Preaching the gospel


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Might not make an awful lot of sense without reading the notes...

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  • This presentation is called “Preaching the gospel” because that felt like a good title a month or so ago. I don't think I'd call it that now, but by the end of the session I hope to have decided on a better name.(Image here:
  • As my habit, I have a series of disclaimers. The most important one here really is – just to be clear – I am not a member of the GDS. I do not work at the office above. (And I apologise to Foursquare user “Emily” for shamefully nicking her picture of the portico of the GDS building. I'll replace the image next time I'm there. It's not as posh inside.)This is simply an outsider's view of something I think is interesting, and worth getting a bit worked up about.
  • A google search for UK government IT disasters turns up 3.6M hits...I had a screen shot of that, but changed it to this – it's the second result on Flickr for CC-images using the term government+IT+projects. It's in Kenya as it happens: government – hell, almost any government – haven't been so good at procuring IT projects, or delivering services digitally.This is not news.
    Why is it so?
  • Well, this is what I reckon, and I think they'd agree with me. Policies would come down on tablets of stone, be turned into processes, then systems purchased and built using lengthy procurement processes.And alterations in response to a fast-moving technological environment, or heaven forfend evolving user needs were “change control”. Lets' say that again. “change control”. That's inside out.I feel particularly sorry for the poor sods who worked in such an inside-out system.(Image here:
    People have been talking about this for years – Rewired State, MySociety, DirectGov staff themselves, Liam Maxwell's .”Better for less” report:
  • .
  • Her report is only 11 pages long, and worth a read. made four recommendations:Fix publishing – single domain, single UX
    Fix transactions – digital by default, so good people want to use themGo wholesale, not retail – partnerships and APIs, build it properly.
    New CEO digital - Fix procurement, power to do the rest
  • Alpha-gov was the first experiment, in 2011.12 weeks, £261k and a load of learning
  • Became beta-gov, and then on the 17th of Otober 2012
  • And here it is today.
    Note how much has changed just on the home page since the alpha.I want to highlight a couple of things I think are particularly neat.
  • Let's imagine I want to get a tax disc
    Over 5k people visited the tax disc page on .govuk on Christmas day 2013 - 61% using a computer, 24% mobile and 15% tablet. (Source:
    Velology is the study of expired tax discs, you know...
  • This is it 2010-style.It's not instantly clear how to do it. That title isn't a link, that grey area isn't a link, none of the left hand column helps me, most of the stuff in the middle is directing me elsewhere, that thing that looks like a “breadcrumb trail.” isn't one, some of the text _in_ the grey arear in the middle is a link, but it's styled the same as the text which _isn't_and the right hand column suggests I might have an STD...Oh, there it is. Tiny icon in the middle, or the bottom right hand corner.
  • I want to get a tax disc 2013-style.Believes that if I've got to the tax disc page, all I need is to know am in the right place, and a big friendly button to get to....
  • ...what is still a the old form, actually, but NB: transactions not yet fixed. .
  • There's 25 exemplar projects on transactions – this is one, and it's not a GDS job, it's the MoJS own developers.This is the tough stuff. Or rather, amongst the tough stuff. I don't know who they are doing on identity, and that's hellish-hard.
  • This is a photo from the GDS offices – that paper is or was pasted onto one of their windows. It's a lovely indication of where their thinking is. It's outside, not inside, and it's with the people who will actually use their services..
  • Neat thing number 2.Let's imagine I want to know what are the governments policies in Afganistan, and how are we getting on with achieving them.
  • 2010 style. If I want to know, I have to understand how government works. Specifically, I need to know which departments. And I need to visit all of them and piece it together for myself. Fine for insiders, not so good for people.This is the FCO site – seems a reasonable place to start, right?
  • The MOD?
  • The MOD “operations” site?.
  • Dfid maybe?.
  • 2013 style. There's a page. It's got priorities, and policies, and.... which departments are involved? It's at the bottom.
  • Neontribe code in the API layer behind this – or so I'm told..
  • User-centred again, is that..
  • ...this shit wins awards. The Design Museum design of the year award in 2013, for example.But that's not what's really neat, not to me.
  • Remember the tablets of stone?Not so much, now...
  • The government digital service aims to work quite differently. And they've written down how....“Build service so good people prefer to use them.” Now, there's a goal. See that strip at the top? The one asking for feedback? That's so neat. This is far from tablets of stone, or a dogma. This is an evolving document. It's a recognition that everything can be improved. Cheerfully imperfect, the folk at the GDS.
  • Agile delivery. In government.This is part of what excites me. We've been talking about agile, and delivering our best, most successful projects in an agile fashion for years. Having government developing in an agile fashion makes those conversations much easier.This is a good read from them:
  • They talk about phases, comprised of sprints of development and design.
    Discovery – uncovering user needs and measuring improvement, right there up front
  • Alpha – nailing technical decisions, and getting something rough in front of people to test
  • Beta – kinda done, works end to end, and under development in response to real-life feedback
  • Live – iteration doesn't stop, improvement doesn't stop. The project is not finished, it's simply been delivered live.
  • Really, it goes back to users. Granted, I'd prefer to call them people, but it's a hell of an image...This is a photo from the GDS offices – that paper is or was pasted onto one of their windows. It's a lovely indication of where their thinking is. Outside the government, not inside..
  • I hope I've convinced you that there's something here you need to read up on. But if you only read one page, make it this one:
  • Again, Devops isn't new – but it's great to see it written done in a government publication. Delivery often, so when you deliver milestones it's not as big a thing.
  • It's none of it absolutely brand-spanking new. Some of it isn't the way we do things at Neontribe. But it's written inside by a traditionally risk-averse organisation – and there's some great stuff in there.And give them feedback too.So it's not really a gospel I'm preaching more an every-changing set of best practise. Or rather, practise as good as we can do right now. Which is a bit long-winded for a presentation title.
  • Preaching the revolution maybe? There's that revolutionary – she's moved on now, but the image remains.That set of messages is a bit wordy for my taste, mind....
  • ...they also use the three words trust. Users. Delivery And that's bang on.
    Again – that's their office.
  • I was looking for a better title....There's a time in any presentation – well, any of mine – when I wonder if I've pushed a metaphor too far, whether it stands up for critique.. And then I think “Ah, what the hell, carry on....” So, don't press it too far, but Martha Lane Fox's letter was pretty explicit: it called for a revolution, and the GDS are its children..
  • What I usually say about now is: I reckon I can communicate three things in a presentation. That this is a thing. That I am enthusiastic about this thing, and that you should take a look at it too. I hope I've succeeded. Have a read. You can give them feedback, after all.
  • Preaching the gospel

