A few insights


The theme of our latest associate breakfast was: –

‘Delivering product & proposition innovation in organisations’

We asked one of our associates, Clare McKitrick to share some of the things she learnt from doing just that at the Government Digital Service.

Comotion has created a process to help organisations deliver innovation at pace.  The Discovery>Alph>Beta>Live service design process has been pioneered by the Government Digital Service (GDS), so it seemed appropriate to ask Claire McKitrick to share three takeaways from the time she spent working on the GDS Transformation Programme.

The Programme’s core challenge was to take 25 major government services and completely transform them, over a period of 400 days. The service I worked on was the Apprenticeships Service – an existing digital service run by the Education and Skills Funding Agency that needed a significant overhaul. It was not designed in a user-centric way, didn’t work well on mobile, and had a tightly integrated and hard-to-change architectural and system design, along with slow and infrequent deployment and release cycles.

Over a period of about 18 months I worked with the agency to redesign the service from scratch. My role involved:

  1. Bringing understanding of the new methods that GDS was championing e.g. agile, design thinking, user-centric development
  2. Guiding, championing and challenging the agency on their delivery
  3. Facilitating wider change in the organisation

The key themes I shared at the associate breakfast were:

  • That the Discovery>Alpha>Beta>Live process and associated methods are there to serve a change of mind-set: from ‘I know the answer’ to ‘I know how to get to the answer’. This is not an easy transition for some people – organisational cultures have traditionally rewarded those who appear to have certain and definitive responses to any question asked. Today’s business environments are not characterised by certainty and stability – and many organisations are just starting to recognise the value in having ‘people who can find out’ rather than ‘people who know’.
  • That working in this new way involves introducing many new roles to organisations, and prompts individuals to consider reskilling for a new or wider role. It’s for that reason that GDS developed the digital skills matrix, to help people understand the new roles and competencies needed to be effective within them. This remains the most comprehensive index of digital skills that I’ve seen.
  • That agile team ≠ agile organisation – many organisations wanted support to understand how they should adapt their governance and reporting arrangements to ensure that digital teams could deliver at pace, while also ensuring that those in audit, legal and assurance functions had input and visibility of progress. About midway through the transformation programme, GDS developed guidance on agile governance to help meet this need.

One of GDS’s design principles is ‘Make things open: it makes things better’ which means that the items I’ve linked above and many others are openly published and available to all.  It’s a fantastically useful trove of resources for anyone interested in innovation and service development to draw upon, regardless of sector.

Finally and to sum up, change causes change, within an organisation and outside of it as well.  Without good management then all the good achieved by that change could be lost.  If one part of an organisation sprints ahead, leaving the rest of the organisation behind then what usually happens is that all the intended benefits are lost.

The GDS ensured that this did not happen by first of all recognising the dangers of unmanaged change, and then putting into place systems and processes to bring the whole organisation along.  Not all departments moved at the same rate, but at least they all moved in the same direction.

Article by Clare Mckitrick