Government digital chief Mike Bracken has announced his shock departure from government, four years after taking on leadership of the Government Digital Service (GDS). There is already much speculation about the reasons for his departure and what it means for the future of GDS – all of which I write about here – but for now, Computer Weekly has seen a copy of an internal email Bracken sent to the cross-Whitehall Technology Leaders Network announcing he was leaving, which in itself makes for interesting reading…
I’m writing to let you know that I will be leaving government on 30 September. More on what I’ll be doing is to follow, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for the tremendous help you’ve given me, and the cause of Digital Transformation, over the years.
There has been advice, support and hard work all across government, from Perm Secs [permanent secretaries], to all the digital people we’ve helped to hire, to the front-line staff who’ve been generous with their time as I poked around their systems, to the digital teams in departments and agencies who’ve actually knuckled down and redesigned their services around their users.
And there’s been kindness and encouragement from outside government too, our early conversations with Tim O’Reilly and Jen Pahlka in the US have blossomed into shared practises and mutual support with the USDS and 18F. Governments across the world have acknowledged the pioneering work we’ve been doing and have decided to join us on the journey. Our Digital Advisory Board has listened, advised and nudged us forward. The wider government technology/digital/open data community has been a fantastic critical friend, holding us to account and helping us improve.
You lot, though, deserve a special word of thanks, because you’ve got one of the hardest and most important jobs in government.
You’re a newer group than the digital leaders so you’ve got more work ahead of you and you’ve had less time to gel. And you’re in the engine room of transformation – facing the important decisions that will really drive the way government serves its users. All I can advise is keep collaborating, keep talking back and don’t go back to the closed, secretive days of five CIOs in a room making all the decisions for government. The Whitehall game of big departments doesn’t work for users – it works to sustain an image of relative size in a closed system, while users of our services don’t care about our internal IT budgets. We are at our best – whether it be making decisions about software warranties or open document standards – when we do it as a collective. You’ve got the chance to demonstrate that large-scale technology transformation is possible and that cross-government working can be effective – in fact it’s the only way to get it done. Please continue to support Magnus [Falk, deputy CTO] and to work with the Digital Leaders together you’ll be unstoppable. Chris Ferguson will chair of the Digital Leaders Network as Kathy Settle moves to take up her post at DCMS – please support him and please keep collaborating.
With you, with Digital Leaders, with the Advisory Board and with GDS I believe I’m leaving government’s digital delivery in enormously capable hands. The GDS leadership is strong, our plans are clear and focused, our people – and digital teams across government – are rolling up their sleeves to continue the work of transformation.
Again, thanks, good luck and please stay in touch.