The framework we’ve used to help 30+ councils create minimum viable services.

What is a Minimum Viable Service (MVS)?

Let’s dive right into what a Minimum Viable Service (MVS) is & why this concept is important for modern public services.

So, a MVS is built with only the core functionality required to be viable.

The idea is simple.

You build a stripped-back iteration of a service. Then, you use it to collect operational data & user feedback so that informed decisions can be made on:

  1. How effective it is
  2. If it should be enhanced &
  3. Where it should be enhanced

Importantly, this enables service designers to create experience-led services without over-engineering.

Minimum Viable Services (MVS) & Minimum Viable Products (MVP) are widely used across the private sector due to the associated cost, efficiency & user experience benefits.

However, in light of recent budget cuts, growing demand & the expectations of modern citizens — it’s clear how Minimum Viable Services can also deliver value for public sector organisations.

Especially considering the high time, cost & resource outlay associated with designing & building a digital service all at once.

MVS for news

So, why are Minimum Viable Services so important for the modern public sector?

90% of local authorities face budget gaps for 23/24, totalling around £3.2 billion.

This means that councils must find new ways to meet the expectations of modern citizens whilst also reducing the cost to serve.

This is no mean feat.

Especially given that a decade’s worth of technology & lifestyle changes has transformed citizen expectations.

In fact, 85% of residents now expect public services to be on par with private sector experiences (Accenture, 2022).

So, the bad news is that councils have to do more with less.

But, the good news is that by applying the Minimum Viable Service concept, councils can create citizen-centric services faster & cheaper.

Let us explain.

In short, by rolling out a minimum viable service, you’ll benefit from the following:

  1. Lower development costs: a MVS requires less time & resources to develop
  2. Faster time to value: Services get digitised faster, allowing you to generate savings quickly
  3. No over-engineering: Make more informed decisions about which features to add/remove
  4. Citizen-centric services: Better understand user needs & tailor services to improve citizen experience
  5. Reduced risk: Test uptake before investing time & resources into building a full-featured version
  6. Reduced complexity: Minimum Viable Services keep solutions simple for citizens & staff
  7. Improved focus: Minimum Viable Services focus on the most critical features for citizens. This means they are tailored to citizen needs & can lead to a better user experience.

So, now that we’ve discussed the benefits that Minimum Viable Services offer the public sector, let’s look at the 3-step framework you can use to create them.

The NSR Framework.

NSR Newsletter

The NSR Framework is a simple 3-step tool that you can apply to any council-ran booking service & we use it to:

Here’s how it works.

Stage 1: Nothing.

In the beginning, we have no concrete requirements.

So, this process starts with us working with our community to identify a common challenge.

This could be anything from the need to reduce queuing at a Household Waste Recycling Centre to the need to improve access to services like:

Interestingly, one thing we see time & time again is that councils are facing very similar challenges.

Now, we understand that each council is unique.

So, of course, there will be some differences in service requirements — and we’ll address these differences in stage two of this framework.

However, from our experience working with 30+ councils across 175 service areas — the core functionality councils require from their bookable services is (for the most part) the same.

This presents a HUGE opportunity for more collaboration.

That’s why once we’ve identified a common challenge, we’ll work with our community & analyse data from over 15 million citizen interactions to create a standardised set of service requirements.

Once we have these requirements, we build the first iteration of a low-cost, high-power, Minimum Viable Booking Service.

Stage 2: Something.

At this stage, we build & roll out the first version of the Minimum Viable Booking Service.

We do this for two reasons:

This part of the process is crucial.

Because as we mentioned before, each council is different.

With this in mind, this stage is all about pushing the solution to live & using it to collect data at the council level so that we can create services that work for their citizens & staff.

Stage 3: Refined.

The operational data collected at stage two is then analysed so that the correct decisions can be made on:

Importantly, this enables councils to focus on developing functionality that users actually need

By doing this, they’re able to create experience-led services without over-engineering.

