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Transforming government together

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Every now and then we do well by taking stock of where we are and to map out the future. Sprint 16 was one of those moments.

Over 450 attendees from across government gathered together to see first-hand the platforms, services and new ways of working happening in the civil service. It was a great day; feedback has been superb, and the energy in the room was fantastic.

We talked about transforming government together. And we talked about the way we do that: by being bold.

For those who weren’t able to be there, here’s a snapshot of the things I highlighted at the end of the day:

We’re moving fast. Let’s keep up the momentum

Since 2010, we’ve been moving at a pace we couldn’t have imagined a few years earlier. Martha’s report drove us to develop a collective will and shared responsibility as we transform government.

Collectively, we’ve made government much simpler for users. We’ve invested in digital skills. We’ve started a two-way conversation with suppliers. And we’ve transformed our relationship with technology. Together we have done a lot. And this is just the beginning.

We now have both the momentum and, following the spending review, the mandate to make real change. We have the foundations to really transform government, together.

When we share our learning, we’re stronger

We learn best when we learn in the open. There are many examples: the Digital Service Standard; Service Design Manual; Technology code of practice; Sprint events; blogs and mailing lists of digital teams across government.

All these are not the work of any one person, agency, or department. They represent what we’ve all learned, collectively: they’re our better practice. I don’t like to say “best practice” because we know someone, somewhere, has just learned how to do it better. That’s why our standards, guides, and codes of practice keep evolving.

Building on our collective knowledge

As our colleagues deliver lasting transformation, GDS will support them. Whether that’s acting as curators and collectors of learning, helping at the sharp-end of delivery, or providing targeted support as people transform their services.

We’ll work together to define new performance measures, that help us all understand how the whole service is doing – not just the digital take-up or cost per digital transaction.

And we’ll provide expert support on things like on digital strategy, service mapping, identifying, and applying service patterns. The support people need, when they need it.

Developing digital capability at every level of government

Transforming services isn’t something only digital teams or operational service teams do in isolation. It is a shared responsibility. We need digital skills to be part of the DNA of the modern civil servant, supported by skilled professionals and specialists when needed.

That means everyone in government has to attract, develop, and keep people who can transform services. At GDS we’ll lead development of the digital, data, and technology profession to do this, and continue to make the Civil Service a destination for people who want their skills to make a real difference to society.

GDS won’t build everything

GDS will remain at the centre, doing the hard work on cross-government platforms and services. We won’t be building all of them. We will be making sure they get built.

Because these platforms and services will be genuinely transformative, and will make building, iterating and retiring services easy for Service Managers and their teams.

We’ll keep leading on:

We’ll work across government to fix data

Data is a vital, shared asset which underpins effective digital services. GDS will work with our colleagues to fix how we manage, maintain and use data, supported by the policies and governance that ensure citizens’ data is secure, and their privacy protected.

We’re building a linked ecosystem of canonical, properly curated and updated registers of data. These will be used to make services efficient, effective and — where appropriate — interconnected. The countries register is just the first example of what this ecosystem will look like.

We’ve got your back

The changes I’m asking us all to make are big, exciting, and challenging; we all need to be bold to make it happen. To do that, people on the frontline need to know the centre will back them up, and will give them the tools they need to do the right thing for their users. We will.

The conversations that happened last Thursday are just the beginning. What matters most is what colleagues take back to their departments, and how we continue the spirit of collaboration that was so palpable in the room. That’s going to have a huge impact on the work we all do over the coming year – and beyond – as we transform government together.

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Transcript 1: Transforming government together

Phil Mawson, Senior Developer, DWP:

The team I’m working on, they’re an absolutely amazing team, they’re so passionate. I mean, you’ll have seen that from the people you’ve talked to. The passion’s there and it’s all we’re focusing on just to get this thing live.

Souleymane Camara, Senior User Researcher, MOJ

You want to make a difference. Now, you’ve got to be careful about that, how much difference can you make, you know, being a small item in the bigger puzzle? But a little project you may have there could touch millions of people.

Liz Whitefield, Delivery Manager, DWP

It’ s all about public service, delivering things quickly, learning fast.

Jiten Pitamber, Agile Delivery Manager, MOJ:

Redesign the service from the paper form to guidance to the digital service, that’s the challenge. It’s changing culture, changing the way we work.

Kalbir Sohi, Digital Service Manager, HMRC:

We’re just scratching the surface of how good we could be, building simplicity into the services that people need to interact with.

