Carolyn Williams, service manager at DVLA, talks about her role.

Service managers are business people who work full time to develop and deliver an effective user focused digital service, including all related processes, for which they are responsible and accountable.

Outside government, organisations in the public and private sector are learning that experienced and highly skilled managers (often called product managers in the commercial world) are necessary to deliver high-quality digital services.

We are adopting that model, requiring each transactional digital service handling over 100,000 transactions each year to be developed, operated and continually improved by a service manager. These are not technical IT posts, nor are they confined to running a website. Instead, they are individuals who work full-time to develop and deliver all the changes necessary to provide effective digital services. With a handful of exceptions, this is a new role within government.


These service managers will:

  • be experienced leaders, with an in-depth understanding of their service (built on continuity of involvement over a period of years) and equipped to represent their service and its users’ needs at all levels within the organisation. For high-profile services these will be at Senior Civil Service level
  • be accountable for the quality and usage of their service, and able to iterate the service based on user feedback at least every month
  • be able to lead effectively on the change management and process re-engineering required to implement successful services
  • have the digital literacy to engage with technical staff and suppliers to define the best system and platform configurations to achieve business/user objectives
  • encourage the maximum possible take-up of their digital service by effective marketing, and specify/manage the requirements for assisted digital activity to supplement this
  • oversee service redesign and subsequent operational delivery; supporting and ensuring the necessary project and approval processes are followed, monitoring and reporting on progress in line with the Digital by Default Service Standard, identifying and mitigating risks, and be authorised to deliver on all aspects
  • actively participate in networking with other service managers inside and outside government, and share good practice and learning

What’s the difference between a service manager and a product manager?

This will depend on the scale of the service you are working on. In some cases the service manager will also be able to fulfil the role of product manager – working closely with the delivery team (the ‘makers’), prioritising stories for each sprint, attending daily stand ups, being on hand to comment on solutions as they emerge, and accepting stories once they are delivered. However, in many cases it is likely that the service manager won’t have the capacity to be this hands-on, so they are likely to need a dedicated product manager.

Sample job description

Click either of the options below to download a template service manager job description.

Download as OpenDocument Format / Download as MS Word doc

Cabinet Office will help departments to recruit suitably skilled individuals through the Recruitment Hub.

Learning and development

Newly appointed service managers are supported by GDS through specialist learning and development.


Read guidance within the manual of particular interest to service managers.

Read more about how service managers should interact with other technology leaders in our organisation design guidance.

Further reading