Down with DDaT

This morning I tuned in to a Show & Tell from the team looking at coming up with a new ‘brand’ for the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) profession for the Civil Service. This work is part of a wider initiative to help improve recruitment and retention – driven by the ever growing demand and the fact that for some specific roles recruitment campaigns fail about 50% of the time across all Departments.

I’m not sure it is the most important thing that needs solving to improve things but I’m not against it and it is happening. I don’t know a single practitioner in any ‘DDaT’ profession who likes or relates to the term. Also as the team’s research highlighted it isn’t used elsewhere in the wider technology world either.

This Show and Tell was pretty underwhelming if I am honest but I understand it is a difficult topic. Some of the suggested names were painful and lacked context and awareness of the history behind this work in the Civil Service. Not unexpected when an external brand agency is involved (I’ve been traumatised from the consultancy days!).

Also it all seemed like it was avoiding the elephant in the room. The Government Digital Service (GDS) is the brand. It should – like the Government Statistical Service and others – have been the name of the profession and not just a centralised service that at times has been treated and marketed as ‘elite’.

I suspect we have long since missed the window but an umbrella brand of the Government Digital Service – with all the inherited kudos that still carries from those impactful, early days and some of the amazing product/service work since – with sub-brands for job families like User Centred Design, Agile, Software Engineering, Data, Cyber…because not all roles are the same and different things motivate and inspire potential applicants – would have the best chance of cutting through the noise in the crowded and hard though hiring market.

If that ship has sailed – and I suspect it has – I think the next best option would just be Civil Service Digital. There is interesting research to be done as to whether Civil Service carries more trust than Government in this context or whether it has too much bureaucracy baggage? 

Anyway I’d still go with the sub-brands. In fact I think those sub-brands will be where the heavy lifting should take place. A decade plus in and I still don’t think there is sufficient awareness of all the good practice that takes place in Departments all over the UK – because the only stories that break out into the mainstream are the big fails. We have such good stories to tell about service design, SRE/cloud, content design, product and more – alongside all the challenges that I suspect people intuit more easily! 

The point is to create a brand that speaks to people not already in the digital gov orbit so maybe I am too close to things. It is notable that nobody refers to ‘Big Digital’ when they talk about the biggest internet-era companies. People understand the idea of ‘Big Tech’ when they speak about Meta, Google, Apple, Amazon etc and that those companies are more than just the technology that underpin them. 

One of the reasons I am supportive of the idea of a new umbrella brand is I hope it creates a window to start having conversations about finding a way we can stop competing with each other for every role. The non-stop robbing Peter to pay Paul – alongside all those failed campaigns – is a real problem and unless we can find a way to work together across Departments to grow the pool of talent we are bringing in to the Civil Service we will continue to struggle. 

Almost eight years ago I started my jobs newsletter as I could see how hard it was to cut through and find people who might be interested in these great roles doing interesting roles – and month on month, year on year that has just got harder and harder so I really think we need to get creative, get a little loud and start pushing our way to the front of the crowd of employers desperate for these skills!

3 responses to “Down with DDaT”

  1. Looking to move sectors is a fascinating challenge when every job seems to have ‘digital’ in it somewhere and much of the language does not align. What these words may mean is in the mind of the recruiter, but rarely related to the role itself. It is just a tool.
    Fifty years ago did the civil service have ‘Head of Ballpoint Pen strategy’, ‘Director of Typewriters’ or a “Paper Systems Analyst’

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