copy the linklink copied!2. The conceptual framework


This chapter introduces the OECD conceptual framework for service design and delivery using different experiences from OECD member and non-member countries.

First, the context for design and delivery of services looks at politics, legacy channels and technology and the society and geography of a country.

Second, the philosophy for the design and delivery of services considers the leadership and vision provided, and then associated behaviours to embed these ideas within the public sector including understanding, and responding to whole problems; services that make sense from end to end; involving the public; combining policy, delivery and operations across organisational boundaries; and taking an agile approach.

Finally, the different enabling resources to facilitate the design and delivery of services. This includes sharing best practice and guidelines; governance, spending and assurance; digital inclusion; common components and tools; data governance and its application for public value and trust; and public sector talent and capabilities.


Given the context discussed in Chapter 1, there is a need to review how countries might build on previous efforts for administrative simplification or a focus on particular life events to use digital government approaches to meet the needs of citizens through designing proactive, data-driven and omni-channel services with the agility to deploy and effectively embrace emerging technologies where appropriate. To take into account and rationalise the historic context, better embed a service design culture, and mature the conversation about enabling resources the OECD proposes the conceptual framework at Figure 2.1. This provides the basis for analysing the situation facing any country in terms of thinking through its strategic approach to the needs of those interacting and engaging with the state. In presenting the framework this chapter explores different experiences from OECD member countries.

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Figure 2.1. A conceptual framework for analysing the design and delivery of services
Figure 2.1. A conceptual framework for analysing the design and delivery of services

The framework consists of three elements that combine to deliver high quality and reliable services:

  1. 1. The context for design and delivery of services: the way in which services are designed and delivered is informed by the history of delivering services (channel strategy) in a country, political support for the agenda, and the role of legacy technology amongst other factors.

  2. 2. The philosophy for the design and delivery of services: the activities and practices that direct current activity and contribute to the decisions about the design and delivery of services. This focuses on leadership and vision as well as approaches to service design and delivery itself.

  3. 3. The enablers to support the design and delivery of services: the resources that have been developed by countries in order to facilitate teams in the design and delivery of services. This includes sharing best practice and guidelines (including guiding principles, style guides and reference manuals); governance, spending and assurance (including business cases, budget thresholds, procurement, service standards and assurance processes); digital inclusion (including digital literacy, connectivity and accessibility); common components and tools (such as digital identity, notifications, payments and design systems); data governance and its application for public value and trust; and public sector talent and capabilities (including recruitment, communities of practice, training and consultancy).

copy the linklink copied!Context for design and delivery of services

Service delivery is integral to the activity of the public sector and foundational to the experience citizens and businesses have of government. As such, any analysis of the design and delivery of services needs to consider the existing circumstances. In this way, the conversation about service design and delivery reflects the ‘contextual factors’ identified by the OECD as shaping the governance of digital government. Produced by the OECD Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials Task Force on Governance, Box 2.1 summarises a framework with which to analyse the context surrounding the entire digital government agenda. Although many, if not all, of them influence the way in which services can be delivered in a country there are some which are important in considering the breadth of channels available to the public and strategically understanding how they can work together.

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Box 2.1. Draft contextual factors influencing the governance of digital government

During 2018-2019 the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials convened a Task Force to consider the question of the governance for digital government. Their discussions provided the basis for a handbook designed to equip governments with the necessary insights to consider how to approach the overall governance of digital government. The draft proposes framing those discussions around Contextual factors, Institutional models and the Policy levers required to support implementation.

The discussion around contextual factors identified the following themes:

  1. 1. Overall political and administrative culture including power structure; geopolitical situation; defence and security; legalistic versus non-legalistic system; role of elected governments; nature of regulations; political continuity; extent of autonomy in terms of regional government; the extent to which a country is centralised or decentralised; and procurement culture.

  2. 2. Socio-economic factors including overall economic climate; digital literacy of the population; levels of e-commerce and adoption of digital within businesses; levels of competitiveness and innovation; public sector digital skills; public trust; societal diversity; migration flows in society.

  3. 3. Technological context including digital connectivity infrastructure; extent to which government or the private sector has legacy technology; integration of IT and digital into business; government specific technological innovations

  4. 4. Environmental and geographical considerations including local economies; regional variance and geological risks and hazards

Following the 2019 meeting of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials in Brussels, the Task Force and OECD will continue to develop these ideas and produce materials assisting governments to share and learn from the experiences of responding to the challenges they identify.

Note: Taken from the Draft E-Leaders Governance Handbook prepared for the 2019 meeting of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials and based on discussion amongst the E-Leaders Task Force on Governance (unpublished)

Representative and organisational politics

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) identifies the need to encourage engagement and participation of public, private and civil society stakeholders in policy making and public service design and delivery. That is complemented by The Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2017[2]) which calls on governments to move towards a “culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”.

The openness with which a government approaches the participation of those outside of government shapes the experience of services, the nature of channels provided and the ongoing design and delivery of government interventions. Although the design and delivery of services is carried out by public servants acting in an apolitical fashion, there is an unavoidable political element to this discussion. The policies that sit behind government services are shaped by the ideologies and commitments of those who have won elections and therefore hold a democratic mandate from the public.

Such dynamics have the potential to politicise the service design and delivery agenda. The emphasis of one service delivery channel or design approach during a particular government or minister’s term runs the risk of being reversed or side-lined by their successors. Efforts to depoliticise the agenda and view it as neutral should be encouraged with all sides being able to support efforts to achieve greater financial efficiency and increases in the quality of the citizen experience.

