Meet the new hotness, same as the old hotness, almost...

If you’re working in the private sector and reading this, I want to give a health warning. Some of the smartest IT professionals I’ve ever met are working in government, and there are a lot of very interesting things going on there. Not all good, but pretty much all interesting. So if you want to be able to go back to the water cooler and wax lyrical about how glad you are you don’t work for the government, stop here.

The Government Digital Service - GDS - are the new hotness. In another post I talked about a digital renaissance and GDS are right in there. Employing very smart developers, setting a vision, and then getting on with it. Simples.

I’m a little bit behind the times, because I managed to miss that GDS had released the Government Service Design Manual.

Personally, I found it quite exciting to read; it is so unashamedly positive and confident, full of sensible stuff. Yet when I reflected on it I was struck by something else: it doesn’t contain anything new.

Now before anyone from GDS bursts a blood vessel, let me qualify that. Firstly, I haven’t read all 286 pieces of guidance and I’m not sufficiently expert in all those areas to know all of it intimately. However, I get around a lot and none of the subject areas or broad methodologies were unfamiliar. I also don’t think that this is in any way a bad thing and it certainly isn’t a criticism.

Instead, what I would say is that a fully-functioning professional operating in the digital service domain should have at the very least a passing familiarity with the contents of this manual in addition to their own deep expertise in a bit of it. Should be familiar, but often aren’t. The coverage is good, and choice of subjects is of itself very interesting.

What is exciting is that it is all together, in one place, free to access, it is clearly there to be evolved, and it is a great start. It is also a clarion call to everyone working on digital services in government to do things differently. Handled well, this should set a new bar for outcomes and empower clever people across government to get over that bar. It also has wide applicability beyond government.

And by the way, GDS is hot to trot, but there are lots of clever people in government who are capable but don’t feel empowered to do what GDS does. The good practice guidance is fab, but what would be the height of awesomeness is if the confidence and empowerment virus that GDS is in the full-blown grip of could also spread far and wide...