I talked about the Service Standard and its broad application this week, inside our organisation, inside of government, and externally. And since these stickers arrived recently, I started handing them out to a few people. They make a straightforward statement in German: “The Service Standard is used here”.
Assuring the quality of work
The Service Standard remains the best official document codifying our way of working that exists. In Germany, it’s underutilised, unfortunately. Reflecting on a failed service launch last week, I argued that the risk would have been much reduced if the Service Standard had been used.
A service launched on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research by a state government and its external supplier took down all electronic identification platforms for 3 days. So it impacted many other services as well. Had the people working on the service and overlooking its development followed the Service Standard, they would have better anticipated the user demand and considered the technical implementation accordingly. Points 1 and 15 of the standard describe that: understanding users’ contexts and needs and then assuring technical resilience and infrastructure robustness in response.
But as the Service Standard is not mandated and people can follow it if they want, barely anyone does. So there is no service assurance framework in place that would require people to even know or look at the 19 points covering 6 different areas of digital service development.
In other countries, that is very different. On Wednesday, I spoke to Dhruv from the Scottish government. For 2 months, he has been a ‘user-centred design digital standard assessor’ and part of a small digital assurance office team of 3 people. Integrated into the Scottish Exchequer, they ensure digital budgets are well spent and result in high-quality services. The assurance team – consisting of a design/user research, product management and technology view – engages early and regularly with teams of various maturity levels. Based on what they find, their reports describe how essential expectations are met and what desirables there are. In a follow-up call, I’m hoping to learn even more from Dhruv. Next, I hope to talk to colleagues in UK local government about peer reviews and the Cyprus government about assurance of external service teams’ work. Finally, I hope to derive some approaches and recipes that could be explored in Germany, too.
In the coming days, I’ll finish the blog post about applying the Service Standard at Digital Service. Given how little it seems to be used in the German public sector, our application might be the most mature in the country already. By early April, I want to get the blog post out.
On Tuesday, we had more international exchange when we discussed ‘designing services in different languages’ as part of the 30th International Design in Government community call during Services Week 2023. We had 3 inputs. Mariana spoke about immigration dialogues conducted by the Finnish Ministry of the Interior in 11 languages. Osian and Adrián talked about a School Grants service designed in Welsh and English at the Centre for Public Digital Services in Wales. And Zoe from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Information Technology shared how they worked with the minority population to offer the COVID-19 certificate in the country’s 4th national language Romansh. The BBC has a good article about a language that “less than 0.5% of Swiss can speak”. More but shorter talks gave a broader overview of what it means to design in languages spoken by fewer and where it’s harder to involve fluent native speakers in their development. The recording of the call is available internally to members of the community.
Also, the first meetup event is announced. With talks by City LAB Berlin, Liquid Democracy and Digital Service, we decided to give it a rather broad title: “New approaches in the public sector”.
The design of the graphics for the meetup is still a bit in flux, with Daphne iterating some sketches. After I proposed some publicly funded free typefaces, including Public Sans and Cooper Hewitt, she made a valid and vital point. “Men designed most typefaces we use”, Daphne said. Of course, she is right. GOV.UK’s font ‘New Transport’ was designed by Margaret Calvert, so I didn’t have to think about this much. The no-nonsense ‘Inter’ font family we use at Digital Service is designed by a man, Rasmus Andersson. It’s also the one you read right now. Doing quick research into typefaces designed by women and non-binary people, I discovered ‘AUTHENTIC Sans’. It’s designed by Christina Janus and Desmond Wong and comes in 4 cuts plus 4 for its condensed version. It balances familiar and fresh. I expect us to explore the fonts in some interesting applications in the coming weeks and months.
The meetup will take place on Tuesday, 18 April, and we start small with 40 seats.
I finished my work week by listening to the now annual Open Show and Tell that the Government Digital Service (GDS) is running to close Services Week. 9 presentations were packed into 2 hours, and half were delivered by members of the GDS design team. The work the folks shared was impressive and showed that GDS is still going strong. I’m proud this format and Services Week as a whole continues. Kudos for the work on the GDS Open Show and Tell to Kara and Kuba. I’ll reach out to the people behind the One Login and Prototype Kit to learn more.
Next week, we’ll discuss collaboration across disciplines and how design, engineering, product and transformation management work closely at Digital Service. It will be a joint session as part of our (bi-)weekly community exchanges. I’ll still need to prepare some workshop elements, but it should be an educational session.
On Monday, I’ll talk to the new person responsible for branding and visual identity at the Federal Ministry of Interior. As we are working with the Ministry closely on various projects, and I’d like to see the Federal government style guide strengthened, I have high hopes. The person has a robust operational and strategic design background, which puts my expectation high.
Then on Thursday, we’ll do a design team outing late afternoon.