Mike Bracken, the executive director of digital in the Cabinet Office and head of the Government Digital Service (GDS), has spoken about the importance of collaboration in bringing about digital transformation. As he will soon be leaving government, he has also used the post as an opportunity to thank everyone that he has worked with whilst leading the GDS.
“In my leaving announcement I said thank you to a lot of people, and made only brief mention of all the people in departments that GDS has collaborated with over the last few years. Let me take this opportunity to be more direct: thank you, all of you, for your collaborative spirit, your patience and support. I think we’ve learned a lot more from you than the other way round,” he said.
As much about people as pixels
According to Bracken, digital change isn’t just about service design, it’s also about organisation design. In other words, it is equally about working with people as it is about “pixels and processors”.
Bracken acknowledges that this isn’t always easy, and involves a lot questioning. He said:
“Re-thinking digital services means re-thinking how your organisation does things and why it does them in a particular way. It means challenging the status quo and constantly asking “Why?” and “What is the user need?”
According to Bracken, the GDS’ success so far has been a consequence of collaboration between departments. It is teamwork that has led to the emergence of new services, the redesign of old ones and the reshaping of departments.
Examples of teamwork
Within the post, he cites a number of examples of where the GDS has had to work with other teams or organisation in order to achieve its goals:
According to Bracken, nearly all of the work achieved on the transformation programme was a result of collaboration. “GDS experts went to work with digital teams in departments all over the country, advising and supporting them,” he said.
Furthermore, earlier this year the service worked with Land Registry colleagues to examine data, registers and “their vital role in the future of government as a platform”.
‘People from all levels’
Bracken points out that good teamwork requires people with a wide variety of skills and experience – for the GDS, digital expertise is needed, but so is an “understanding of the service, the users, and the problems they all face every day”.
He said: “It’s only when you get all that knowledge being shared and discussed that you really begin to see the benefits of collaboration”.
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