Using Government Digital Service principles to improve private sector development

Adrian Leer speaking at conference

Written by Adrian Leer, Managing Director of Triad

Whilst I am now in the fortunate position to be Managing Director of Triad, which has included involvement in significant Government digital transformation projects, my career also includes many years “client side” working as IT Director for a number of private sector organisations. 

As an IT Director, I went through many iterations of methods.  These included LSDM (who remembers that!), Summit-D and several in-house methodologies.  And, of course, when I joined Triad there was a well-established approach that was morphing from a Prince-based style to something rather more Agile. And then in 2010 came along the Government Digital Services (GDS) with its own emerging approach

Over the years, I have carefully tracked GDS’ developments and we at Triad have wholeheartedly embraced the Service Design Manual as a serious body of work that influences the way we deliver.

As GDS developed a standardised approach for building digital services, which is now widely used across the public sector, the ability to dip in and see other applications the private sector side could also use becomes more apparent. Indeed, Triad has assimilated much of the GDS approach into our own approach to delivering great digital products and services.

Such was my fascination with the breadth and depth of the Service Design Manual that I undertook an exercise to look at its applicability within the commercial sector.

By looking at the 18 key tenets of the GDS standard and discussing how they can apply to the private sector, and where there might be a case to modify the approach, the opportunities to secure significant benefits start to emerge.

Before embarking on our review of the GDS principles from a commercial sector perspective, we anticipated that there would be a good degree of applicability but that there would also be some significant exceptions. We were pleasantly surprised to conclude that all points are applicable, albeit with modification in some areas to better fit the needs and circumstances of life in the commercial sector.

The three areas where we think there is most need to adapt the principles for use in the commercial sector are:

Focus on User Needs: Should be more emphasis on needs of the business

Multidisciplinary Team: Should be less focus on ring-fenced roles

Test with the Minister: Needs to be a corporate equivalent of your Minister

Our review led us to conclude that the GDS principles provide a great bedrock with which to underpin the creation of digital services in the commercial sector. Yes, adaptation is required, but we are very confident that organisations adding GDS principles to the development of digital services will see improvements. In fact, we have successfully started this journey with our own commercial clients and the signs are very encouraging!

Our resulting report is an eBook that looks at each of the 18 key tenets of the GDS standard and discusses how they can apply to the private sector, and where there might be a case to modify the business approach.

Its aim is to identify for the private sector reader opportunities to secure significant benefits.

Please feel free to download our free eBook –

For those who have an appetite for a shorter read, there is one simple conclusion to draw: make a few, logical changes to the principles espoused by GDS and you have a ready-made resource that will serve you well in your quest for robust, incremental development of working software.

If you’d like to discuss the insights, conclusions or digital services development advice covered in this paper please visit or message me on LinkedIn.

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