Defence and government

Government Digital Services: building up the blocks of incremental innovation

wazoku Blog 2 Comments

The UK government often gets a bad rap when it comes to launching new services or updating technology. Its Universal Credit programme, the biggest overhaul of the benefits system since the 1940s, being the most recent. It’s already taken 4 years and £700 million to get to where it currently stands, and earlier this month it was suggested that it could take another 6 years to complete.

Defence and government

Expensive large-scale innovative projects like these will naturally attract criticism, particularly if they don’t appear to be instantly successful. The “failure” of Google Glass is another example of this, as I discussed last month.

Depending on which study you look at, the failure rate for approved innovation projects is between 50-80%. In other words, most attempts to be innovative will fall flat on their face and ultimately most big organisations do not like failure. It costs money and, if not handled properly, can damage reputations. As such, many innovation programmes face being shut down before they’ve had a chance to really prove their worth. But how can organisations prevent this from happening?

By thinking of the innovation process as a continuous wave of incremental innovations, rather than just one dramatic leap. Not only does this spread the risk, generating predictable returns but it also allows dramatically new products, concepts or ways of working to be tested on a smaller scale and adjusted accordingly before being rolled out.

I happen to think that the government’s vastly under-publicised and under-celebrated Digital Service team has been doing a fantastic job of this behind the scenes. Particularly with the development of, the single domain used by hundreds of departments and agencies to publicise important information, replacing the multitude of separate, siloed  websites. Replacing DirectGov and Business Link alone saved more than £60 million a year. And I know from a user experience perspective I certainly find it much easier to find information I need about the next bank holiday, child benefit and business taxes.

Since the success of this transition has now been proved – from both a financial, operational and user experience standpoint-  the government is now scaling the same innovative principles up to build Government as a Platform. As with websites, departmental Infrastructure will no longer be siloed but instead become  a common core of shared digital systems, technology and processes on which it’s easy to build brilliant, user-centric government services. This video explains its building block principle very clearly

I am sure that the Government will see similarly impressive benefits by using small bitesize blocks to incrementally “build-up and out” the principles it tested with the development of and look forward to being proved right over the forthcoming years!

To find out how idea management can benefit governmental institutions, take a look at our page.

Comments 2

  1. Have witnessed that with Indian government too. Large transformation projects which start never to complete. Crores of rupees go in the drain. A better way as you mentioned is to go the incremental way. Having a working model ready with minimum time and investment and then gradually adding onto it.

    1. Post

      Thanks Sanjay. This seems to be common theme throughout many public sector organisations. It’s understandable given their size and long history of legacy software but good to see there is starting to be a step-change in the right direction…here in the UK anyway! We’d love to hear about any new ways of working that you see the Indian government try

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