GDS technology group presses departments to work together

Written by Rebecca Hill on 30 August 2016 in News

The government’s Common Technology Services has urged civil servants to join technology communities, promising them greater influence in decision-making, in a move to boost collaboration.

The Common Technology Services wants civil servants to work together for digital success - Photo credit: Flickr, Pascal

The group, which is part of the Government Digital Service, aims to support digital transformation by designing cloud-based and shared IT solutions that can be used across Whitehall.

In June, the CTS director Iain Patterson set out plans for a new approach for the group, which centred on collaboration with departments and making better use of the expertise in the civil service.

Now the head of engagement at CTS Victoria Ford has reiterated the need for the group to work with departments in order for common solutions to work for Whitehall.

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She called on civil servants working in technology roles to create and join communities, which she said would be supported by the CTS but owned by the communities themselves.

The communities – which already include ‘safe and filtered internet’, with ‘user research personas’ being in development – are places for people facing similar issues to pool their ideas and create common solutions.

“These communities will be an opportunity to share knowledge, best practice and build networks, as well as influence the CTS agenda and policy,” Ford said.

“Get these communities right and we’ll build a far better understanding of your key issues, and get departmental input into products. They can also help develop champions to lead change within departments.”

In addition, Ford said that the CTS is planning to meet with each department’s chief technology officer and their team in order to find out “where their technology challenges lie, where their expertise sits and where they think CTS can help them”.

The aim is to get a better understanding of each department’s abilities and needs, which the CTS can use to assess where commonalities exist and where they can collaborate.

Ford’s strong emphasis on collaboration – her post is titled “working with you” – emphasised that the group was keen to promote collaboration. This echoes comments made by the GDS chief operating officer Alex Holmes in a recent interview with PublicTechnology. He said that the GDS wanted to shed the “arrogant” image it had in its early years, and work more closely with departments to achieve its aims.

“We have to remember that no one is setting out to do a bad job,” he said. “If you have an organisation [like GDS] in the centre, that isn’t at the frontline, it’s too easy to say ‘You should do it like this’. We need to empathise more.”

In her blogpost, Ford said: “Collaboration isn’t just a priority, it’s the underlying principle of our approach to transforming technology in government.

“We want to know how we can support colleagues: what their needs are, the expertise they have and the direction they want to go in. We’ll ask for support, input, where we can add value and then we’ll deliver together.”

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