People. Problems. Perspectives.

I’m still thinking about the whole people conundrum at the heart of the agile, digital development approach we are taking. My consistent online whingeing has certainly identified that it isn’t an uncommon problem and it isn’t just the public sector facing it. There is clearly a something of a ‘talent shortage’ and the traditional brain drain to London (either for GDS, startup life in Shoreditch or a pay day in the City) isn’t showing any sign of slowing.

There are genuinely talented people interested in working in the Gov space though – inspired by the work of GDS but not willing to move to London they are curious about opportunities out in the regions. I know this because a number of them have sought me out for conversations about it.

I know I can be a bit of a grumpy git at times but I am pretty passionate about what I do and why I do it so I try to share that passion with anybody interested but at the moment I just don’t seem to be able to really close the sale. Something in the story just isn’t quite compelling enough. Yet.

I think we are going to have to investigate other models of working that might help encourage people to sign up – or we need to look elsewhere. One way or another I need a new perspective.

I love working in a co-located team but maybe more research needs to be done in to how we could run remote agile teams and still live up to the Service Standard? Clearly this would mean resolving a whole host of security as well as cultural issues but would it help? Clearly some businesses do this successfully but it does still seem to be unusual at scale.

Or maybe it is time for Departments/Organisations to pool resources and set-up shared digital ‘hubs’ (perhaps under the GDS banner) where genuine multi-disciplinary dev teams come together to work with an embedded representative (Service Manager?) on a project by project basis. This has the advantage that you can build a genuine digital first culture – in the manner GDS did – rather than always being an adjunct of an adjunct (organisation culture, divisional culture…baggage of some sort.)

The DWP Digital Academy idea is extremely interesting. Is the answer that we invest in existing staff and fast track them with the skills and responsibilities to operate in these agile development environments? Many organisations are probably too small to do this themselves and where do you get the right kind of training and mentoring but there is probably a lot of hidden talent out there just looking for someone to take a chance on them.

The other option is of course to continue to use suppliers to plug the gaps. This doesn’t really seem sustainable in the long term and if you followed the G-Cloud/Digital Services Framework debate this week you would have seen this route has its own issues. That said almost nothing I have achieved professionally in the last few years would have happened without the help of some brilliant SMEs and I can’t see the need for that kind of injection of expertise ever being totally replaced.

As ever I am just thinking out loud here. Maybe if I keep doing that somebody smarter will come along and offer me a solution.

Here is hoping.

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