Innovation – the first strand: Delivery

Government ICT has gained the reputation for being about massive projects, with very long time scales, very high costs and being primarily delivered by a small number of very big suppliers.

The challenge is that not all our big problems are “big” nor do we always have the luxury of time.

Some of our problems have a big impact but seem small in scale, so small that other things take precedent because our processes are built around the large. So adding a simple bit of functionality to save £25 on a transaction cost gets never gets commissioned because the opportunity costs of getting it through our current processes outweigh the perceived benefit. Especially on an individual organization basis.

But if there are 1,000 of those transactions a day …

And if we could add that simple bit of functionality in a couple of days effort …

So a better service to the customer and a saving of £25,000 a day.

And if there are 10 or 100 or 1000 of these problems across the services which the public sector offers …

The Innovation project is intended to be a fast, agile delivery capability which can continually deliver these rapid solutions in a way that not only provides immediate benefits but which also allows us to capture them for reuse. Sometimes we build these things using our own inhouse developers, sometimes we co-create them with a wider community and sometimes we commission them from agile delivery agents.

I think in metaphor so for me part of the Innovation ethos is about building a toolkit which we can all use. These components could come from other departments, from the wider public sector, from the open source community or they could be created by us using the above process. The key thing is that they should be reusable and built around open standards.

But the Innovation project also has a very important part to play in the “big” big projects. We can help people break down their requirements – decompose the “what” into sensible parts to allow us all to reduce risk, increase flexibility, speed up delivery, work with a much wider ecosystem of suppliers and build an ethos of focused delivery.

Next time - Innovation – the second strand: Business


  1. But what about the people who can’t use the internet? | Stephen Hale

    [...] It sounds like the way the Government Digital Service are organising themselves will help address this concern too, with the people working on inclusion working alongside those working on innovation. [...]

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  2. David Pomphret

    James, interesting thoughts... But, will you be involving other departments, like us in the DWP Innovation team?

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