Made Tech Blog

Leaning on digital to deliver more with less

The recent bombshell from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about funding increased defence spending by slashing civil servant numbers has definitely ruffled some feathers. Cutting back to pre-COVID levels, while completely overlooking the added complexities post-Brexit, is a tough pill to swallow. With the government facing a growing ‘to-do’ list, digital remains the obvious answer to enable increased productivity and drive efficiency.

A pressing need for smart digital strategies

In a recent interview, Cat Little, Chief Operating Officer and Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office said that the government is currently grappling with ‘how can we use data and digital for better service outcomes …. and can we do that with less resource?’ 

I’ve listed below a few digital strategies that I believe can be intelligently applied to keep things working, without exponentially increasing the size of your Digital, Data, and Technology (DDAT) workforce.

  • Fund digital teams, not just projects: Now’s the time to stop discussing and actually make this happen. Funding models need to support digital teams on an ongoing basis, rather than just one-off projects. Teams that stay together are more effective. They can manage and enhance multiple similar digital services efficiently. An enduring relationship allows them to quickly adapt to and meet changing needs, driving long-term savings across several initiatives rather than disbanding after a single project wraps up.
  • Embrace ‘good enough’ over perfection: Digital teams getting stuck in the beta phase, obsessing over 100%, is all too common. Teams should be encouraged to set a ‘good enough’ benchmark that meets most users’ primary needs. This move speeds up the transition to live service, letting you deliver value faster and avoid getting bogged down by endless tweaks.
  • Make delivery the goal: Ruthlessly prioritise. It’s far better to successfully deliver two services to live operation than to initiate ten discoveries that lack the budget or resources to ever get delivered. 
  • Develop and use common components: Let’s push for more shared components across different departments. This approach will enable you  to cut down on duplication and ensure a consistent user experience. Tools like GDS Forms and GDS Notify are prime examples of how reusable components can happily serve a wide-range of needs.
  • Refocus your procurement strategy: Here, you need to focus on total cost of ownership rather than just the cheapest solution. This will make things more sustainable and easier to manage down the line. It’s also a good opportunity to rethink your budgets and projects, to make sure that you’re not putting in place systems that just mimic your existing organisational structures or current teams (applying Conway’s Law).
  • Adopt team topologies: Shift to a team topologies model to help develop and support multiple services more efficiently. If you set up platform teams to create standardised tools for example, you’ll reduce duplicated effort and encourage shared learning across the board.
  • Lean on Managed Service Providers (MSPs): For ongoing operational support, especially in ‘Run’ mode, tapping into managed service providers or Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) teams could be a game-changer. This way, you can draw on specialised expertise and scale benefits without needing to ramp up your internal team sizes.
  • Embrace compact, agile teams: Opt for smaller, agile teams to streamline communication and keep everyone in the loop efficiently. Reducing communication layers allows for quicker decisions and seamless collaboration. Shift from rigid job titles to versatile roles, leveraging ‘T-shaped’ professionals who can adapt and cover multiple functions. For instance, a delivery manager with business analysis skills or an interaction designer who also handles content design will make your team more flexible and more efficient. 

Digital transformation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s essential for keeping our government services robust amid cuts. By putting in place some of these strategies, you’re not just sitting back and making do; you’re setting the stage for a more agile and responsive public service. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize: a digital-first government where innovation, practicality, and efficiency are at the heart of public service delivery.

For more on this topic, watch my recent webinar on the often-overlooked steps that can make or break a successful digital delivery.

About the Author

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Laura Burnett

Delivery Director, Central & Devolved Industry, Made Tech

Laura Burnett is Made Tech’s Delivery Director, Central & Devolved Industry and a people-focused product specialist with a wealth of experience in building high-quality products, managing global teams and driving positive organisational changes. Laura has a true passion and drive for delivering the highest level of value to Public Sector Delivery by inspiring high-performing teams and guiding them to overcome complex challenges all whilst being the best version of themselves.