Digital government transformation at scale

The strategy is delivery

While several books have contributed to the knowledge share of the digital government narrative, few have effectively addressed transformation holistically from firsthand experience, and Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery does just this.

Written by former United Kingdom Government Digital Service founders and leaders, Digital Transformation at Scale provides insights into the steps to take to create a functional, sustainable, accountable, scalable organization that is a conduit for government change. The granularity of advice, such as what to do first — first team, first 100 days, first projects — to sharing the work to ensuring failing projects are stopped to promoting savings are extremely insightful and practical.

As the authors note, digital is more than just technology:

“Digital transformation is not all about technology; it is about changing the way you work. … [It’s] about building a new type of organisation around internet-era principles, not adding technical complexity to try and fix analogue organisations. It means changing how an organisation runs itself in the background at least as much as changing what its users actually see.

“The biggest change is how you deliver. Working in empowered, multidisciplinary teams. Starting with the needs of users. Publishing your work in the open. Iteratively improving what you do. Testing new services with real people. Using tools of the open internet over expensive proprietary options. Writing clearly for a wide audience. Showing prototypes and working code as a substitute for papers and meetings. Building trust between people in your organisation, and those who it works with. Designing with data. Doing the hard work to make things simple.”

GDS had all of the ingredients for success, including a mandate and full empowerment borne from a 2010 government report, Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution, particularly:

  • “Absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments”
  • “CEO for Digital” with “absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APls) and the power to direct all government online spending”

Key takeaways:

  • Start small
  • Establish political cover
  • Appoint a chief digital officer
  • Prioritize culture (agile, open, flat, together, driven)
  • “No innovation until things work.”
  • Operate under the radar (initially)
  • Establish principles principles, standards, strategy and a manual
  • Focus on shipping early versions of products that meet user needs
  • Socialize work early and often
  • Exact spending controls
  • Have a dedicated team with authority to stop bad projects
  • Show fiscal impact with performance dashboards and efficiency reports
  • Think ‘platform’

In 2013, GDS had 200 employees. Today, there are more than 850 managing delivery, guidance, marketplace and multiple platforms and products. It has inspired much of the digital government organization landscape, and Digital Transformation at Scale is the playbook for anyone — from elected officials to government administrators — sincerely interested in reforming how government serves the people.

Digital Transformation at Scale

Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery
Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore
232 pages
London Publishing Partnership (8 May 2018)
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About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh and co-founder/CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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