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For government to deliver excellent public services to users it must be equipped to do so properly. A culture of open, digitally enabled policy making and service delivery is critical to our future success. The tools that public servants use, the space they work in and the governance and processes in place to support, enable and assure delivery of brilliant public services are therefore all essential to digital government.
While transformation of citizen-facing services has yielded significant benefits, there has been no concerted effort across government to improve internal services with digital technology in a fundamental way. This means that while some departments (such as the Ministry of Justice) have led the way with internal digital services like finding colleagues’ contact information or managing freedom of information requests, the process for reusing these across government remains complicated - with different departments often reinventing or re-procuring similar products to different standards.
In a similar way, workplace technology is moving at different paces in different parts of government. Some departments (like the Cabinet Office) have modern services where users can choose the best modern devices and software to meet the needs of their craft. However these are in the minority. Other departments are working largely independently and at a different pace - and many have underlying technology problems they must solve first (such as fixing networks and back-end systems so that they can interface with new user devices).
A truly enabling environment is more than the internal services that people use or the technology they use to access them. It’s about some fundamental questions: how does the Civil Service govern and manage its programmes of work? How do we assure services and make sure that we are delivering value for money? How fit are our internal processes and controls for agile policy making? How do we source goods and services in a digital age? More fundamentally, what should we develop ourselves and what should we buy?
The past few years have seen changes to the governance arrangements around digital projects, including the introduction of HM Treasury guidance on agile projects. However, many projects still exist within the context of large programmes with complex interdependencies. We will ensure that we manage the transition of projects from implementation to continuous improvement with care.
Following the introduction of new approaches and ways of working since 2010, we are now moving into a more practical phase. We will therefore build on the previous phases of disruption and establish a common set of ways of doing things.
Priorities until 2020
We will renew our focus on transforming the way that the Civil Service and government works. In particular, we will focus on 3 areas:
- creating empowering workspaces so that our public servants have the right environment and location-independent tools to do their jobs
- improving guidance on how to seamlessly manage and assure programmes that cross organisational boundaries
- leading a step-change in procurement to ensure that user-centred, design-led, data-driven and open approaches are commonplace in contracting by 2020 - and spreading these approaches to create a marketplace for government buyers
Empowering workspaces and tools
We want to create empowering workspaces to help public servants be more productive, to model the future of public service delivery and to instil pride and loyalty in public service.
Modern workspaces will also support our efforts at culture change and help us to attract and retain top talent. By loosening the link between a physical building and a department we can also help create an agile and responsive government that can restructure itself to more easily meet the challenges of the day.
Better workspaces and tools will also increase security. If we do not listen to users’ needs, it is more likely that they will attempt to circumvent security measures in an attempt to work in a more flexible manner.
The Government Property Unit is already leading a significant programme of estates rationalisation and improvement - ultimately leading to a set of regional hubs for the UK government with departments sharing common buildings.
Departments and the Government Digital Service (GDS) are already working closely together to ensure that there is common, interoperable technology within each building - and that the space and approach can help create a culture of open, digitally-enabled policy making and service delivery. Employees should expect building infrastructure (such as wifi) to be secure by default and that government contracts will integrate security standards and expectations into them as a matter of course.
These programmes will continue, as will departments’ own efforts to improve the technology that their people use. The Civil Service (and wider public sector) is a large organisation made up of many different professions - and different roles within each profession. For every public servant to be effective in her or his role it is important that they have the appropriate tools for their craft. We will continue with the modernisation of end-user technology, with a growing focus on interoperability between departments - and continue the move to industry-standard commodity hardware and software wherever possible.
In the broader digital economy, workers are less tied to physical offices and work increasingly from home and other locations. We want to lead the way within government by providing the tools so that, depending on their role, public servants can also work flexibly and securely across a variety of locations.
To effectively recognise and provide for the full diversity of users’ needs, government needs a diverse workforce with access to the technology and systems to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. For example, this means being provided with suitable assistive technologies and being able to access internal systems such as intranets, human resources (HR), jobs and training.
In 2014 the Government Digital Service produced 6 principles for agile governance. These act as our framework for future work.
