required.

Retire redundant and obsolete CMS platforms, supporting technologies and hosting environments.

Digital Experience quality control & services

Set up an effective governance that will support the development and maintenance of our future digital experience estate and protect its integrity.

Professionalise the Digital Experience services and provide them to council departments and partners.

Develop and apply content, design and technology standards and processes (e.g., guidelines, pattern libraries, policies).

Implement strict monitoring of performance, cyber security and legislative compliance.

Implement content governance model.

Develop clear risk management plan and Service Level Agreements with suppliers to guarantee uptime, security and compliance.

Centrally manage digital experience budget and procurement exercises.

Centrally manage relationship with all technology vendors and agencies.

Raise awareness of our Digital Experience services, processes and standards.

Key milestones of the programme

Please note these dates are currently indicative and will be refined during Phase 1.

We will aim to:

  • complete Phase 1 at the end of 2021 (calendar year)
  • launch a Beta version of Renfrewshire.gov.uk in 2022
  • launch the full version of Renfrewshire.gov.uk in 2023

Achievements to date

In the first year of our programme, we have created a Digital Experience (DXP) team which consists of Digital Experience Manager, 2 x Content Designers, and Content Design Assistant. The DXP team works closely with other departments and services including IT and Customer and Business Services.

We have launched a digital experience online hub, The Thread, to raise awareness about the important of digital experience at the Council, establish authority and governance, and engage with relevant stakeholders.

We have developed a content governance model and support policy.

We have developed content standards.

We have mapped the IA of Renfrewshire.gov.uk and intranet and are currently auditing the content.

We have begun engaging with our current web editors and contributors to prepare and support them for the changes to our digital experience.

Key benefits of a new web offering for our audiences

Providing a seamless digital experience

Our users, both internal and external, include:

  • Residents (170,000 residents – 85,000 households)
  • Businesses based in Renfrewshire (around 6,000) and/or doing business in Renfrewshire
  • Local communities (e.g., community group)
  • Renfrewshire Council staff (around 8,000 people)
  • Renfrewshire Council partners (e.g., Renfrewshire Leisure, Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership, etc.)
  • Elected members
  • Tourists, visitors, job hunters
  • Media and bloggers
  • Local authorities and government bodies.

These users are all seeking to find information or to transact with one our council’s services, including:

  • Apply for a nursery or school place
  • Apply for a council house
  • Apply for a liquor license
  • Express an interest in adoption or fostering
  • Find out about parking restrictions
  • Notify the council of a change in circumstance
  • Pay rent for a council house
  • Pay a parking fine
  • Register a birth
  • Report a road or lighting fault
  • Search for a planning application.

Below are some examples of our high-level user needs based on our assumptions. Once we progress the Discovery phase of the programme, we will be able to validate and broaden user needs.

As a resident of Renfrewshire, I want to be able to locate information effortlessly, so that I can complete my request quickly and easily.

As a business, we want to complete compulsory business transactions easily, so that we can carry on with day-to-day responsibilities as a business with no delay.

As a Council, we need to provide clear and concise information, so that our service users find information quickly and that is easy to understand.

As a Customer Service Advisor, I want to be able to find information about a specific council service quickly, so that I can help answer the query for the customer who has made contact.

As a Content Designer / Creator, I need a simple and intuitive interface, so that I can create and manage useful content.

As a Form Developer, I want to transfer customer information from and to our backend systems (e.g., CRM) and CMS/DXP platform, so that customer requests can be actioned quickly and accurately.

The user scenario outlined in this article shows our current digital experience compared to how our future digital experience could be – more seamless, integrated, diverse and personalised than our current digital channels. At present, our information and services are currently provided in isolation whereas our new experience will connect them together based on the user’s behaviour.

Providing an inclusive digital experience

Digital inclusion is about ensuring the benefits of the internet and digital technologies are available to everyone. It is known that digitally excluded people are often older and/or have low educational attainment. Excluded people can lack skills, confidence and motivation, along with having limited or no access to equipment and connectivity. This can create additional layers of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems.

The Digital Experience programme can play its part in digital inclusion. Embracing accessibility and usability in digital experience leads to multiple benefits – reducing legal risks, strengthening brand presence, improving customer experience and colleague productivity, and at certain times, providing the only way for people to interact with us.

And at certain times, providing the only way for people to interact with us, like during lockdown.

For example, reducing the number of websites and making Renfrewshire.gov.uk the nerve centre of our information and online services will allow us to build a new website that is inclusive and meets WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards. By following inclusive design standards, we will be able to design an easy-to-use and reliable web interface for people with disabilities. This interface will also benefit the wider community and build confidence of first-time users as much as digitally native people.

Also, diversifying our digital channels across web, mobile, wearables, conversational and immersive touchpoints will help our staff, customers and services users access our information and online services on the mediums they are the most comfortable with. These future channels will follow the same design and content principles used for the new website to build familiarity across our digital experience estate.

Supporting our staff

Our current digital experience estate does not deliver information and online services to staff at their point of need, on their preferred device using their preferred channel.

For instance, our colleagues find it hard to navigate between pages and websites and search for the information they are looking for. They also think essential information and functionality are missing.

The demand for real-time communication to our staff during the COVID-19 lockdown also accentuated the limitations of the current digital experience. At Renfrewshire Council, we struggle to reach the 50% of council workers who are not office based and do not have a council email address or council-owned device. To address this during the pandemic, we began publishing as much staff content as possible on the public website so that staff could access information on their personal devices. This would not have been possible had the content been published on the council’s existing intranet. To address this permanently, we will integrate staff information to our future website and retire our current intranet.

This solution will be part of a much bigger piece of work that will aim to develop a trustworthy, reliable and transparent digital experience for our workforce, to help them feel connected, particularly as home and flexible working becomes more commonplace.

Supporting local democracy

There is an opportunity to develop and adopt a wider suite of digital democracy options that are more accessible to the public and engage citizens in more meaningful ways, for example by:

  • developing new ways for citizens to find and get in touch with their local councillors
  • integrating more digital surveys to gauge public opinion
  • making council meetings more accessible for our citizens.

By using a wider range of channels to highlight council decision making points and making it easier for people to join the debate using the devices and digital tools with which they are most comfortable, the council can increase reach and participation.

Supporting Renfrewshire’s Economic Recovery

A new and enhanced website and digital experience, with easy to find, up to date accessible content will help the council’s work to support Renfrewshire’s economic recovery and the refreshed Economic Strategy following the coronavirus pandemic. This will play a key role in promoting the council’s employability support, promoting inward investment opportunities across the region and supporting our key sectors, including our events and tourism sector. A recent survey conducted by the council and supported by Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the desire for enhanced information and advice from the council to support businesses as they re-open and in some cases, reassess their business models. With the pandemic turbocharging the change in how people work, live and play, an effective digital presence is now critical to ensuring council support is more readily available and accessible to those studying or seeking work in Renfrewshire, those seeking to invest and businesses looking for support and advice.

Supporting crisis management and emergency preparedness

A new and enhanced website and digital experience could improve our rapid response to emergencies, unexpected circumstances, or unplanned events. Not just our COVID-19 response but other civil contingencies such as flooding, power outages, food supply chain issues or malicious acts to local infrastructure. For example, if there were an electrical blackout and people could only interact with us through social media or on their mobile phones.

Philippe Fara
Philippe is Digital Experience Manager at Renfrewshire Council.