I’ve been Head of Strategy in the Parliamentary Digital Service since July and thought it duly time to share what I’ve been doing with my colleagues since then on developing a digital strategy for Parliament.
Taking on the role there were three things I felt were really important to make sure the strategy is both relevant and successful.
- This is a digital strategy for Parliament, not just the Digital Service. That means that it’s about the core work of the two Houses and how we use technology to more effectively meet user needs and do things better. The Digital Service will work in collaboration with staff and Members in the two Houses to achieve that but we certainly can’t do it in isolation.
- The strategy is about change so is likely to change. How the world looks now, what our priorities are, how our users engage and the technology we use is constantly changing. Although the strategy is looking forward to the end of the Parliament in 2020, it’s not something that should be set in stone. We need to make it agile and iterate as we go along.
- The strategy must deliver. The tendency of strategy documents to be full of ambition and fine words and to sit on a shelf never to be looked at again is to be avoided at all costs. We must have a strategy that is demonstrated and reflected in the work we are doing, through some key prototypes and exemplars so that we deliver in the coming months and establish the credibility the strategy needs to be successful.
A collaborative approach
So how have we gone about it developing the strategy.
During July and August we ran 36 workshops with staff from both Houses of Parliament and the Digital Service, to think about the digital vision - the thing that will encapsulate our ambitions for digital in Parliament. Almost 300 of my colleagues attended 1 hour workshops to think about why we do the work we do, what our goals are and how digital can enable us. We also thought a lot about the way we work, our culture and the approaches we use. Some of those things we really want to keep because they work but other things we recognise need to change.
We have also consulted Parliament’s Digital Strategy Board three times since June to get their input, support and endorsement. This is the leadership group which owns the strategy on behalf of both Houses. In September they agreed the vision:
Excellent digital services for a modern Parliament
This vision is characterised by eight aspirations which describe the destination we’re heading for:
1. Secure technology that works
2. Good customer service
3. Digital capability
4. Transparent, open and inclusive
6. Efficient, reducing cost
7. Business enabling
8. Digital by default
And by nine principles which we think will help to get us there.
1. Start with user needs
2. Focus on our core work
3. Be where people are
4. Continuous iteration
6. Unity without uniformity
7. Collaboration culture
9. Experts in what we do
More detailed narrative around each of the aspirations and principles is on the Strategy HackPad and we want to hear from our external users.
A lot of this is not new in the wider digital world and of course people like the GDS have been doing it for some time. However it is new for Parliament. This kind of digital transformation must be a collaborative endeavour so there’s a few things we are doing to build support for and develop the strategy over the coming months, to establish some clear actions and targets.
Making it real
This week we held two workshops and an all staff event with staff from the Digital Service (PDS). It's really important that PDS staff are fully engaged in the strategy work and that they support the vision and the ethos behind it to ensure it's a success. Almost 250 staff attended 2 workshops to think about user needs for each of our principles and aspirations and to discuss actions and targets to help us realise them. Our aim was to not only create a buzz in the room but to use online channels to do it more openly in the public domain - again another first for us. The day was a huge success and there were lots of visible outputs, thoughts, comments and questions online as a result.
Then today we all gathered together to have the opportunity to reflect on the outputs from Monday’s workshops, to ask questions and stimulate some debate around the key themes.
We had staff from every part of the Digital Service; from the service desk to the web team, tweeting, drawing, making videos, and writing on post-its to focus on developing our digital strategy.
Next we want to run some similar workshops with staff in both Houses and external people to make sure that the strategy has input from all users.
This is currently an alpha strategy and we still have a lot of work to do to develop it. If you have thoughts and ideas about how we might do that then we want to hear from you.