Scores of GDS staff moved to new Central Digital and Data Office

Written by Sam Trendall on 12 May 2021 in News

Responsibility for controls and standards has been taken on by new entity

The east London headquarters of GDS and CDDO     Credit: Derwent London

In the last month, scores of staff from the Government Digital Service have moved over to the newly established Central Digital and Data Office, which has taken on a range of standards and controls functions that were previously the remit of GDS.

CDDO, which is led by former Home Office digital chief Joanna Davinson, now holds responsibility for managing and implementing all digital, data and technology strategy and standards throughout government. This includes the Service Standard – a set of 14 rules against which services are assessed at every stage of their development. The newly created Cabinet Office body also oversees open standards and government’s Technology Code of Practice.

All of which were previously the responsibility of GDS – as was the imposition of spending controls for departmental investment in digital services and technology. This too, along with all other “cross-government DDaT performance and assurance”, has been moved to CDDO.

The office has also taken on the mantle of heading up the DDaT function throughout government, and overseeing “capability development” work – which includes the framework of 40 clearly defined roles across the profession that was created by GDS in 2017. CDDO will also manage the pay framework for tech and data professionals.

Responsibility for accessibility work is also understood to have moved to the new entity, as has the management of the public sector domain. 

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The decision to move all these functions out of GDS has, over the last month, seen a large number of staff move from GDS to CDDO. Those that have made the switch include holders of a wide range of job titles such as technology advisor, policy and engagement lead, and user researchers and designers in the areas of standards, assurance, and accessibility.

The Cabinet Office declined to provide a number – nor any further detail or comment on any operational impact on those affected – but PublicTechnology understands the number of employees moved between the two organisations is likely to be in the region of at least 100. 

The two entities do, at least, share an office, with CDDO’s listed HQ being the Whitechapel Building in east London, which has housed GDS since 2016.

The division of responsibilities between the two tech entities was first trailed last month, in a blog post jointly written by the organisation’s two leaders: Davison; and Tom Read, the former Ministry of Justice digital leader appointed as chief executive of GDS in January.

While CDDO’s role is characterised as “leading the cross-government community of DDaT professionals and putting the strategy, standards and assurance mechanisms in place to deliver transformation at scale”, GDS will focus on “building, supporting and iterating digital products, platforms and services that can be built once and used across government”.

The role of CDDO is somewhat beefier than was first indicated when the appointments of Read and Davinson – and the creation of the new organisation she would lead – were announced four months ago. 

At that time, it was still anticipated that the incoming GDS head would “oversee the operation of their standards, controls and assurance functions”. 
“Since we started our respective roles in February, we have done a lot of listening to our teams, other government departments, and other important stakeholders,” the two leaders wrote in their joint blog post last month. “What we’ve identified is that we all have considerable ambitions for digital products, platforms and services, and for the government DDaT function.

They added: “Monitoring and assessing the health of the delivery of the government’s major digital and data programmes will be fundamental to CDDO, as will tackling big problems like how we engineer for availability, resilience and interoperability, how we embed agile ways of working across departments supported by digital and technology funding models, sourcing strategies and procurement. Meanwhile, GDS steps into its new role as the centre of the government’s digital transformation of products, platforms and services. The emerging strategy, alongside a clear mandate to address the challenges the government faces, is to deliver the next stage of modernisation by developing our digital products and infrastructure.”

The post concluded with a pledge that, during the coming months “you’ll be hearing more from both of us on what that looks like in practice”.


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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