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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Hmmm. I don't think I can claim this newsletter gets sent on a Monday any more. My working arrangements have changed recently and I need to figure out when the best regular day for publishing is. In the meantime, thank you for putting up with my irregularity.

Remember - if you enjoy this newsletter, others might too! Please forward it on to anybody you think might like it, or encourage folk to sign themselves up! Got something I ought to include? Mail me!

In, out, shake IT all about

My link last week to a short Socitm piece on IT outsourcing sparked a bit of debate and discussion on Twitter, which was nice to see - people actually read this stuff! Link to the Twitter thread (you have to click around it a bit to find all the contributions).

The key response was from Simon Wardley, expressed in a number of Tweets. Link. He also linked to a series of blog posts outlining his views, which are essential reading. Link

I don't have a brain as big as Simon's, so I carry around a much simplified version in my head. I tweeted this in the conversation, but have tidied it up and formatted it a bit for you here:

The model has to be: the closer you get to the customer, the more control over the technology your organisation needs. That stuff needs to be bespoke, agile and user centred. The back room utility stuff can be delivered by anyone. Outsourcing everything is mad, you’re throwing away strategic control of your own services. Likewise insourcing everything means losing focus and spending your time patching - nobody’s idea of a good time.
So, to my mind, break your service down into component parts, from the web front end the customer sees, through the form and workflow engines that power it, via the back office systems and the servers they run on, to the power that keeps them going. Which of those components is it vital that you have direct control of to improve the value you create for the end user? Those are the ones you need close to hand.

Again, to return to my regular theme (bored yet?) - it's hard work. People like outsourcing or insourcing everything because it appears to be a silver bullet, a one size fits all solution to a perceived problem you have. But that's just not how the world works anymore, if it ever did.

You simply can't outsource IT in its entirety because the services you deliver and the technology that runs it are inseparable. A service cannot be designed in isolation from the user facing or the back office IT stuff. If you need to make changes to maximise user value, and can't because of the way that element of technology is delivered via a third party, then you're in trouble. But don't make the mistake of having everything done in house, because then you won't have time to do any customer facing work, because you'll be too busy installing updates on servers.

There's no shortcut to fully understanding your service and the needs of its users, nor the capabilities needed to deliver it, and how they should best be provided. This is hard, demanding work - but it is necessary.


  • A long but fascinating interview with Tom Loosemore, who is probably best described as the founder of GDS. I recommend you read this at least three times, and maybe take notes. Link
  • Two links from people at FutureGov about strategy, both found by the wonderful Stefan at Strategic Reading. Link.
    • First, Lingjing Yin on what strategy actually is, why it is important and how you should use it. Link.
    • Then Ben Holliday weighs in, boldly stating that all design is strategic. Link
  • Cerys Hearsey from PostShift shares thoughts and links about digital leadership and the much needed change in mindset. Link.

Tools and techniques

  • Phil Rumens wants to get councils and suppliers to share service patterns, process maps, and that sort of thing. I'm undecided about the benefit of sharing processes, as they are so often tightly tied to operating models, technology choices and staffing structures. However, if any kind of benefit arises from sharing them openly, then that has to be a good thing. Link
  • An oldie but a goodie - Mark Foden on why you should run experiments, not pilots. Link
  • The Design in the Public Sector programme from the Design Council and the LGA (mostly, I would imagine, from the Design Council) looks well worth applying for. Link


  • A research report from the Defence and Security Accelerator (what do you mean you've never heard of it?!?!) on future technology trends. A PDF, which is a shame given what I linked to last time. Still, some interesting insights. Link
  • Fab documentary from the BBC about how it all went wrong for Nokia. Link.
  • Ben Thompson writes brilliantly about Google's strategy for Android (and why the EU have dished them out a massive fine). Link


  • UKHealthCamp is in September and takes place in Manchester. Link.
  • Want to run your own open space event? James 'Fingers' Cattell has a guide for you. Link.


  • IS Analyst - Digital, Brighton and Hove Council. Link.
  • Digital Project Manager, Stevenage Borough Council. Link
  • Head of Digital, Wirral Council. Link
If you're on the lookout for a new public service digital job, then you'd do a lot worse than signing up for Matt Jukes' entirely job-focused newsletter.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and please feel free to forward this onto friends and colleagues - and maybe even encourage them to sign up!

If you have any feedback, or an idea for something to be included, please just hit reply and send me an email.

Until next time,

~ Dave
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