Improving Whitehall IT systems faster would have boosted morale, says Maude

Written by Rebecca Hill on 27 July 2016 in News

Former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said that he would improve Whitehall’s IT and technology much more quickly if he had his five year’s in the role again.

Former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said better IT would have boosted morale - Photo credit: PA Images

Maude said that, with the major reforms he implemented – such as pension reforms and a massive reduction in the size of the civil service – better technology could have been a way of improving morale.

“All this time we were asking them to do really difficult stuff and giving them rubbish IT to work on; worse than you’d have at home,” he said, adding that faster improvements would have been a “morale kicker”.

Related content

The Francis Maude interview: "Buy in is great, but the civil service doesn't have a veto on its own reform"
Bracken: Channel shift journey has only just begun

Maude made the comments in a podcast reflecting on his role in bringing digital innovation to government and the creation of the Government Digital Service, released this week by the not-for-profit organisation the Centre for Public Impact.

Maude said that it took a long time for the civil service to see the value of the GDS, which was brought in to oversee digital transformation in 2011.

“A lot of people in Whitehall thought, ‘Why has Francis brought all these weird hippies into government?’,” Maude said.

“That’s why it was so important to just do some stuff and show that actually these are really serious, capable people with huge standing in the industry,” he continued. “It’s just a different world from the world in which government IT had operated – a world that was cheaper, quicker, better, more flexible, more adaptable and more capable of doing what the citizen wants.”

He added later that if IT systems had been revamped more quickly it could have changed perceptions. “Then the civil service would have said, ‘Well these weird hippies have suddenly produced some IT I can work with’.”

Meanwhile Bracken, who also spoke on the podcast to look back on his time since leaving GDS in September last year, said that if he could do something differently, he would have worked harder to improve the internal software used for activities like procurement.

“What we ended up creating was extremely good and valuable services for 60-odd million people,” he said. “But [Whitehall] still had to work on pretty shonky services […] and we would have got so much good will had we done that.”

Both men portrayed the push to digital as something that had initially caused confusion and had perhaps taken place under the radar, with Bracken saying that there was a sense that the GDS team was “not quite taken seriously”.

He said that they had kept moving against the resistance – “moving quicker so they never knew what we were up to”.

Maude echoed this sentiment, saying that it was a “war of movement” within the civil service. “Don’t get into entrenched positions,” he said. “You’re constantly on the move, move onto the next thing before people know what’s happening.”

He added that the positive part of the way the GDS worked was that it worked quickly and iteratively.

“Mike's mantra was ‘strategy is delivery - get on and do it',” Maude said. “My mantra was ‘JFDI - just do it’.”

Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.


David Chassels

Submitted on 1 August, 2016 - 14:57
I am sorry but GDS under Maude was a failure in terms of helping civil servants in their work environment. See summary here The biggest “cost” to our country was the absolute failure to do research on innovation. All government initiatives to seek cost saving innovation starting with the Skunk Works in 2011 and then the Innovation Launch Pad and Solutions Exchange all under the management of ICT Futures? The PASC report in 2011 on Good Governance: effective use of IT and its follow up in 2013 “Public Procurement: capability and effectiveness” It was a very clear message about importance of being the “intelligent customer” which has yet to be delivered for effective use of IT? This just never happened and what a cost! Could well be close to £1bn! So thankfully Maude’s departure was hopefully just in time to bring new thinking. On that maybe they could learn from Scotland’s initiative on Innovation see

Related Articles

Cabinet Office to lose one in four staff – but no detail yet on impact for digital agencies
23 August 2022

Jacob Rees Mogg trailed 25% job cuts in a Telegraph article, which unions label as the minister’s latest in a series of ‘increasingly bizarre’ pronouncements

Ofcom to probe dominance of big three public-cloud players
26 September 2022

Communications regulator will examine whether the current market conditions stymie innovation and opportunities for smaller players

National Archives plans digital service for officials to access sensitive records
22 September 2022

Organisation seeks support with design and delivery of prototype platform

Another new minister for government’s digital agencies after Truss reshuffle
13 September 2022

Brendan Clarke-Smith has been an MP since 2019 and has proven a strident media and online figure on issues such as his support for the former PM and criticism of the ‘woke agenda’

Related Sponsored Articles

Rewiring government: improving outcome management
6 September 2022

Paul Pick-Aluas, Strategy & Transformation, Public Sector at Salesforce, explains how governments can use technology innovation to improve how it can analyse outcomes

Keeping tabs on work-issued mobile activity with Antenna
7 September 2022

How can public sector organisations keep track of calls, texts and instant messages in the world of ultra-flexi, hybrid working? Stuart Williams, CTO at FourNet, and Andrew Bale, EVP at Tango...