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Tuesday, 28th August 2018

A bank holiday on Monday means delivery of this newsletter on a Tuesday. This weekend I had a bit of a treat - a round of nine holes of 'footgolf'. I managed to win, just, playing against two children and an adult, none of whom have ever really played football - or indeed footgolf - in their lives before. Still, it was a win.

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!

When might you not want to transform?

A short note this week, but hopefully a useful one, which was based on a recent conversation I had with James Herbert, off of Not Binary. Link. We were discussing both the need for, and the difficulty in achieving, true transformation in public services.

The issue is, as I have discussed several times in these missives, is that genuine radical change is really hard, and it takes time. Now, time is the resource that many of the organisations that need this change the most just don't have - there are too many services needing to save too much money to enable them to be transformed. So what to do?

I think the answer lies in making judicious use of the different approaches of digital transformation and digital efficiency on services. As a reminder, transformation is radically rethinking operating models of services, whilst efficiency is using design and technology to make existing operating models work a bit better.

Some services might not be right for transformation. This could be because the personalities involved just won't go for it, a lack of capability in the team, or because there isn't the resource to put into it at this moment in time, and they need some savings and service improvements right now

In these cases, trying to do full scale end to end transformation not only might not succeed, it could be harmful. In which case, try the efficiency route. This could mean:

  • redesigning and rewriting web content and improving online form processes to improve the user experience and speed up the process
  • putting in different (better!) back office systems that can deliver end to end digital services
  • making use of robotic process automation to automate currently manual processes
There are probably plenty of other approaches, too.

The key is to acknowledge what conditions are required for full transformation, and to have a plan B ready to go if they can't be met for a particular service at a particular time. 

Podcast with me on it of the week

I recorded another discussion with Vicky Sargent the other day about digital transformation in local government, focusing this time on Adur & Worthing and Hackney. Enjoy! Link.


  • Catherine Howe got her blogging mojo back during a few days of thinking and writing time recently. All worth reading, but thus beauty on why all change is system change is worth pointing out in particular. Link.
  • A helpful report written by the ex-GDS folk at Public Digital on achieving and sustaining digital transformation in government (PDF). Link

Tools and techniques

  • Hackney have shared the work they did with Helpful Digital to create reusable content on data awareness. Link
  • Jukesie is planning a talk about hiring good digital people, and would like some help. My short take is that there just aren't enough good people to go around, sadly, and even the good ones sometimes don't get hired because of flaws in the recruitment process (largely that those involved in decision making on this don't know what good looks like). Link
  • An interesting article in TechCrunch about office politics in remote working teams. Link.


  • Another article on the rise of low code platforms for quickly building out business applications. Remember - it's a useful part of the jigsaw - but there are no silver bullets. Link.
  • Here are the results of a survey by GDS into technology innovation. Link
  • David Carboni on why reusing technology capabilities can cause disaster. To be fair, he also says "single-function capabilities, with clear purpose and solid boundaries" such as "software libraries, cloud infrastructure or office productivity software" are fine to reuse. An interesting view, nonetheless. Link.


  • Building the Smarter State, 6 September, London. Link
  • There are still some tickets available for HealthCamp on 8th September. Link


  • User researcher, Hackney Council. Link.
  • Director of Customer and Community Services, Wealdon District 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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