The Parliamentary Digital Service came into being on the 1st of April, and behind the name change it is still very much two teams: Parliamentary Information Communication Technology (PICT) and the Web and Intranet Service (WIS).
Combined, there are over 300 people in the new Digital Service, which seems like a lot until you realise that the team provides services for around 8,500 users across 16 parliamentary buildings and in 650 constituencies throughout the United Kingdom. It is a team that has not escaped the cuts of recent years, but is full of dedicated and talented people working on providing services and building digital applications, which quite literally keep our democracy working.
So we are at the beginning of an exciting period of change in an organisation that has high expectations of what digital can do. Our first step in the forming of the team is to recruit a new Director of Digital Development who will be at the centre of bringing together the teams and transforming how Parliament does digital. This new leader could come from a variety of fields including design, technical development, user experience or digital content, but they will have an understanding of all areas of a unified digital development function. The mySociety report broadly identifies the challenges and opportunities for our Parliament and this new role is part of the response to this and other insights, which I have gathered since my appointment.
On joining Parliament, I was immediately struck by how dedicated and passionate Members of Parliament and Peers are. I got a real sense of how hyper aware they are of how the decisions they make impact people’s lives. Strip away the noise of the Chambers, the press headlines and political horse trading, and you find an organisation that spends a lot of time thinking about, researching and consulting with people; us. I believe we need to translate that approach into our digital activities, and it seems obvious to say we want to put the user at the centre of what we do. Most of the successful digital offerings do just that, however it’s of course easier said than done. The new role will need to have the user in mind all the time, bring them to the party and somehow get hundreds of stakeholders across the organisation thinking in the same way.
We are looking for someone who can bring in more agile practices, who can build teams and most importantly has a track record of building trust with stakeholders and experience of taking those stakeholders on a journey to achieve their goals. They will have the energy and appetite to take on organisational norms and get people thinking differently about solutions. They will fully understand semantic and user centred approaches to digital with an ability to make editorial content work online for a complex and diverse user base. None of this is new and the Government Digital Service has shown us how a digital capability can be built. We need someone that can help us build a sustainable capability for Parliament and the challenge will be to build it well.
The opportunity is to come in and challenge the norm, put the user first, try out new ideas, create a truly agile and creative environment, and deliver services, which could make a huge difference to how our Parliament works.
Information about this role is on the Parliament Recruitment website.