Iterating our digital principles

simpler, clearer digital defra

Written by Harriet Green, CDO at Defra

This piece was co-authored with Myra Hunt, CDO at Defra.

More than a year ago, mine and Myra Hunt’s predecessor Sally Meecham wrote about Defra’s digital principles, saying how they acted as a useful way of setting out our approach to simplifying services and cutting out complexity.

A lot’s happened since then. In the last few months, we have been working hard to re-think how Defra’s digital function is structured and how it works. As we said in a blog post back in November of last year:

Digital transformation means changing those working methods. It means: being more agile; putting users first; starting small and iterating from there, based on user research.

The new digital function is designed to bring those changes about, and make them stick.

Consequently, we think it’s time to re-evaluate the digital principles. We want them to better reflect where we are now.

So at the moment, they look something like this:

  1. Focus on teams, not projects
  2. Develop in-house capacity wherever possible, helped by specialist external experts and suppliers where necessary
  3. Be agile by default, and deliver in line with GDS standards
  4. Build digital teams in line with the GDS Digital, Data and Technology profession framework
  5. Budget for continuous iterative improvement
  6. Deliver using a common technology stack that’s flexible enough to help teams deliver
  7. Encourage teams to re-use common platforms and service patterns wherever possible
  8. Challenge work that does not have a clear or persuasive business case, or which appears to add complexity, or that doesn’t meet user needs, or that simply replicates poor non-digital processes
  9. Keep things simple

And there’s a final, meta principle that goes alongside all of these:

We will empower teams and individuals to call us out when they see these principles being ignored, sidelined or mis-used.

That’s important because laying out a set of principles is one thing, but giving them clout is another. We want these principles to have some clout, to be something that guides us and our colleagues across the digital function for the years ahead.

There’s a great deal of work to do. We hope that having a set of clear, simple principles will help give delivery teams across Defra confidence that we’ve got their backs, and we’re here to support them. Keep going.

This article was originally published here.


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