Interesting elsewhere – 12 March 2015

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

4 Elements Of Successful Digital Transformation – DIGITAL LEADERS
We start from strategy. My strong belief at the start of this was that we did not need a separate digital strategy. We needed a business strategy with digital throughout. We need to retain our focus on our customers who still demand multi-channel access to our services. Business leaders that get digital don’t differentiate between business, digital and technology – the latter represents thinking from the early 2000s.

Is it time to ditch Digital Government? – PolicyBytes
As we all seek to further progress during the next Parliament with digital government, big data, smart cities, the Internet of Things, crowdsourcing and Government as a Platform, let’s make sure we say what we really mean: ‘reforming public services’, ‘making better use of information’, ‘improving cities’, ‘connecting devices’, ‘engaging the public’ and ‘coming up with common tools and ways of doing things’.

Schneier on Security: Everyone Wants You To Have Security, But Not from Them
The reason the Internet is a worldwide mass-market phenomenon is that all the technological details are hidden from view. Someone else is taking care of it. We want strong security, but we also want companies to have access to our computers, smart devices, and data. We want someone else to manage our computers and smart phones, organize our e-mail and photos, and help us move data between our various devices.

Those “someones” will necessarily be able to violate our privacy, either by deliberately peeking at our data or by having such lax security that they’re vulnerable to national intelligence agencies, cybercriminals, or both.

Rebooting the government | Civil Service World
Those first few years of work have been an alpha of a different sort: proving that radical change is possible, that digital should be at the heart of government, and that people are key to making big change happen.

What’s really different at DWP? — Medium
Just because the fundamental purpose of the department is different doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be delivering the digital services people expect, in a modern and efficient way.

In one sense, our unique purpose makes it easier for DWP to define its vision than a commercial enterprise, because we won’t have a competitor who will come along and disrupt our market. We need to disrupt our own delivery — which is why it’s such an exciting and challenging opportunity to bring fresh thinking from outside. Is it frustrating at times? Of course!

When experience matters (and when it doesn’t) – disambiguity
Lack of diversity in experience-levels (and lack of diversity in general) in the team will reduce their ability to consider a full range of service design options that can streamline the experience for users. This will limit the potential for transformation.

There are some roles where experience the domain of the project is essential and teams would be foolish not to include them. Designers and user researchers are not those roles.

Internet of Crappy Things – IoT | Kaspersky Lab Official Blog
In general, the problem is that those who develop home appliances and make them connected face realities of a brand new world they know nothing about. They ultimately find themselves in a situation similar to that of an experienced basketball player sitting through a chess match with a real grand master.

Things get even worse when it comes to the users of connected devices. They don’t bother with security at all. For an average user, a connected microwave is still just a microwave. A user would never imagine it is a fully-equipped connected computer which has means of influencing the physical world.

Technical architecture at MOJ Digital | MOJ Digital
Making sure that change isn’t expensive is vital for digital services because they have to change and adapt.

Bits or pieces?: On Government, platform, purchasing and the commercial world.
As with any large system where one size fits all project methodologies are ineffective, the same is true with purchasing. Any large scale system requires a mix of time and material, outcome based, COTS & fixed contract and unit / utility charging. Each has different strengths and merits as with project management methods. All activities evolve and how you purchase them will change accordingly.

Business Design for an Agile world — Medium
In our future world, the change is never finished. Our Business Design is for an organisation that continuously iterates to improve itself. Is our Business Design a TOM? If you think of a TOM simply as the description of the way that we want to operate a business, then it certainly is.

But if you see a TOM as a prescriptive, absolutist, linear description of exactly how the organisation will work in 2020, then that’s not for us.

This thing called agile might kill us all | plate and serve
Agile transformation through service design is inherently political and therefore a challenge to established power structures. One, service design cuts across organisational boundaries, because that’s what customers do. They are ruthlessly horizontal in a way that vertically silo’d organisations really struggle with. Two, agile is ruthless in its slaying of sacred cows because it has to prioritise ruthlessly, based on the as-pure-as-you-can-get empirical customer and operational data.

Looking for guidance

Are there any useful purdah guidelines for social media, asks Matt Jukes, prompted by my post last week on civil servants and social media in the pre-election period. What a good question.