So, if the data shows that additional functionality is needed, we’ll add it at this stage, push the solution to live, start collecting data & then repeat the refinement process.

This continual back-and-forth dataflow between the something & refined stage ensures that booking services evolve based on user needs.

Learn more:

This was a super quick intro into how we use Minimum Viable Services to help our council community create citizen-centric booking services faster & cheaper.

So, if you’d like to dive into this in more detail & get access to a free pilot of Minimum Viable Booking Service to test this framework out for yourself, click here.

Reflecting on a fantastic Local Gov Camp London


We attended LocalGovCamp London earlier this month.

This event (like others of its kind) is a fantastic opportunity to learn & share ideas with changemakers across the public sector.

Interestingly, a reoccurring theme throughout the day was a strong desire (& need) for more knowledge-sharing across local government.

With this in mind, we wanted to share some of the main topics covered across the various workshops, unconferences & collaborative brainstorming sessions, including:

  1. Channel shift 2.0 & leveraging self-service technology
  2. Designing effective minimum viable services for local gov
  3. The local gov as a platform approach
  4. Gov 4.0 through automation
  5. Process improvement as a foundation of transformation
  6. Improving the citizen experience through service design
  7. Culture change &
  8. Reducing reliance on legacy tech that is no longer fit-for-purpose

So, without further ado — let's dive into this in more detail & take a look at what we covered.

Workshop sessions (AM)

First up, Chad Duggan ran an interactive workshop on how to design effective Minimum Viable Services (MVS) for local gov.

The sessions began with a roundtable discussion on if/why MVS are important for councils.

Interestingly, all attendees agreed that the MVS design thinking is an invaluable tool for local government if applied correctly.

Here’s why:

  1. Lower associated costs
  2. Faster time to value
  3. Reduces over-engineering
  4. Ensures a citizen-centric focus
  5. Reduces risk
  6. Reduces complexity

After this discussion, attendees worked in teams to validate & prioritise requirements for a real-life Minimum Viable Family Hubs Service.

Using our 3-step framework, Team 1 reduced 16 requirements down to 8.

Meanwhile, Team 2 settled on 7 essential requirements.

This shows that we can build effective, ‘stripped back’ digital services, even with reduced budgets, time pressures & skill shortages — especially if we adopt the private sector service design methodology of learn, build, rollout, learn, refine & repeat.

If you’d like to learn more about the framework we use to validate these requirements, click here.

We'll also publish the consolidated list of service requirements from both LocalGovCamp North East & LocalGovCamp London over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more.

Next up, Neil Lawrence & Gavin Beckett ran an interesting session on creating good council-supplier relationships.

In this workshop, attendees drew out what councils need from a digital supplier & behaviour's they'd like to discourage.

As part of this, participants were encouraged to share their experiences to devise publicly available standards that will:

  1. Help suppliers understand how councils need them to behave &
  2. Help local gov understand what changes in supplier management practices could help them get the kind of suppliers they want

Placecube will publish these standards in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for them.

Ben Proctor then ran a session on how to use data action stories to inform your organisation's data needs.

In this session, Ben shared a conceptual framework known as Data Action Stories & gave participants some great tips on what makes a good data story.

In short, Data Action Stories are very similar to the User Stories concept applied in service design methodology. These Data Action Stories are used to decipher what data analysis/visualisation your council needs to move the needle & easily communicate these needs to data specialists.

After that, Nic Streatfield ran an eye-opening session on quantifying the impact of failure demand.

Nic shared that as much as 80 or 90 per cent of customer contact with councils may be avoidable.

Participants then discussed a model that attempts to quantify what failure demand will likely cost each individual council.

You can view the slides used in this session here.

The rest of the morning was filled with thought-provoking sessions on:

Unconference sessions (PM)

And last but not least, here are some of the topics we discussed in the unconference sessions pitched by your local gov colleagues:

Note: we’ll share more on this in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more in-depth session outputs & unconference learnings.

