Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Making digital services for dummies

Have you seen the new Government Service Design Manual? It's basically a Making Digital Services for Dummies. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense, in fact quite the opposite. The "For Dummies" books sell millions and it's actually often "dummies", or people that don't have a working knowledge of how digital services are developed that have the final say on how and if they're created.

The thing is, it won't work for some local governments.

Because it's a textbook of how things should be done, the real world sometimes doesn't work like it does on paper. Some local governments don't employ development resource, others are tied into long contracts which means they have to pay through the nose for development and have little control over the process used to create it.

So what's the solution? Adapt the Manual for local governments? Nope. The Manual is by and large how digital development should be done in government, and whilst it's a bit idealistic shouldn't we strive to achieve high ideals? Don't the people we're supplying services to deserve this?

Even formal project management methodologies like PRINCE2 say to use them where appropriate, and not when not, so perhaps local governments should try to use the Manual where they think applicable.

Those who rely on external resource could alert whoever develops their digital services to the Manual and say "we want it done like this" and if this becomes a problem then start to think about whether they've chosen the right people to do this for them.

Longer term local governments who already don't, should probably start to think about employing or sharing some development resource. It's very difficult to go through an iterative process of improvement based on customer feedback otherwise and as any good developer knows, actual use and user feedback is the best way to improve a service.

So there we go. The Government Service Design Manual, perhaps a blueprint not just for Central Government, but local governments to help citizens choose digital.

If you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at https://twitter.com/PhilRumens
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.