So the big news in my Twitter feed this week was the unexpected resignation of Mike Bracken from the Government Digital Service. Mike was very much the public face of this era of digital transformation in Government and has been something of a force of nature in bringing the rest of the civil service along with the vision he shared with Dame Martha and Baron Maude. All three of them have moved on now and there was no shortage of rumour mongering and speculation about what comes next for GDS. Big budget cuts seem to be a given and perhaps a change of remit to some extent? We will see.
From a personal point of view I never met Mike – my interactions with GDS have tended to be a little less lofty (no disrespect Tom!) – but there is no doubt the work GDS did under his leadership has had a massive effect on my career. There is no way I would have been supported to do the work I am currently doing, in the manner I am doing it, in a pre-GDS civil service. I haven’t always agreed with everything GDS have done, or the way they have done it, but I truly believe it has been a massive force for good and if things do start to revert back to the way things were five years ago? Well that will be a dark day. For the record though I don’t think that is going to happen – I truly believe there is too much momentum and too many good people in positions of influence to let that take place. I’ll be watching closely though.
Mike is going on to be Chief Digital Officer for the Co-operative which actually seems like a frying pan / fire situation to be honest but the Co-op movement is important so I hope Mike has more success there.
Closer to home the big news in the statistical community was the start of the Bean Review into UK economic statistics. This is a huge deal for ONS and for anybody interested in statistics basically. The Financial Times featured the launch on their front page (almost wrote homepage there!). Obviously I am not involved in the statistical side of the organisation but there have been a lot of key words relevant to my interests in the coverage so far – talk of the importance of the ‘internet revolution’, ‘user focused statistics’, better use of ‘open’ and ‘big’ data and just lots of mention of the need to improve the technology behind the production of statistics and their dissemination (the latter essentially being my job.) I am far from an economist so I have no idea of the likely outcomes of the review but again I’ll be watching closely to see if there is anything I can do to help the organisation take advantage of this ‘internet revolution’ 🙂
As far as my work was concerned it was my first week back after my ‘Beta breather’ – where I stuck to my guns and didn’t check in to work at all for a fortnight (longest I’ve managed for a decade or so!). As expected my team more than managed to cope without me and the Beta continues to get rave reviews in a general sense and lots of constructive criticism at the very detailed level – this is what I expected and it is all extremely useful.
After easing back in to the week with an immediate Programme Board on the Monday morning (where I had 3 of 5 agenda items!) I spent a lot of time trying to sort out our hiring issues again. This continues to be really difficult – I wonder if I am being too picky but I think the work is too important to compromise. It is frustrating though and not getting any easier.
I also started work on a high level product roadmap in Trello which once a few more people have seen we will publish openly. This was inspired by what GDS have done (and also the Parliament Data team). It holds together pretty well and has been a useful exercise for me.