By 2020, we want central government to:
- have an environment in which teams can rapidly iterate policy and delivery
- trust different parts of government so that data and platform components can be made available without complex bipartisan arrangements
- be able to deliver new services that span departmental boundaries
- have assurance models that enable and encourage cross-departmental service delivery
- improve technology and services on a continuous basis rather than time-bound programme spending, helping government organisations to continually improve and innovate how they deliver those services
- recognise that when providing services to each other departments may need to bear the cost of changes to meet the needs of other departments
- recognise that it will often be more expensive for one department to build a service for all departments to share (where security considerations permit) than building one specifically for their own use - but cheaper than every department buying or building their own
- provide radical transparency to citizens about: how money is being spent; who is responsible for services, components and management of data; and how they can participate in democratic processes around those services
The ONS aims for 75% of responses to the 2021 Census to be online first, up from less than 17% in 2011. Read about their coordinated agile and waterfall project management approaches, including 2 large, integrated rehearsals planned for 2017 and 2019.
Bringing the tools, techniques and culture of the internet to public procurement has already begun. GDS operates the Digital Marketplace, which has embedded user-centred, design-led, data-driven and open approaches across digital, data and technology procurement and contracting. Our priority for 2020 is to embed these more widely across the whole marketplace for public sector procurement.
How we will do this
Creating empowering workspaces and tools
To help create empowering workspaces, we will deliver common technology across the public sector and develop the case for digital services for civil servants.
We will also deliver common technologies in public buildings, making it possible for civil servants to work seamlessly from more locations. We will deliver commodity designs for hardware and standard software, making it possible for departments to buy ‘government ready’ equipment according to their users’ needs. Finally, we will investigate the potential to make it easier to move between departments with the same technology (and look at the case for easier ways to allow this to happen with, for example, a single email address for each civil servant, portable between departments, so users can have confidence in the end point for information of varying classifications).
We will continue to modernise end-user devices across all government departments, giving users choice of commodity hardware and software where possible and improving the interoperability between different organisations’ technology.
To develop the case for digital services for civil servants, we will explore opportunities across government for common digital tools for standard government functions (such as intranets, document management, correspondence management or tools to manage freedom of information requests or parliamentary questions). In particular, we will look at where we could improve cross-departmental processes for the digital age.
As part of HMPO’s transformation, HMPO seeks to maximise the value of core capabilities such as facial matching and data verification services to benefit not just HMPO and other parts of government, but also private sector organisations seeking to combat fraud and crime. Read more about HMPO’s approach.
To do these effectively, we will need to continue with our programme of moving away from large IT contracts. We explain how we will do this in platforms, components and business capabilities.
We will enable teams to move quickly in line with the original vision for programme business cases, ensuring cross-boundary programmes are set up to support collaboration and according to HM Treasury guidance.
The Digital Service Standard and Technology Code of Practice will continue as cross-government standards and will continue to be improved.
We will help departments look at their spending decisions at an earlier stage and in the context of wider plans.
We will explore ways to allow more scrutiny of higher risk, cost or complexity projects and provide more freedom for experienced teams delivering things in line with standards.
Departments will continue to create forward views of their planned spend on digital and technology which will scrutinised by GDS. We will seek to bring earlier engagement on spending plans between departments and GDS, so that support can be provided at the most useful point.
The nature of transformation programmes is different from infrastructure programmes. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) will continue to convene a community of experienced practitioners from around government, including departments and GDS, which has been building up a body of knowledge on the best ways to assure transformation programmes. We will establish a mechanism to provide the Civil Service Board with an opinion on whether transformation or major programmes will be successful.
We will support specific programmes which are high-risk, or which need additional help to collaborate and share data. The role of the centre will be to provide guidance and help remove critical digital and technology barriers.
Create a step-change in procurement
We will continue to embed user-centred, design-led, data-driven and open approaches across digital, data and technology procurement and contracting.
We will continue the incremental and iterative development of the Digital Marketplace buyer and supplier user journeys, through the end-to-end procurement and contracting process.
Through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), we will build on these approaches to create a marketplace to meet user needs in the end-to-end buying and selling process, maintaining a common user experience.
We will work with the wider public sector to support the increasing adoption of digital procurement frameworks and practices across the wider public sector.