Departments handed manual for digital services redesign

Government releases a manual for CTOs redesigning Whitehall digital services, as contracts with system integrators begin to expire from 2014

The government has released a design manual for chief technology officers redesigning Whitehall digital services, as contracts with existing system integrators begin to expire from 2014.

The Government Service Design Manual has mapped Whitehall technology into four areas, mission IT systems, digital public services, infrastructure and back office functions.

Liam Maxwell, government chief technology officer, told Computer Weekly the aim was to identify common user needs across government.

“I think this is a really defining moment. Because up to now everyone has done it their own way," Maxwell said.

“This is the first time anyone’s said: 'This is how we all think we should do this as a collective group and this is the way technology should be delivered in the future'.”

The move follows a recent technology leadership shake-up in Whitehall, with the axing of the central CIO role and elevation of CTOs and digital leaders as key to driving technology change across government.

This is the first time anyone’s sat down and said... this is the way technology should be delivered in the future

Liam Maxwell, government CTO

Maxwell said the manual would enable a platform approach to technology. 

"The point is each department does the same thing, and if you can make it common, you can take those services and redesign them,” he said.

Maxwell wants the manual to redefine the perception of the Cabinet Office as a spend control function, with departments subject to central approval for all spend above £5m. 

“This is about saying: 'We are from the centre, we are here to help'. And we are already helping with co-delivery [of projects], sponsorship and helping departments move, from very large programmes to moving them to a place where they are able to save money.

“This is us moving away from simply saying ‘let’s stop things’ and outlining how we can create a new digital government based around user needs."

Maxwell praised the G-Cloud for opening the supplier market, adding that the aim now is to embed open standards, open data and open source.

“It’s a resource that gives permission for people to work in a modern way,” he said.

Maxwell said the manual would act as a living set of documents: “We will change it as things adapt, so it will be a resource people can use.”

The guides were written by the Government Digital Service, with input from the CTO Executive Group and other stakeholders in government such as CESG.


Read more on Cloud computing software

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

The fundamental flaw in the manual is one size does not fit all far better to recognise the "commoditisation" of few supporting generic work tasks that support all business logic?

By conincidence this is what I sent earlier today about their £500m spend on application development for local authorities (ref RM 865)

"Before you get “ripped off” by the enterprise software vendors selling old technologies via the awarded suppliers below are questions you need to ask.

In summary there is new capability in software that focuses on people not “systems”. It is important as a buyer you understand how vendors build their software not just what they build. This new approach adopts Model Driven Engineering so the code never changes yet builds any custom solution. It is regarded by many as the future of software – so why buy into out of date software? Indeed views now being expressed “….how those models can become applications without any code being written or even generated”. “If I’m right, you’ll want to be on the agile, models-driven, definitional development side of the moat thus created…..” And very recently said “…”If your Enterprise vendor isn't pretty far down this path, their future isn't very bright”. Sadly Government’s initiatives to seek such innovation to save money have all failed to support you hence the direct approach from a UK upstart innovator having proven it works. (Check my twitter rants you will learn……..!)

As such early planning needs to be outcome driven and how users are supported to deliver. Be wary of the system architects trying to design “in side out” using existing capabilities as driver. It should be “outside in” thinking what is needed to support people to deliver the service outcome with existing data being orchestrated as required. There is a new category of applications called Adaptive Case Management (ACM) see summary here . Key lessons from early adopters are

No need for detailed “final spec” to build custom case management

Engage users very early in process design

Get a working first cut/prototype to users quickly for intelligent feed back

Try anticipate where change is likely in order to build in easy configurability by

It allows a change in culture where change is both encouraged and welcome by users
An Adaptive Case Management solution is not static and should change as the
business requirements change

Also shared service capability one application with multiple groups with their own identity with customised requirement is possible

You should not be creating new inflexible legacy systems nor should you need to spend anything like £500m!

In Summary to be the intelligent customer as recommended by the PASC ask those questions of the Software vendors such IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Progress, SAP, Redhat etc. who supply the service providers on your list of “Awarded Suppliers”.

You have a duty to ensure VFM now you know……and so does the NAO copied in on this.

How adaptive is the software to support both iterative build and future change and how is this achieved?

How is the specification handled in terms of both being understood by users and developers and how then translated into build?

How much custom coding is required to build custom applications is it accessible and how is future change handled?

Does the core technology support reusable features to speed up future development and does it support being used as a shared service?

Are process, workflow, rules, state and calculation engines contained in one development tool? If not how do they handle these essential requirements?

How does the user interface present information to ensure all relevant data is available to the authorised person at the right time and that new information is easily entered only once into the system?

Can a working prototype as a first pass of the solution be built quickly to test requirements and engage policy makers and users for feedback?

Is there a method to estimated time frames for delivery of the application?

Can the development environment provide an exact record in a business friendly format what has been deployed?

What capability is there to deliver intelligent applications giving flexibility to users dependent upon circumstances?

How does the architecture of the technology fit to connect to legacy, how does it scale and does it require SOA?

What is the total “file size” of the integrated tool which will give indication of complexity and its green credentials"