Going viral: the digitalisation of our iconic institutions

Like most people of a certain vintage in a digital-ish profession I went through a stage where Techcrunch was my bible and I desperately wanted to be a part of a successful startup. In the end I spent a year at a [not] successful example and learned loads — not least that it wasn’t the world for me.

Over time I realised that what I really enjoyed was helping rather staid organisations embrace these new internet age opportunities. I liked the idea of being the digital patient zero — infecting organisations with virulent strains of transparency, open source, agility and ownership. None of it was rocket science and a lot of it was just attitude but amongst the frustrations there is a lot of fun to be had.

Clearly things have changed at GDS but I will forever be thankful for their work in infecting the whole blooming Civil Service. There are amazing digital teams now at DWP, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, HMRC, DVLA, Companies House, Land Registry and every other corner of Government. Hell even we punch above our weight in Newport.

Now it is fun to watch this contagion spread even further afield and how it effects these big, iconic organisations.

The new Parliament Digital Service are starting to do amazing work — hell they are running internal unconferences within the House of Lords! They have empowered some great advisors and are building a brilliant team. It is exciting to watch.

Like many, many people I love the NHS and everything it stands for and over the years it has served me well on a number of occasions (I am prone to breaking bones and my kidneys have been on a work to rule for 30 years) so the NHS Alpha project is something that is great to see. They are a small team working in an insanely complex space with an enormous amount to tackle but they have brilliant, passionate people and a sensible approach so it is worth keeping an eye on.

I mentioned on Twitter a couple of times recently it also seems like ‘retail is the new government’ as both the Co-operative Group — with their ‘lift and shift’ of the GDS leadership — and also Marks and Spencer with Meri Williams building #notjustanyteam (and picking up the odd ex GDS colleague on the way!) making serious moves towards becoming digital-first organisations. The Co-op and M&S? Is there anyone more iconic in the UK :)

Sure places like the BBC and the Guardian have been doing it longer — and their alumni have had more than their share of influence on all of this activity but there is something of a real goldrush going on now (which means it is going to get even harder to recruit I imagine!)

So what will be the next big institution to catch the digital transformation sniffles?

I have to say reading this brilliant piece about the Bank of England I did think what an amazing and satisfying challenge that would be to be part of a change there.

Who else?

I tried hard to think of someone in the Bristol area in this sort of company but I really couldn’t :(