This week at GDS This week started with the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, and saw the beginning of work alongside HMRC on their exemplar services. We're also gearing up for the beta release of the digital by default service standard next week.

What have you been up to this week?

Well Monday was interesting, we started off with a public accounts committee. Myself, Stephen Kelly, the Government COO, Richard Heaton, our permanent secretary at cabinet office, and David Shields from the procurement group, were up in front of the public accounts committees, chaired by Margaret Hodge. There’s been two reports published, both favourable, one about ICT and Government, and one about procurement. Really we were talking about the nexus between those two places and what happens next. It was a wide ranging debate, it was very interesting. You can catch it on Parliament Live. But what was fascinating to me, was to see the appetite from the MPs for structural change reform particularly around ICT procurement. So we’ve got a lot of work to do but it was overall a positive experience.

You were speaking at local business schools?

I’m just about to leave here to go and speak at the London Business School Tech Media summit. It’s going to be great to see what that new cohort of MBA students are doing. Hopefully we can try and attract some of them to come and help us with our journey here.

Some other people are helping with our journey here at the moment...

Yes, we’ve been joined by the HMRC’s digital solutions team and that’s tremendous because they’ve got a very big digital estate. So we’ve got Liam and Claire here, some of that team. They’re building alphas here, we’re equating new services with them to see how we can effect big reform of the many different services that HMRC deliver. So it’s very exciting to have them over. One of the biggest bits of Government, the one that really deserves most applause for the work they’ve done in the years to date to pioneer digital services. So hopefully we can keep on that path with them. We went out to Departments of Business where we briefed the Minister, Michael Fallon, really about how we can, now we’ve got Departments of Business on to GOV.UK. Now we can really focus on SMEs and try and get some key messages from them. It was very heartening to hear him talk about getting the evidence and getting the data to find out what SMEs really are looking for and how we can help. So we’ll go back to him with some more data soon. The other key meeting we had this week was we welcomed in colleagues from the Post Office, Paula Vennells and her team, to really drill down on assisted digital. Because we know it’s one of our biggest areas that we’ve got to focus on, both for Cabinet Office, but also for the wider Government. We’ve got many services required which is the digital, the Post Office is a key partner in that. So it’s good to get closer with them about that and also about IDA and identity management.

What’s coming up next week?

I’m very excited next week Matt, we’ll be publishing the Government digital service standard in beta. It’s something we’ve been working on for months. It’s a fantastic product and service back to other people in Government, to really educate, help and direct a lot of department agencies to how to do all things digital around Government. It’s going to be the single biggest repository for driving skills and capability around Government. It’s already looking fantastic and it’s only a beta. So do keep an eye out for that. On a personal note, I finish the end of next week by going back to my roots. I’m going back to Liverpool. I’m going to speak at the Information Systems Association at the University of Liverpool. I started out my career many, many years ago as an internet researcher I guess you would call it now, in the pre-browser era and it’s great to go back and see what that community is up to.

Has anything caught your eye outside of GDS this week?

It has and I’m delighted to see longstanding reform of access to postcode data starting to happen. The Department of Business innovation and skills, they’ve centralised how we work and that and for most Government agencies over 2,900 parts of Government will get access to that data for free. There’s still some way to go though. I think we’ve got to open that data up much more widely, much more freely to third parties outside of Government. But it’s a start to see that structural reform happening, because that data set will become one of the key planks of a data economy. So well done BIS and well done Royal Mail.


  1. David Chassels

    Well nothing like believing in your own PR. But what about becoming the "intelligent customer"? “It really matters how your vendors build their software, not just what they build.” Advice that GDS ignores? Are you engaging UK SME tech companies like the Dutch government? Are you asking the few vendors the right questions? Are you undertaking research as to what is happening in the application software market? Do you understand dialogues such as here and are you seeking out disruptive technologies or have you given up on UK innovation? The Skunkworks, the Innovation Launch Pad and the Solutions Exchange all failed UK innovators?
    See my full PASC submission if you really cared you would follow up?

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    • Josh Russell

      Hi David, you've got several good points there. Points we're in the process of working on as we speak!

      I'm in the Transformation Team, and my role is to engage the digital market. Most relevantly, we've been working on a proposed new framework designed to give us access to a wider and more diverse pool of suppliers of technology around the UK. There's a huge focus on agile methodology, open standards, and open source. This would sit along side and compliment G-Cloud, where commodity-style services are available to us (e.g. PaaS, SaaS, IaaS). During this process we've been opening up a conversation with suppliers we already work with as well as those that might want to work with us but haven't yet. We've tried to understand some of the barriers to working with us, the way in which suppliers like to work, what can be learned (in each direction), and where we align.

      Very soon we'll also be publishing our Digital by Default Service Standard which goes into detail about what we've learned building GOV.UK (and other services), and describes how we build digital services. We think it will set a very high standard, and a bar to measure services of all kinds by.

      As an aside, GDS is full of people who represent a very diverse experience of the tech industry, including startups, agencies, and well known organisations around the world – all who's success relies on their ability to innovate, lead in technology, move fast, react, build, test and learn. We're also, as individuals, active in many user groups, write our own blogs, and hack on our own projects. Maybe we should surface that somewhere on the GDS blog!

      Moving forward we of course welcome feedback on how we might work best with suppliers. We're lucky to have a great community and ecosystem in the UK, we hope to be a relevant part of it and to proactively contribute.

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