To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t yet any guidelines at all. But guidance on general elections tends to change incrementally rather than radically, so we could do worse than check what was said last time. It should be easily found, because I captured the link in a post at the time:

When a general election is announced, the Cabinet Office publishes guidance on the conduct of civil servants during the election period.

It turned out to be not easily found at all, but in reading what follows it’s important to remember that the problems I encountered are the result of the state of the government web presence in 2010 and of the decisions made then about how to manage and archive material in response to the change of government. This time round, in the world of, the problem is a very different one, as is the approach to solving it – the team roadmap has an entire workstream on election preparation.

Armed with that original link, the guidance should be close at hand. Sadly, it isn’t.

This item has been archived

That’s not wholly unexpected since although the guidance is a perfect example of a non-partisan government document, it was nevertheless published under the previous administration. So let’s look in the web archive.

Page/Document not found

That works perfectly, other than arriving at another page not found screen – but at least it’s an archived page not found screen from about the right date. But there are still clues worth pursuing, some helpful, others misleading. The most prominent date on the page is 28 April 2010, which is before the election and so before you would expect this page to have been archived. But the National Archive banner at the top of the page declares this to be a snapshot of its state on 10 November 2010 (though the url includes the string ‘20130128101412’ which implies something else again) which is comfortably after the election. So let’s follow the next invitation to check for the archive copy.

Guidance notes to civil servants on their role and conduct

Now it looks as if we are getting somewhere, with links to the document we want in an enticing range of format flavours. Let’s keep things simple and open the PDF

This item has been archived (again)

Although the page looks identical to the one we had three steps ago, the underlying link is of course different. So it’s probably worth following the web archive link again.

This page cannot be found

Or perhaps not. And perhaps not surprisingly, since this time the red banner tells us we have arrived on 4 July 2013. Though that date is itself a slight surprise, since two steps back we had been at 11 May 2010.

But the red banner also invites us to find a more auspicious date. So let’s try that.

UK Government Web Archive

There are lots to choose from, but of those on offer, 7 April 2010 is by far the most promising.

Step 7

And indeed we have arrived at what is apparently the Cabinet Office home page with the publication of the guidance as the main – indeed the only – story.  Following the offered link delivers both the desired page and a sense of foreboding.

Guidance notes to civil servants on their role and conduct (again)

The reason for the foreboding is obvious. We have seen this page before, several steps ago. But while it may be obvious, it is also misplaced. This time the links work and the guidance is finally to hand.

General Election Guidance 2010

The reason why this works when the previous attempt didn’t is that although the two guidance notes landing pages look identical, the archiving process has treated them very differently. The link to the PDF first time round went to:
while the version which works links to:

In other words, in some circumstances, the archived version attempts to link to the live site (and in this case to a live site which isn’t live at all), which it’s not very surprising isn’t very helpful.

Meanwhile, of course, poor Matt is still waiting for an answer to his question. I wrote about the guidance and its implications at the time, but more formally, social media is covered as part of a section on digital channels, starting on page 28. The basic approach is pretty straightforward:1

Civil servants’ participation in a professional capacity in social networks (e.g. (Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn etc.) as well as in forums, online communities and other public online discussions should be limited during the Election period to:

  • commenting on operational matters relating to services such as notifying users of technical problems with a website or digital service
  • responding to factual queries by signposting existing content.

Guidance on ‘ministerial blogs’ is essentially similar – there shouldn’t be any new ones or any new posts on existing ones, but ‘Civil Servants may continue to respond to comments on existing blog posts to provide routine and factual responses to queries and to moderate for inappropriate comments.’

Finally, on Twitter, the guidance is indirect.

Use of Twitter may continue for publishing factual information only in line with guidance on news media

That guidance essentially boils down to being minimal, factual and avoiding any appearance of political content.

What’s interesting about all that is that it written on the implicit assumption that blogs were ministerial and that communications is done by specialists. It’s actually not hard to work back from the examples presented to some more general principles and in turn to apply those principles to other situations, but it will be interesting to see how the imminent updated guidance covers all this.

It is at least not hard to do that for activity through official channels. Quasi non-official activity through unofficially managed channels is altogether less clear – which is precisely the issue discussed in my previous post.


  1. I have corrected here what seems to be a mistake in formatting in the original.