Changing the conversations

For the second summer in a row ‘digital’ in government has become newsworthy not for a massive overspend or service failure but due to shenanigans at the leadership level. It is ‘House of (Punch) Cards’ once again and really not the sort of thing you expect as a civil service geek.


I’m not sure I’m supposed to have a public opinion but I’ll say the couple of times I met Stephen Foreshew-Cain he seemed a really nice, extremely smart chap and I appreciated his inclusive “we’ve got your back” approach.

Friends at Aviation House rated him highly and he’ll be much missed.

I don’t know Kevin Cunnington at all — I’ve heard him speak once or twice and follow him on Twitter but that is all. He seems a switched on guy and people I know and admire say very good things about him so it sounds like GDS are in good hands. He was the leading light behind the #TransformingTogether events and community so that bodes well. I wish him luck and hope he can bring stability and clarity to things.

On Twitter Charlotte Jee asked..

..and Tom (being Tom) answered for myself and many others immediately..

I agree with all of those things but here is why they were important (to me at least). They changed the conversations all over the civil service and beyond. The GDS weren’t the first team with a lot of these ideas but they were the first to deliver on them at scale and openly (if increasingly white-washed I think).

Want to hire an expert, but small, studio to do something for you instead of a massive ‘systems integrator’ the Digital Marketplace offered options and examples.

Want to host in the cloud and save wheel barrows of public cash and improve performance? Here is how they said.

Want to work with open source and develop in the open? Stop panicking and look at this Github account.

Talking to someone who you want to hire — they know about GDS and suddenly working for the Government isn’t a total non-starter (far from a done deal but it is something..)

Investing in design? Service, interaction or otherwise? Try making that case before GDS.

Empowered Product/Service Managers making decisions without running to their Board at every stage? After people had finished laughing you’d probably end up on a performance improvement plan.

Putting users first? Seems obvious right? It was. To an awful lot of us all over the public sector. It was a constant battle though to make it a priority and then GDS came along and make it the default approach.

They gave us principles to live up to. Standards to work towards and assessments to keep us honest…

…not to mention spend controls to root out the moments of madness early and often.

So GDS changed the conversation.