Community News - June 23


In this section, we’ll share the latest updates from the bookinglab local gov community.

The goal here is to inform you of any product updates or community-led initiatives & help you connect with councils tackling common challenges.

The top five news stories from June include:

  1. Our new product suite
  2. The launch of West Sussex County Council's HAF Booking Service
  3. The Launch of Essex County Council's Short Breaks Booking Service
  4. We’re offering free consultation workshops
  5. We’ve launched a free trial environment

Our New Product Suite.

Over the past 18 months, we've worked with our local gov community to co-produce off-the-shelf products for several key service areas, including:

These products are all categorised into Gold, Silver & Bronze tiers depending on several variables, including:

Screenshot 217 1

And why have we decided to productise?

This was just a super quick introduction. We'll post more on this over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more - click here

West Sussex County Council’s HAF Booking Service Goes Live.

Over the last two months, we've worked with West Sussex County Council to co-produce a digital booking service to improve the delivery of their HAF Programme.

In the short time the platform has been live, we've seen some fantastic results, including:

Other notable benefits include:

With this in mind, we'd like to say a huge well done to everyone involved in the project for developing a great digital product.

Note: these are only a few of the associated staff benefits.

So, If you’d like to connect with a contact at WSCC to ask questions/share ideas, or learn more about our HAF Booking Service — click here.

Essex County Council’s Short Breaks Service Goes Live.

We’ve also worked closely with Essex County Council to co-produce a booking product that simplifies the day-to-day management of council-provided short breaks by:

What’s more, resident uptake & support for this project has been fantastic, with over 10,000 page hits within the first hour of go-live.

If you’d like to connect with a contact at ECC to ask questions/share ideas, or learn more about our Short Breaks Booking Service — click here.

We’re running free consultation workshops.

After seeing the support from LocalGovCamp attendees for a more collaborative approach to tackling common challenges, we're running a series of online workshops to share learnings from our community of 30+ councils & help you tackle your self-service projects. 

In these sessions, we will:

We'll also provide you with a free pilot of a Minimum Viable Service Booking Service so you can start implementing the changes we discuss.

These consultations are obligation-free, and you can register your interest here.

Our New Trial Environment Is Up & Running.

We’ve launched a brand-new trial environment to allow you to test our range of Minimum Viable Booking Services.

These free trial solutions are only available for specific use cases & are designed so that you can see the value of our system first-hand without any obligation.

To find out more about which use cases are available as a free trial, please click here.

For existing customers, please feel free to contact your bookinglab account manager:

Industry News - June 23


Here, we’ll share the latest updates from across local gov to keep you updated with what’s going on in the sector.

GDS Publishes A New Digital Strategy For GOV.UK.

With the aim of extending the platform’s reach, making it more proactive & meeting user expectations, the Government Digital Service (GDS) has mapped out nine critical workstreams to focus on during the lead up to 2025.

These include:

To learn more about the strategy, click here.

The Cabinet Office launches new Find a Grant digital service.

The Cabinet Office has launched a digital service for organisations to apply for government grants.

The Find a Grant service is expected to save up to £270 million over the next two years through efficiencies and fraud prevention.

You can learn more about the service here.

Roundtable Discussion: Meeting Residents' Expectations of Digital Services.

A group of senior council officers met for a roundtable discussion to examine the effectiveness of council-provided digital services.

Discussion points included:

You can read the full summary here.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Extend G-Cloud 13 By A Further 12 Months.

The CCS has extended its G-Cloud 13 procurement catalogue for cloud-based services by 12 months.

With this amendment, G-Cloud 13 is now scheduled to end on the 8th of November, 2024.

Read more here.

GDS Promotes Single GOV.UK Login.

Senior members of the Government Digital Service outline their ambitions for a centralised digital identity service.

In short, this article covers:

Read the full round-up here.