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Making policy an integral part of digital delivery teams

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, People and skills

People at GDS

I’m Anais and I’m a Policy and Engagement Lead at GDS. I joined GDS last year as part of a recruitment round that brought in a number of policy and engagement professionals. Like others who joined at the same time, much of my background is in government departments. I wanted to tell you a little bit about what I’ve learnt over the past few months.

Why I joined GDS

The recruitment round was part of the organisation’s efforts to work with departments to support government as a whole to meet its objectives. GDS is here to support, enable and assure government departments as they go through digital transformation. To do this, we need people at GDS who are experts in digital, data and technology. We also need people who understand how government works. Over time, more of us are developing skills in both areas, but it is a journey.

In essence, the digital transformation of services relies on making policy an integral part of digital delivery teams and vice versa. This is pretty unique to government. So GDS, along with the departments, have to pave the way for this.

I joined GDS because I was keen to help with this endeavour, while expanding my knowledge and skills in the digital space.

My experience so far

It’s been a great journey so far, but it hasn’t always been easy. Being from a different background and having a different role to most of my colleagues means I often have a different frame of reference.

Coming from the policy world, I speak a different language to digital teams. Things that are similar can sound very different. To give some really simple examples, scoping becomes discovery, pilots become alphas and phased roll-out means beta. Learning the vocabulary is half the battle.

At times, I’ve introduced further complexity into our work. For example, when helping my team understand how decisions are made in government. The reality is always more  complex than the theory, and at times it’s thrown some well-formed plans or added a number of steps – like extra stakeholders to keep up to date or more evidence to pull together.

I’ve also been able to make things easier for us and colleagues across government in a number of situations. I’ve helped the teams find new ways to tackle old problems. Helping them speak the language of government means we can connect, partner and agree on things more easily. And I’ve been able to draw on my old networks to point to others who are approaching similar problems in different ways – like the Economic and Domestic Secretariat or Policy Lab.

The different perspective and relations we all bring means we don’t have to pursue our mission of improving government services alone. After all, it’s what most civil servants join government to do. We just need to find new and better ways to do it together.

Improving how we work – together

It’s not easy to integrate into a team when you bring a different way of working and thinking with you. But a few months in, I’m starting to get the hang of it. And while I’m probably biased, my team say that welcoming more people with a background in policy has made a real difference to them, too. If you’re interested in finding out more about opportunities to work in digital, data and technology, do get in touch.

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  1. Comment by Bev Smith posted on

    Anais, looking forward to working with you on this. In the Academy we have run several awareness courses for policy colleagues.

  2. Comment by Richard Edwards posted on

    Anais, great to see you join GDS, and the further bringing together of policy and digital delivery. As a digital strategist and transformation programme manager, I look forward to this happening elsewhere, in Departments. I think benefit will be gained if this happens both ways, and indeed I have previously advocated digital delivery staff joining policy teams, rather than the other way round. What do you think?

    • Replies to Richard Edwards>

      Comment by Anais Reding posted on

      Richard, yes I agree that's critical. It's all about bringing in the right people at the right time to make the transition from policy to delivery seamless. And I think service designers have an important role to play in this. Have you seen Rob Le Quesne's blog post last week, which also looked at this question?