In May 2019, our first digital strategy was approved. It laid down the digital ambition of the Council and highlighted digital transformation would only happen if we had the collective vision, culture and commitment to see it through. Little did we realise COVID-19 would fast-track our thinking. Now, as we start to look to the future, our follow-up strategy takes into account what we have learnt during the crisis and lays down how we can digitally enhance services to better meet the needs of our communities in a post-pandemic world.

One thing is certain, COVID-19 has cemented the importance of digital tools. During lockdown many of our services were only able to support communities because they were available online, and a significant proportion of our employees were only able to work because they've been digitally enabled to.

Our drive to be an ambitious digital council was accelerated by the pandemic. We cannot afford to lose the momentum we’ve built up, nor can we look back, because our digital transformation is no longer an option but a necessity.

Demand for flexible, responsive and accessible digital services is only going to increase as the long-term effects of COVID-19 begin to be felt. That is why the innovative thinking, collaborative working and quick decision-making that helped us through lockdown need to continue as we look to radically redesign how we operate and deliver services moving forward.

By using technology to improve our offering, engage more effectively with our communities, and reduce operational costs at a time when our budgets are under severe pressure, Digital Falkirk highlights how we can successfully transform as we step into an uncertain future.

Our Digital Priorities

Our digital ambitions focus on six priority areas:

    Digitally enhancing these priority areas will help:

    • Citizens to easily access information and services, engage with the Council, and do things for themselves at a time most convenient to them.
    • Us become more efficient, responsive and consistent.
    • Savings be realised through more efficient processes, moving face-to-face and phone interactions online.
    • Review and streamline bureaucratic processes that underpin services.
    • Services be designed around citizens, based on evidence and data.
    • Our workforce work mobile and flexibly - and we will have fewer buildings.
    • Improve access to our data which will empower our communities.

    Digital Leadership and Skills

    To truly become a digital council, we need to use data and collaborative tools to make decisions quickly. We must also ensure our leaders and the wider workforce have the skills needed to make that happen.

    To do that, we will help leaders and employees develop new skillsets and create new roles across the organisation that are digitally focused. We will also ensure new ways of working take root by changing our culture.

    Work is already underway to realise these ambitions, with lockdown highlighting the benefits working in a different way can bring to many employees. But we need everyone to be onboard, and our network of digital champions has a significant role to play in this.

    Using their enthusiasm and motivation to help others, our digital champions will share their expertise and help embed digital skills – and we aim to develop and expand this network to reach all areas of the Council.

    Our digital champions will also pilot new council systems and provide informal help, support and encouragement to colleagues, as well as share best practice.

    Our elected members and senior leaders will continue to embrace digital democracy and digital interactions, increasing transparency and complimenting traditional communication channels.

    Ambitions

    • We will find new ways to deliver services to our communities and address the issues that are important to them - digital will help us achieve this
    • Our people, citizens, employees and leaders will have the skills to embrace and drive a digital culture
    • Our council will have the capacity and capability to deliver digital transformation
    • Elected members will champion our ambitions and embrace digital opportunities e.g. webcasting committee meetings and using online surgeries
    • Support for our digital ambitions will be embedded in our Services, which will understand and use data to drive service redesign and improvement
    • We will develop a flexible skills programme for our employees to meet our emerging needs

    Projects supporting Digital Leadership and Skills

    • Anytime, Anywhere
    • Delivering Modern and Digital Services

    Digital Health and Care

    Making better use of technology to support the delivery of health and social care services is a strategic priority of Falkirk Council and the Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership. Service transformation and digital technology has the potential to reshape and improve services, support person centred care and improve outcomes.

    Technology Enabled Care and Telehealth are important areas of development. These incorporate the range of equipment, devices and infrastructure used to enhance service provision. This includes mobile devices to enable people to access clinical and non-clinical support remotely.

    Emerging technologies such as virtual assistants can offer day-to-day help for people in their homes. These can provide help such as reminders to take medication and automation of heating and lighting. There are also a range of specialist devices such as GPS trackers, movement sensors, sleep trackers and alarms that can alert caregivers to anything out of the ordinary. These can help people to remain at home safely and live independent lives.

