Members of the cross-government service manager community recently got together in Bristol to compare notes and swap stories. We wanted a chance to get to know each other better, to learn from each other's mistakes, and to talk about some of the issues and problems we're facing in our different departments and teams.
What it means to be a 'service manager'
We talked about the role of service manager in different government departments.
It turns out the role varies from place to place. Part of the problem is that the definition of what 'service' means varies too. Does it mean something that's only public-facing? What about tools, platforms and software that we all share? Is a digital service different from a technology service?
We felt that service managers everywhere are facing similar tensions, particularly when it comes to balancing demands for development, enhancements and running an operational service. Not all service managers have the influence to make radical, organisation-wide changes (even when research suggests changes like that are necessary to build the services properly, in order to meet user needs).
Getting better at sharing
We all agreed that we need to get better at sharing information and experience between teams. Sharing is quite informal at the moment – some communities meet up frequently, others don't. It's too easy for teams or groups to work in an isolated way, or for sharing to be trapped in little pockets. Technology is sometimes a help and sometimes a hindrance – for example, some tools are accessible by all, but others (such as chat application Slack) are blocked by some organisations.
Sharing needs to be both physical and virtual. If we're going to build mutual support across the community, we need to make time for both kinds.
What GDS can do
We think GDS can help service managers across government by:
- encouraging and enabling more support from senior leadership
- creating powerful case studies to help explain what service management is
- running masterclasses for service managers and service teams
- continuing to promote openness and transparency
GDS has been making collaboration a top priority for a while now, so we'd like to see that continue. The more we collaborate to resolve big common issues and remove common blockers, the better.