    1. 1. Preaching the gospel Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    2. 2. I do not work here...
    3. 3. An entirely unfair “statistic” Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    4. 4. Tablets of stone Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    5. 5. Revolutionary
    6. 6. Where it began...
    7. 7. alphagov
    8. 8. ...and then
    9. 9.
    10. 10. Car tax Image from and public domain
    11. 11. Get a tax disc - 2010
    12. 12. Get a tax disc - 2013
    13. 13. NB: Transactions not done yet...
    14. 14. 25 exemplars: LPA.
    15. 15. User-centered Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    16. 16. Afganistan Image from and public domain
    17. 17. Foreign office?
    18. 18. The MOD? (2011)
    19. 19. MOD operations? (2009)
    20. 20. Department for international development?
    21. 21. Afganistan 2013 style
    22. 22. Self-congratulatory aside: Neontribe code somewhere behind this...
    23. 23. User-centered Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    24. 24. ...which some people quite liked. Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    25. 25. Like Moses with tablets of stone Charlton Heston as “Moses” in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments”
    26. 26. GDS service design manual
    27. 27. Agile development Imagefrom used under OGL v1.0
    28. 28. Discovery
    29. 29. Alpha
    30. 30. Beta
    31. 31. Live
    32. 32. User-centered Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    33. 33. If you only read one page...
    34. 34. If you want to read another...
    35. 35. Look, just go and read it.
    36. 36. Nearly done. Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    37. 37. Trust. Users. Delivery. Image by used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    38. 38. Children of the revolution
    39. 39. Thanks for Harry Harrold listening Neontribe @harryharrold Image (c) Paul Clake You should hire him. He's good.