(Hype circles part 3) Disruption doesn’t mean replacement

In 2011, I presented a digital strategy to a board of directors in government for the first time. A few years previously, the board had decided to ditch printing things physically and put everything online for download instead. As a result, they expected all following conversations about publishing to be an all or nothing approach. Talking about publishing on social platforms like Facebook, or making …

(Hype circles part 2) Tech is an allen key, not a hammer

This is the second in a series of three posts on hype circles around tech innovations. In 2010, if I wanted to commiserate with a public sector colleague about something that had gone wrong, I had a quick riposte. “Cheer up”, I’d say, “it could be worse. Your Director could have got an iPhone for Christmas.” Anyone fighting in the same web (we hadn’t yet …

(Hype circles part 1) It’s not if, it’s when

This is the first of a series of three posts on hype circles around tech innovations. In the early noughties the web was a sterile, text-based world where a custom link style constituted pushing the envelope. Anything beyond this was exotic, desirable and more than a bit profitable. When a former piece of drawing tablet software called Flash stepped up to the plate and looked …

Why User Research is always worth it

When I was working in the GDS transformation team, one of the questions I got asked often was “why should we spend money and time on user research?”. This case study is the answer I usually gave. I still talk about it today, despite the fact that it dates back to 2014. [With the agreement of all involved, I used the screenshots and details in this …

Tips for being a lead assessor for a service standard assessment

Of the assessment panel roles, the role of lead assessor for a government service standard assessment is both the most daunting (any difficult questions, everyone looks straight at you) and the least obvious (to be the design assessor, it helps to be a designer; to be a lead assessor, it helps to, um, know a lot about government services).  Somewhere back in the mists of …

A governance parable

A governance parable

[Scene: An angry civil servant from a government department confronts me, a civil servant working for GDS.] “It’s ridiculous. The service standard is just an excuse for external organisations to make money out of government. You [pointing at me] should be ashamed of this.” “What’s the problem?” “This is the problem. Every team has to have all of these people in it [brandishes print-out]. You …

the alpha beta live lifecycle

What we can learn from the history of the service standard

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about the service standard since it was introduced. There’s one aspect of the standard that is hidden from sight and that most people miss. This is that the service standard is itself a service. Understanding this is the key to how the standard works.  If that sounds a little meta, let me give you a little bit …

Is your digital team healthy? A checklist

We sometimes talk about “bad smells” from digital teams: indications that not all is well. This is a list of the ten most pungent odours I’ve encountered. I wrote this because I hoped that it might help people identify issues and improve things. Please feel free to take this and iterate it; I’d love to know how you used it and improved it. 1. Do …

Formula 1 2022 season preview

What a season that was: an amazing late season comeback by the reigning champion against all the odds that narrowly, so narrowly, failed; an aggressive, new champion who showed little respect for history or to others (“he came right up on the inside at the last moment and I had to step immediately out of the way or we would have crashed” said the reigning …

Abu Dhabi 2021: finding the limits

Suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was kind of driving by instinct, only I was in a different dimension. I was way over the limit, but still I was able to find even more. It frightened me because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding”. Ayrton Senna, qualifying nearly two seconds ahead of his team mate …