Week #98 at the Digital Service: Notes for 11–15 March 2024

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Two people with light skin, a man and a woman standing in front of a projected screen next to tall conference tables, both are smiling, the hand is holding a microphone, the screen shows a graph

60 per cent of the week, I spent out and about.

Caro and I went on to discuss the Service Standard and its application at two events. On Tuesday, we spoke at the ‘Digitaler Staat’ (Digital State) conference in Berlin. On Wednesday, we travelled to my hometown, Magdeburg, to talk to the state-level government, which also brought cities, municipalities, and government-owned IT suppliers to the table.

Our presentations were almost identical, but we added hooks and tips for the state and municipality colleagues. We closed with 3 concrete suggestions:

  1. Print out the Service Standard, put it up the wall and discuss it internally
  2. Take the Service Standard to IT providers and suppliers and compare it to their current practice
  3. Actively seek dialogue with others on the application of the Service Standard

We brought the recently printed posters and will have to send over some more. We talked about the exceptional work that Cyprus’ Digital Services Factory is doing by creating a framework agreement that sifted and vetted suppliers to ensure they are capable and willing to meet their Service Standard. I mentioned the municipality-owned consultancy KGSt, which has been offering service standard training and support for years and has been part of the Service Standard sounding board since 2021.

There was significant interest, many questions and a continuous conversation we want to have. Getting the Service Standard embraced by many means having countless more of these conversations all across the country.

As before, we asked participants which of the 6 topical areas of the standard they are meeting the least and need to address most urgently. ‘User-centricity’ was voted the highest, closely followed by ‘Success metrics and performance indicators’ and, with some distance, ‘openness’. Whenever we ask people to rank these topical areas, ‘User-centricity’ comes out at the top. So, there remains plenty to do – from fundamental awareness to operational enablement.

Supporting the digital strategy’s lighthouse projects

For selected projects part of the Federal government’s digital strategy, my colleagues co-ran the first cluster meeting on Friday. It is a new way for Digital Service to support the digital strategy, its ministry and its external advisory council. The goal is to have more exchanges between the lighthouse projects run by different ministries. I have the honour of contributing to the activities as a subject matter expert.

User-centricity was a topic of interest, and the Service Standard became handy, too. In these and other setups, the standard serves as a practical reference framework for conversations offering talking points. In the abstract, most people can mostly agree with the principles and topical areas of the Service Standard. The challenges are in the operational implementation and practice on the ground.

A Service Standard poster in a digital strategy workshop

The setup, structure, and environment of these cluster meetings enable the much-needed cross-silo exchange. The atmosphere was open, curious, and attentive. The next in-person sessions throughout spring are planned, and a ‘lessons learned’ report will be shared in autumn.

Growing the design team further and finding the right structure for it

We have opened mid-level design roles again and I promoted them on LinkedIn. Our design and user research team has never been bigger, and we continue to grow. In a few weeks, we’ll have 27 people working in our user-centred design discipline, which has doubled since I joined DigitalService in 2022. Later this month, we will add another communication designer role. Counting these openings, we are approaching 30 people in the team. That requires some changes in the people management going forward. So, supported by our people partner, Charlotte and I did some sketching of what a new reporting structure could look like. It will require a few more iterations and conversations.

By the end of Sunday, we had 175 applications for the mid-level UX/UI design position. That is quite a lot, and we will get busy with interviews shortly. In conversations with friends this week, they expressed how challenging the market is at the moment for freelancers and small agencies. The same applies to quite a few VC-funded and stocklisted companies. So, the public sector looking for talent is a bit of an outlier.

Surprisingly and timely, Apolitical recognised Kara and me on Friday as ‘Government Talent Trailblazers’ in 2024. In the ‘21st Century Skills Mainstreaming and Community Building’ section, we were named people “connecting public servants with peer-to-peer communities and networks to navigate the future.”One thing I’m interested in now is having an exchange with the other people in this section from Africa, North America and the Pacific to understand what they are doing and how.

What’s next

Next week, I’ll meet two new starters for coffee in the office. They will both start in April but are curious to stop by. On Friday, I sent little greeting packages to all four joiners. They include the two volumes of Christina’s column booklet, the latest German edition of Service Gazette, and a personal note.

On Tuesday, I will join an offsite of colleagues from the Federal Ministry of Health to give input on how we work. I didn’t interact with them before, but I heard that they are in touch with NHS counterparts in the UK. I will talk about our ways of thinking and working, the Service Standard, and the Digital Check for digital-ready legislation.

Then, on Thursday, I will sit down for some videos my colleagues Lutz and Roshan are producing. One will focus on our values, and the other on our disciplines. In anticipation, I already went to the hairdresser.

I will also try to progress with some blog posts that have been in draft state for too long. I need to catch up to my set frequency for the year and accelerate things.