    Ambitions

    • We will migrate 100% of our telecare service users to digital technology in advance of the switch-off of the analogue network, providing a digital telecare service that helps people to live independent lives
    • We will implement a fully integrated social care management system
    • We will expand our use of technology in Care at Home to automate monitoring, scheduling and financial management
    • We will use digital tools to enable people to engage with health and care professionals such as video calls and conferencing for consultations and assessments

    Projects supporting Digital Health and Care

    • Analogue to Digital
    • Rock Solid Technology (SWIS Replacement)

    Digital Learning and Teaching

    We are committed to enhancing learning and teaching using digital technology, in line with the national strategy for Scotland. Our ambitious Connected Falkirk programme will transform teaching and learning for the benefit of all teachers, children and young people. Learning experiences will be redefined to use the power of technology to reach every learner, with greater engagement and better outcomes.

    We have an urgency to ensure that all our young people are equipped with a level of general and specialist digital skills that they will need to thrive in an increasingly digital world. Deeper learning experiences will be enabled by using digital tools to help young people capture, analyse, draft, review, collaborate, create and reflect on their work. We will nurture our young people's ability and confidence to excel both online and offline.

    We are also developing new ways for parents and carers to engage with schools using digital technology, ensuring easy access to things important to them and their child’s learning experience.

    Ambitions

    • We will provide personal mobile learning devices to pupils to support learning
    • We will continue to develop digital channels to engage with parents and carers to implement online parental feedback at every school
    • We will use appropriate digital tools to support pupils with Additional Support Needs and English as an Additional Language
    • We will improve digital connectivity to schools including robust Wi-Fi at every school
    • We will ensure schools have the right digital technology including audio visual equipment to help them deliver high quality learning and teaching
    • Support digital inclusion by seeking to improve the percentage of families in the Falkirk area with access to reliable connectivity

    Projects supporting Digital Learning & Teaching

    • Succeed Today
    • Excel Tomorrow (Connected Falkirk)

    Digital Place

    Digital technology plays a key role in helping us become a sustainable, smarter, greener, and more resilient and inclusive place - 'a dynamic and distinctive area at the heart of Central Scotland'. Our Investment Zone and Enabled Communities initiatives will deliver transformational change and inclusive growth, creating great places to live, learn and work. They will also leverage emerging technologies, such as carbon capture, to meet the challenges of the future.

    We will make our placed-based data open and accessible to encourage civic innovation by allowing communities and other organisations to use our data for the development of smart solutions.

    We will explore the possibility of building a public service network to enhance our area including public space Wi-Fi, smart sensors and digital CCTV. We are investing in a central digital alarms hub to make the most of new technology to improve resilience and public safety.

    Ensuring digital inclusion for all is a key priority. To do this we will expand our provision of free high-speed connectivity and digital support at public buildings, schools, care homes and other locations.

    Ambitions

    • Widen access to digital services and tackle digital exclusion
    • Implement a digital hub for community alarms, CCTV and to expand the co-ordination of services
    • Make more data available to our communities
    • Explore smart sensors such as smart pavements, smart parking, smart benches, digital signage, intelligent street lighting and interactive experiences
    • Establish Centres for Excellence and Innovation through our Investment Zone initiative that will operate as 'shared knowledge’ resources supporting research and development, incubators, ‘proof of concept’ and commercialisation of new technology
    • Encourage digital engagement and participation to help bring communities closer to decision making, including online participatory budgeting

    Projects supporting Digital Place

    • Investing for Inclusive Growth
    • CCTV
    • Closer to Communities
    • Digital Communities

    Digital Council

    We must have a consistent approach to service design and ensure the services we provide meet the needs of our citizens. To do this we must radically rethink our services, moving away from a traditional model based on buildings.

    My Falkirk already provides online access to over 80 council services, fully integrated into back office systems. We will continue to build and develop the platform until 100% of services that can be delivered online are.

    Our online services give our customers a more cohesive engagement experience, provide us with the data we need to make better and more informed decisions, and improve the speed and quality of services. Digital services are also a fundamental part of our Advice Hub model, allowing us to focus our face-to-face services where they add most value.

    Ambitions

    • We will identify and remove barriers that prevent people from using our digital services, and establish digital as our primary service delivery channel
    • We will support digital inclusion by providing digital support for those who need it
    • We will take a consistent approach to redesigning services by using the Scottish approach to service design and the national Service Design Standards
    • We will use our analytics platform that provides real-time reporting of uptake and usage of digital services to inform service delivery and service transformation.

