Thinking about ‘Think Digital’

I enjoyed Dave Briggs’ Think Digital webinar. I thought it was a good walk through some of the key principles which should underpin a different way of delivering public services. I jotted down a few notes as I listened, picking up on the key point which stood out to me. You can listen to the webinar here:

I thought that ‘Permission’ is a very useful concept. I think that digital leadership is less about showing the way and setting a specific agenda, and more about creating an environment where people can innovate in a constructive way (which involves setting guidelines and parameters, but has to allow for creativity — because that’s where the magic is).

‘Death of one size fits all’ is also spot on. But we also need to respect complexity and invest in the foundations needed to enable agility. We need to make sure that ‘digital’ doesn’t just become a justification for random online stuff, with a plethora of websites that baffle our users and create obstacles to genuinely user-focused services. This is particularly challenging in a public service context where we do so many different things. Core capabilities, such as identity / sign on, need to be built to be reused, and I’m very drawn to the ‘Government as a Platform’ model.

‘Should we really be doing this?’ also makes me want to ask whether ‘this’ is a thing we need to be doing in the longer term (which means we need to plan for sustainability and it may be best to join up with other organisations or groups who already specialise in the topic at hand), or whether the need is point in time (in which case a home gown and ‘throw away’ approach might be just fine).

I wonder whether the points could be grouped into themes? e.g. What you do… How you do it… How you make sure that people are doing it right… I’m not sure about that, and it may just be my inner yearning to write local gov papers…!

And my own experience suggests that the iterative / ‘minimum viable product’ approach (which I endorse) can be a challenge for users — who often struggle to adapt to that way of working. I wouldn’t underestimate the effort required to reposition expectations, especially in the public sector where there seems to be an unhealthy appetite for ‘IT disasters’…

All in all, I thought that Dave’s approach is a really useful outline of how we should approach making digital work in government. And now I’m off to persuade some other colleagues to take the time to watch it too!