Today we are releasing a further iteration of the Government Service Design Manual. We’ve updated this with more guidance for service managers and, for the first time, information for Chief Technology Officers on how government is rebalancing its approach to technology.
Users need services that are genuinely agile and responsive to changing needs – where change reduces costs and risks rather than raising them and so making government more productive and our public services better.
Our guiding principles for this change are simple:
- focusing on user needs, ensuring that technology becomes so good that our colleagues, citizens and businesses want to use it
- putting outcomes first; such as reductions in cost per transaction
- using ‘openness’ to our advantage – open data, open standards, open source, open markets
Making a start
The Cabinet Office has already begun to make some changes. The delivery of commodity infrastructure services – connectivity, application hosting, hosting, collaboration and productivity services, devices and support – is moving towards the use of standard services procured via common frameworks such as the Public Services Network and G-Cloud. The Integrated Shared Services programme is driving towards the delivery of browser-based shared services through a small number of common service centres. And then there’s us, GDS, in place to co-deliver Digital Strategies with Digital Leaders in departments and agencies.
In making these changes, we are enabling departments to focus on their Mission IT systems – the technologies needed to address the specific user needs of that department. GDS is working on a review of the governance and support provided to IT professionals. This is an important part of ensuring that we are providing structures in which they can flourish, and work in tandem with their digital colleagues to deliver great services for users.
The shape of government technology
We have mapped government technology into four distinct functional areas:
Digital public services: the transactional services that drive citizen engagement with the state.
Mission IT: the line of business applications that run the individual internal processes of departments and agencies. These are often specific to their business functions and many can be defined as ‘special’, although they draw upon underlying commodity components.
Infrastructure: the common connectivity, hosting and device management services that enable organisations to have the tools they need in the hands of officials and colleagues.
Back office: the day to day services like HR and Finance that run the operations of all our departments and agencies
Some of these areas are things that meet common user needs across government. To address those, we will implement government as a platform, providing departments with common business functionality that can be re-used by multiple users in multiple service areas. For specific needs, such as those in Mission IT and digital public services, GDS and the Cabinet Office will work alongside departments to ensure they have the capability and support they need to meet them. The service manual is a big part of building that digital capability across government, and GDS plans to provide a similar level of support to technology services.
Other organisations like eBay and Paypal have already successfully implemented the platform model, developing a core technology infrastructure that others have then built upon – driving the success of the platform and meeting users’ needs more effectively than the original provider could have achieved alone.
These changes will be introduced over the next 5 years as deals for existing services come to their natural end. As these expire, departments and users will be transitioned to common services. The Cabinet Office will support departments in ensuring that it can be successfully delivered. The outcomes will be worth it: early adoption of this approach has already made significant savings.
By focusing on our users’ needs, driving towards commodity services wherever possible, sharing services and breaking down departmental silos we will be able to make large savings for the taxpayer. But we will also be able to deliver technology that is fit for purpose and supports civil service reform.