While in many (most) ways the great work going on as a part of Betagov and the wider Government Digital Service is inspiring it is also considerably adds to my frustrations at the moment. I am wondering whether I need to turn something of a ‘blind eye’ to the posts etc coming out of the project before those frustrations manifest into something more!
The thing is while GDS are embracing agile techniques, open source tools, recruiting great developers and actually really thinking about the user experience and content strategies things closer to home are still pretty different.
Budgets are tight, procurement rules are as difficult to navigate as ever and the requirements for reporting from those above remains a considerable overhead. Teams are small, access to developers is minimal and anything beyond just keeping on keeping on is tough.
Outside of Hercules House ‘digital by default’ seems a long, long way away and requires making compromises in order just to get some momentum. Small wins are achievable (and you can bet we celebrate each one!) but getting anything larger out of the door requires considerable patience and fortitude.
A friend recently told me that I needed to readjust my own expectations and that I had worked in this space long enough to understand the challenges and they are right I think. I choose to work in the public sector (and this academic/science/government corner of it in particular) and I’ve been doing it a long time so I have no excuse when I let frustrations build up. I walked away from the start-up life and didn’t much care for freelancing. It was clear this was where I was happiest and I need to remind myself of the considerable positives as well as some of the great projects I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in each time I get frustrated.
I think the work happening in GDS will have a real impact on web teams throughout the public sector but it will take a long time for it to leak through to those of us out in the NDPBs and I think I’ll switch to treating the work they are doing there as something as different to my job as that of a Silicon Valley start-up – they are just aren’t enough points of comparison to treat it as anything else!