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An open letter to our new Advisory Board

Dear Advisory Board members,

In the spirit of publish, don’t send (“A good blog post can do the work of dozens of emails”), we thought we’d write to you here before our first meeting next month. Some of you have been with us from the beginning, others will be less familiar with our work.

For all of you, here’s a very brief summary of what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it.

GDS is part of the Cabinet Office. We’re here to make sure that the internet is as much a part of the fabric of government as it is a part of people’s lives. Our goal is government that understands and embraces the digital age.

We've asked you to help us because you believe in the same things that we believe. We summarise those things in our Design Principles. We are agile. We put users first.

Our first few years were about disruption. Our strategy was delivery: we had to prove that things could be done by actually doing some of them. We had to show what was possible. That government could use the digital thinking to redesign and rebuild public services to be simpler, clearer and faster.

Now we’ve started a new phase - teams all over government are working together on digital services, platforms, standards and everything behind the scenes that brings them all together. It’s not about computers and IT - it’s about people, skills, and how we work. It’s about organisational change.

Our new focus is transforming government together. We recognise that we cannot do all the work of transformation by ourselves, and we don’t intend to try. We need help from departmental teams, just as much as they need help from us. It's a mutually beneficial, two-way relationship.

We have amazing support from our minister Matt Hancock, and in the last spending review we were granted a budget of £450 million. We’re growing, and we’ll be helping government to grow too. Not just in terms of numbers of people, but in terms of the digital skills and expertise they bring.

We've invited you to join our Advisory Board because we value your collective experience and wisdom. We’ll be turning to you for advice, guidance and honest feedback in the years ahead.

Thank you for agreeing to help us. We can't wait to start working with you. See you on the 11 April 2016.

Stephen Foreshew-Cain

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  1. Comment by Eugene Victor Tooms posted on

    You have a huge budget of £450m. That's massive when everyone else is under austerity.

    Pre-allocating that is asking for it all to be spent. It should have been given in pieces, subject to ongoing success.

    There's been a lot of media and social discussion about where this will be spent. I would urge you to transparently explain where you think the remaining problems are - and how you will target them.

    Technology has been reformed.
    Security has been modernised.
    Service design has been introduced.

    I would suggest that commercial design (needs fundamental reform. The Government Procurement Service, renamed as the CCS, is not fit for purpose.

    It should not cost more to buy something than the thing itself costs.
    Procurement should be reframed down to what it is - acquisition, and nothing more. Like technology, it needs to become subservient to service design.
    Commercial design should be reinstituted as a discipline - just like service design - and expertise applied to issues of IPR, granularity of dis-aggregation, transparency of costs and performance, a bonfire of process, concurrent multi-sourcing ... (why does no department have 2 suppliers for the same stuff, ever?) ... etc etc