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Monday, 20th August 2018

Two Monday's in a row - things are getting back on track! I've had a good week, settling into my new role (details via LinkedIn at the bottom, if you're interested) and then a day at the test match on Saturday.

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!

Just what is a digital operating model?

I'm sure folk get bored of people like me banging on about digital transformation being more than web forms, or fancy integrations with back office systems. "It's about fundamentally redesigning your operating mode for the internet age!" I bellow. "What on earth does that actually mean?" thinks everyone to themselves.

Coming up with a digital age operating model for a service means redesigning it in the knowledge that the majority of your service users, and colleagues that deliver the service, have access to internet enabled devices. It means mapping your value chain, identifying all the components that make up a service, and removing any elements that could feasibly be replaced by networked computing capabilities.

That probably makes no sense. Think of it this way: a lot of the value add for services as they are currently delivered involves some kind of intermediary performing a role - linking people up, checking things, making decisions about things. In many (not all, of course!) cases, these days activities such as these can be done by software, connected to the internet, that users and service providers can both access, whether through the phone in their pocket or the corporate laptop on their desk (or lap).

Here's an example. It's a somewhat trite one, and over simplified, but has the benefit of being comprehensible. To book a cab, traditionally, one phoned the cab company (where you got the number from is another story, but not an irrelevant one), where someone took details of you and your journey, and they then got in touch with the cab drivers to find who was free and nearby, and then they made their way towards you while you hang around waiting, and hoping. Oh, and you needed to go to the cashpoint so you could pay - and might not know how much til you reach your destination.

Now, in recent times, cab companies have done stuff to reduce some of the friction in this process by enabling online bookings, booking via an app, SMS notifications of likely arrival times, and so on. All these are examples of digital efficiency, not transformation. The service remains essentially the same, and the intermediaries retain their role. 

Uber, however, disrupted this by starting from scratch, assuming that everyone (passengers and drivers) have phones with internet connections, apps and GPS. Users can now log the journey they want to make on their phone, and see themselves the drivers available to them, and choose the one they want based on a number of criteria (feedback ratings for the driver, the type of car they drive, how nearby they are etc). Users also know the prices, their payments are handled online with no cash changing hands, and they can track their driver's progress as they make their way to them. Afterwards they can rate their driver and also receive feedback on how they conduct themselves.

In this way, Uber has removed a whole section of the value chain (the cab dispatcher role) in such a way that makes the whole process both more efficient and delivers a far better user experience, because it takes as a core assumption the fact that the internet and smartphones exist.

So to apply this to a public service, first map your value chain. Identify those areas where you are just providing an intermediary role, which could be replaced by an internet enabled service, that adds little value and just slows things down. Design those roles out of the process, then assemble the tech needed to deliver the new services.

Too often transformation processes skip the value chain mapping element. This leads to fundamental misunderstandings about what benefits services actually deliver to users, and thus miss huge opportunities to improve user experiences and reducing the cost of service delivery. As I have said before, there's no shortcut around truly understanding the service you are meant to be delivering.

Tweet of the week

Ever wondered what the hell Bitcoin is, when people keep going on about it? This tweet sums it up rather nicely for me:
imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin
Got it! Link.


  • Stefan on Strategic Reading links to two articles on the seven lenses of transformation. His analysis is well worth a read [link], as is the original publication of the seven lenses [link], and an article explaining how they can be used [link].
  • Interesting take on the need for more organisational change management, and less focus on technology. Link.
  • A looooooong read on how the technology industry uses psychology to hook (especially young) people into their services. Depressing. Link.

Tools and techniques

  • Why the focus on agile should be on delivering change, not software. Link.
  • Having linked to that, here are some notes from FutureGov on making agile work better in local government. Link.
  • Howard Rheingold, one of my favourite thinkers about the internet since reading his classic book about online communities back in the day, has published some interesting content about the concept of 'connected learning' - even for non-educators, there is heaps of insight in here. Link


  • Radio 4 programme explaining Fortnite. Loved typing that sentence! Link
  • The Workbench Enterprise Almanac for 2018 - explaing the state of business software. Some interesting trends, including the emergence of organisations avoiding Software as a Service to build out their own systems using platform tools (containers, micro-services, serverless, database as a service etc etc). As always on that front, only spend time building your own where it adds value to your customer experience. Building your own stuff is nice, but pick your battles. Link
  • Terrific bit of nerdery, and excellent writing, here: 'What Did Ada Lovelace's Program Actually Do?'. Link


  • Stakecamp is "the free, annual ‘unconference’ for people interested in how organisations consult and engage their stakeholders in order to make better decisions." Link


  • Senior Developer, Chelmsford City Council. Link
  • Digital Service Development Officer, Watford Borough 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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