    Digital Workplace - Anytime Anywhere

    Our Anytime Anywhere project aims to change the culture of the Council and ensure employees have the skills, technology and space to work in flexible, smart and efficient ways. We will provide the right tools and equipment to support and empower our employees to reach their full potential.

    Our employees will work seamlessly across different locations at times that suit them and the customer. Flexible working from any location, including working from home, is now the default for all desk-based tasks.

    Our internal processes will be digital by default - this will be enabled by underlying technologies such as Falkirk Cloud and Microsoft 365. Our flexible digital workplace will enable a change in culture to focus on outputs rather than micro-management of presence.

    Ambitions

    • We will complete the rollout of flexible working to all employees – enabling Anytime Anywhere working for 100% of our desk-based workforce
    • We will review our internal processes to automate where possible
    • We will eliminate paper from all internal processes, improving efficiency, reducing cost and supporting our climate change commitments
    • We will introduce technology to help us manage our data, information and records more consistently and effectively

    Projects supporting Digital Council

    • Anytime Anywhere
    • Delivering Modern and Digital Services
    • Next Generation Contact Centre
    • Digital Communities

    Digital Foundations

    We will use cloud services when appropriate to enhance our network capabilities.

    The cloud will allow us to seamlessly scale up, or down our computing needs in a secure way, gaining flexibility while retaining the option to manage business-critical systems and data in our data centre, where appropriate.

    Using the cloud in some situations is more cost effective and provides us the opportunity to scale computing resources to business demands and needs.

    Ambitions

    • Taking in to account the various advantages of public and private cloud, we will determine the best configuration and location for each application, cutting costs by matching the task with the resource best suited to it
    • When migrating our core applications to the cloud we will ensure that new applications can integrate with the rest of our IT architecture
    • Modern workflows will be designed and implemented to reduce duplication of effort as we rationalise our application data

    Cyber Security

    Ensuring that the Council infrastructure is secure and resilient.

    Our robust approach to Cyber Security ensures continuity of our services is maintained to protect our network and the data we hold in our systems. The cyber security challenges we face are increasing and ever changing.

    The introduction of an information risk management framework will help to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place for scrutiny of cyber security risk. 

    Ambitions

    • Ensure that vendors meet or exceed the security requirements mandated by the National Cyber Security Centre and can provide us with evidence of their compliance
    • Achieve the enhanced Cyber Essentials Plus security accreditation
    • Review and ensure we have a single device management system that will allow us to better manage all our devices
    • Implement actions to respond to Scottish Government’s Public Sector Action Plan Cyber Resilience Framework

    End User Computing

    Seamless access to council applications from any device.

    The Council has invested in mobile and flexible technology. This has allowed officers to access their desktops, tablets or laptops remotely to enable Anytime Anywhere working.

    We will develop sustainable solutions that enable council employees to access their systems seamlessly, quickly and securely from multiple devices, including provision for ‘bring your own device’. This will be a key enabler for rationalising our property portfolio as working from home becomes the default for our desk-based employees and "home to work" becomes the default for our front-line employees.

    Ambitions

    • We will deploy laptop devices to all office workers on a one-to-one basis, removing the need for desktops and thin-client-desktops
    • We will review our approach to end user computing - this will take into account advances in cloud services such as Microsoft 365

    Collaboration and Unified Communications

    Integrated forms of communication to support the work we do.

    Our investment in Microsoft 365 will allow us to transform the way we collaborate and communicate. Using these applications will allow us to increase productivity by making all conversations, chats, meetings, shared files and tasks available through a single interface. This will help us develop a more open, transparent and collaborative culture.

    Ambitions

    • We will ensure that we consolidate our communication channels so that they are integrated and unified in a single software platform and available from multiple devices
    • Our integrated platform will include VOIP telephony (desk phones), mobile telephony, voicemail, instant messaging, email, calendar, file collaboration, and video calling/conferencing

    Data Analytics

    Developing a cross council single solution for our data and information.

    We will procure and implement a standardised, data analysis solution across the Council. New skills will be developed to unlock service data and business intelligence. The solution will allow self-serve reporting, giving our disparate services the ability to define measures of success relevant to them. Hundreds of different data sources will be brought together in a meaningful way through visual and real time dashboards and reports.