Lauren Tombs, Deputy Product Owner, Office of the Public Guardian:

The staff, they can’t believe it, when they raise an issue or a good idea, they can actually see it being built and then released onto live in such a short amount of time.

Phil Mawson:

You feel like you’ve got the support there to be digital and to be agile and to be innovating all of the time because you’re not constrained by old processes.

Jiten Pitamber:

People want to be connected, people want that information.

Adrian Woodcock, Digital Product Owner, MOJ:

The bar is going to be set really high and we’re going to have to always deliver really good products.

Tom Harrop, Interaction Design Lead, Home Office:

People are starting to see that the way we do things, this user research thing that we do and this user centred design, is actually better.

Charlotte Moore, User Researcher, Home Office:

When you’ve got a team that believe it then we get to do really good, thorough user research so that we know the we’re building the best things.

Rachel Woods, Product Owner, DWP:

Working on policy in a digital environment, you’re getting much better feedback, it’s quicker, it’s from the right people.

Tom Harrop:

Everyone’s fighting for the same thing, everyone wants to do it properly. The real important person is the person who’s going to use this thing and making it easy for them.

Liz Whitefield:

For me there’s only one way to really experience it and that’s to get on the ground and see how it works.

Tom Harrop:

I don’t think we’ll ever be done transforming government, we just need to keep getting better at it.

Transcript 2: Sprint 16 - be bold

Stephen Foreshew-Cain, Executive Director, GDS:

I talked about being bold. Boldness is what's needed to keep the momentum that we have started in the last parliament going. We are a big organisation, four hundred thousand people, we are complicated and we do important stuff and when we don’t get that right people's lives are affected. So we have a duty to one another to make sure we are sharing our learning as and when it happens to make sure when we make a mistake it is safe to make and it doesn't get made again. So one of the things I think a lot about is people. We need talented people who can help us transform government and a day like sprint 16 reminds me how much we already have.

Transcript 3: Sprint 16 Highlights

Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office:

Our job is to transform the relationship between the citizen and the state. It is about making sure that when people interact with the state they do it in a way that is as easy and straight forward as possible.

Stephen Foreshew-Cain, Executive Director, GDS:

Everyone in this room, I mean all of us, I mean we government, we’re going to go meet the needs of the citizens in this century and we’re going to do it by transforming government.

Amali de Alwis, CEO, Code First: Girls:

The role that all of us separately can play, so not to just work within sort of silos in whether it’s education, whether it’s local government, but to actually see how can we cross over the two sides, coordinate together to have programmes which actually work.

Paul Maltby, Director of Data, GDS:

Across departments we need to do the hard work to make data simple.

Jeni Tennison, Technical Director and Deputy CEO, Open Data Institute:

When you’re building on top of data you need to be able to rely on it, you need to be able to trust it.

Alison Daniels, Digital Transformation Leader, Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

The country register has those 195 countries and this is now the list, the canonical list that you can come to, know it’s produced by a trusted source and it is the latest, most up to date list.

Caron Alexander, Director of Digital Services, Department of Finance and Personnel NI:

Really it is about all having the same goal about making citizens’ services better and if we work collaboratively to do that really much better services at the other end.

Aaron Snow, Executive Director, 18F, US government:

I am tremendously gratified and thrilled to hear about the incredible transformations taking place here in the UK. We’re not out to transform services just to have shiny new services, what we really mean is we want to transform people’s lives.

Stephen Foreshew-Cain:

We have a real momentum behind us to make real change, we have the foundations in place to really transform government together.

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  1. Comment by Mike D posted on

    Some great news stories above but perhaps a note of caution in getting the foundations in place before building the house.

    For example you mention above “We’ll work together to define new performance measures, that help us all understand how the whole service is doing – not just the digital take-up or cost per digital transaction.” Why are you moving onto new measures when it seems from looking at the performance dashboard ( that you’re struggling to measure what you’re doing already?

    For example only 206 services out of 789 actually show the cost per transaction. More importantly, there’s no indication whether this is good or bad for the taxpayer as there is no trend from pre-digital to post-digital. All these digital teams springing up across government must be costing a lot! If I’m reading the dashboard right only 9 services out of 789 show the completion rate or user satisfaction as well.

    Would be interested to know what plans are in place to improve the current performance measures for government digital services before you add any new ones!

  2. Comment by Cathie Ackroyd posted on

    Hello could someone please get in touch to help us understand how we can get involved in these discussions?

    • Replies to Cathie Ackroyd>

      Comment by Carrie Barclay posted on

      Hi Cathie

      I'll drop you an email so we can find out a bit more about what you need so we can establish who is best for you to speak to.