This is the week that agile truly died in UK government. GDS has been stumbling along with very limited impact for many months, perhaps even as long as two or three years. That was triggered by a failure to manage the inevitable turnover of leadership, both in the executive and ministerial ranks. See my previous writing, not least the emperor’s new clothes.
It’s one thing to stumble, it’s another to fall and not be able to get up. And that’s where we’ve arrived. The interim head of GDS, Alison Pritchard, announced the new plan for digital government at the Sprint 19 event. I say sprint, but it’s increasingly clear that we’re moving at waddle speed, at best. She said, according to Mark Say at UK Authority:
“Government in 2030 will be joined up, trusted and responsive to user needs … This is the closest I have seen for quite a while to articulating the end goal for what we are trying to achieve”
Close but not actually the end goal? No different from the joined up, citizen focused government of 2000 some would say. Or of the goal set in many other iterations of e-government, transformation or digital government.
What this isn’t is clear thinking, iterative, ambitious, useful or, in any way, likely to succeed. What will we get next month? Or in 6 months? Or in a year? A tiny step closer perhaps. But seemingly we need 10 more years to get “close” to our “end goal”. As if there’s an end. Where did we lose agile and iterative? Where did the recognition that the goal shifts as you progress go?
What’s the single thing that we can predict about 2030 as I write in September 2019? It’s that none of the people currently in post in government, let alone in GDS, will be in post when that time rolls around.
The greek temple model makes an appearance, with 5 pillars. Legacy systems will, apparently, no longer be a barrier to transformation – notwithstanding that there will doubtless be new ones by 2030. Oh, and ubiquitous digital identity. Verify rises from Valhalla.
This isn’t Alison’s fault. She’s just arrived. She sees no way ahead in the short term. No sponsorship. Better to play the long game.
Oliver Dowden went on to say:
“It’s starting with key life events such as having a baby or setting up a business, or what do when a loved one has passed away. It enables government to deliver smarter public services by getting things right from the start.”
Forgive me for thinking it’s 1999 all over again. Somehow the digerati have become the deluderati.