    The solution will allow us to be more transparent and open, enabling community empowerment and help us identify opportunities for early intervention and prevention.

    Ambitions

    • We will develop a data warehouse to pull together service and customer data from different sources
    • We will procure and implement a Business Intelligence platform to enable meaningful data analysis across the council
    • We will explore opportunities to proactively publish open datasets and to use this to empower communities
    • We will investigate opportunities for commercialisation of our service data

    One Council procurement for IT

    Centralised IT budgets will ensure that all technology procurement supports the principles of the Digital Strategy.

    We plan to centralise all technology spend across the Council to ensure we have a joined-up approach and benefit from economies of scale. We will consolidate our systems around a smaller number of core platforms. Integration to our systems will be a key consideration for all software procurement where required.

    We will continue to procure software systems rather than develop bespoke solutions in-house. In the very limited circumstances where we cannot, our first preference will be to develop these in our existing core platforms such as Microsoft 365 and My Falkirk.

    Ambitions

    • We will centralise all technology spend through single budgets for both revenue and capital spending
    • We will maximise the use of our core platforms such as Microsoft 365 and My Falkirk
    • We will review our systems architecture and procure systems which have cross council benefits and are not unique to one service area unless there is a specialist need for service delivery

    Automation

    Improving services through process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

    As we continue to design our internal processes to be as efficient and simple as possible, we will explore the possibilities of using automation and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies can assist in reducing the time employees spend performing manual repetitive tasks. This can help to simplify our workflow, eliminate data entry errors, and allow employees to focus on high value tasks.

    We will also explore the possibility of using automation when providing direct services to customers. This may include the use of chat bots and virtual assistants to not only provide a speedy response to customers, but allow them to interact with the Council across a range of platforms including social media. This will also help improve service delivery for our customers, making processes less bureaucratic.

    Ambitions

    • Implement robotic process automation for back office processes where appropriate
    • Implement an ambitious plan for the introduction of AI technology across our customer service interactions

    Sustainability – Green Technology

    Our commitment to sustainable technology.

    The Council is committed to sustainable technology using it to reduce energy use, carbon emissions and the amount of waste generated. We implement virtualisation of servers where possible to promote better value, save energy and reduce heat output.

    Hardware is disposed of responsibly and recycled where possible. Mobile and flexible working and service delivery reduces the environmental impact of transport and the Council’s property estate through reduction and improvement of buildings.

    Ambitions

    • Ensure that greater significance is placed on choosing energy saving devices when picking new equipment
    • Choose cloud-based solutions where appropriate and when they demonstrate best practice in sustainability to increase reliability and resilience of digital resources
    • Choose products that are designed to be easily repaired and set minimum requirements for product longevity
    • Facilitate, support and promote mobile and flexible working to reduce our carbon footprint
    • Promote electronic records keeping to minimise unnecessary printing
    • Investigate the potential to use green labelled data centres

    Digital Communities

    Ensuring our communities are digitally connected.

    Inclusive connectivity is at the heart of our Digital Falkirk plan. Access to the internet has never been more important for staying connected to friends, family, learning, work and accessing vital council services. That is why we will ensure that no one is left behind or digitally excluded.

    We will be ambitious in seeking investment in our underlying infrastructure to ensure availability of ultrafast broadband, including in "hard to reach" rural areas. For those who are vulnerable and financially precluded from getting online, we will explore means of direct provision of connectivity.

    Working with our community partners, we will provide digital skills support and training to those who need help in accessing digital services. By taking these measures we can ensure that digital connectivity and digital services are inclusive and available to all in the Falkirk Council area.

    Ambitions

    • Ensure that all homes and businesses in the Falkirk Council area have access to ultrafast broadband
    • Maximise opportunities for consolidation and improvement of our corporate network to ensure that we have robust and resilient connectivity that meets our needs
    • Provide digital skills support to communities where it is needed
    • Identify and pursue sources of funding for direct provision of connectivity to those who otherwise may be financially excluded
    • Ensure our services are accessible online and that support is available to those who require it

    Projects supporting Rock Solid Technology

    • Rock Solid Technology
    • Digital Communities
    • Automation
    • Integrated Resource Management System