Nevertheless, with digitally enabled omni-channel service design and delivery reconfiguring how people access government, there can be implications for the public sector workforce and particular communities. The financial and user experience cases for consolidating existing channels and simplifying the landscape of service provision may well be compelling but such an analysis might show face-to-face services as most costly and thereby encourage the use of online or telephone based provision and consolidation of offline networks to reduce demand on physical locations. This will successfully reduce staff overheads but it will also narrow options for accessing physical locations. These decisions, ostensibly driven by the politically neutral ambitions of digital government or administrative simplification, are inherently political because they impact on the lives of voters, public servants and communities. As such, ‘channel shift’ efforts can prompt criticism from politicians, local communities and trades unions. The effect of that criticism can stifle the progress for which there is an ambition and constrain how radical a shift in service provision towards an omni-channel approach is possible.

A final area relates to the organisational structure of service provision in a country. Countries with a high level of centralisation face a different context to those countries with significant local and regional autonomy. However, those nuances may not be clear to the citizen or business trying to access services from ‘government’. Achieving high quality services across channels means responding to the particular contextual implications of the interplay between areas under the responsibility of central government, arms-length agencies or local and municipal government. This is particularly relevant in identifying the needs and challenges faced by smaller organisations operating with more limited resources and highlight the opportunities for collaboration or the provision of additional support (as discussed later in this chapter) to achieve a transformed approach to service design and delivery. The United Kingdom’s Local Digital Declaration, discussed in Box 2.2 presents one example of how central government and local administrations are responding to this challenge but this is not the only model. In Spain, for example, the national legal framework provides regional and local governments with great autonomy and independence while ensuring they are legally recognised as essential participants in the overall governance for digital transformation. Through a comprehensive and complex governance structure the integration of all key actors is secured the development of enabling solutions such as digital identity, managing company powers, interoperability and document exchange systems. 

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Box 2.2. The UK’s Local Digital Declaration

The UK Local Government sector is geographically and politically diverse with a wide spectrum of understanding around what digital transformation means to an organisation. To support and unite local authorities around a shared understanding of good digital practice the UK’s Government Digital Service and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government launched the Local Digital Declaration.

Designed to help local authorities ‘fix the plumbing’ of digital The Local Digital Declaration forms the basis for local authorities to adopt guiding principles on what good looks like so that regardless of size, location or political governance, any organisation can follow them. It is because so many local authorities have tried and failed to digitally transform in isolation that there is such groundswell and support for a unified approach.

The Declaration addresses the legacy IT contracts, isolation of procurement practices and siloed digital projects that have left local government services vulnerable to high delivery costs and low customer satisfaction for the public they serve. It challenges local and central government, their influencers and the private sector that supplies them, to support “building the digital foundations for the next generation of local public services." It sets out principles that support local authorities to follow open standards and best digital practices with view to developing a common, open approach to digital service transformation across government.

Each signatory of the declaration commits to the co-published principles of good digital and to supporting local authorities in following them. It has been written for local authority leadership to embrace and use as a central point for cultural change that supports the embedding of digital transformation within the organisations.

This is the first collective agreement that has brought central and local government together in consensus on what good digital practice is. It was developed through one-to-one engagement and relationship building. Workshops teased out an understanding of what prevented digital innovation, why procurement was isolated and why change had not been forthcoming. To begin with the Local Digital Declaration had 45 co-publishers and today has over 200 signatories, showing the demand for support and change but also offering testimony to the detailed and exemplary engagement bringing together voices from across the public sector, their influencers and suppliers.

Source: Local Digital and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (2018[3]) The Local Digital Declaration; OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (2018[4]) The Local Digital Declaration

Historic channel strategy

The evolution from analogue to digital government has left a large footprint. The processes, data flows and channels for delivering services that exist are more often than not the product of various central government or institutional channel strategies and other pressures such as those exerted by administrative simplification campaigns.

Some countries (Box 2.3) have recent histories that make it possible to consider the design and delivery of services from the ground up and ensure coordination from the outset. However, the experience for the majority is to find a patchwork of different channels with different responsibilities. While some organisations may have been able to preserve physical locations for providing face-to-face services in other contexts financial pressures and an efficiency agenda will have seen them close. Alongside those channels, the development of different digital and telephone based channels may have taken place without coordination between organisations meaning that users have to visit multiple locations to address a particular need.

Whilst a country, or its organisations, may have a multi-channel approach the lack of synergy between web, telephone and in-person services may mean an interaction begun online cannot be completed in person and vice versa. Furthermore, contractual arrangements relating to call centres may not be compatible with the needs of physical locations or with whoever is providing the online channels. As a result, an omni-channel strategy, that is where all channels are interchangeable in terms of what they provide and the extent to which an issue can be resolved, are more challenging to implement.

Without a unifying strategy for the design and delivery of services the user experience is left confused while the scale of the challenge to rationalise and consolidate may seem insurmountable. Mapping and understanding the landscape of how different channels operate and where opportunities for partnership might be possible is critical to delivering a transformation in the quality of services which citizens and businesses can access.

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Box 2.3. Estonia – a no-legacy digital experience

Following independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, Estonia had the opportunity to approach the organisation and development of its public sector with few preconceptions to constrain its decision making and all of the benefits of an emerging digital sophistication. This digital mindset benefitted from a no-legacy culture that allowed the country to develop administrative processes and an organisational culture that exploited digital technologies to deliver services.

As such, not only is the expectation of high quality digital services embedded within the population of the country, it has created a political environment in which digital leadership is highly regarded and innovation encouraged.

Indeed, that experience has translated into the planning efforts of the Estonian government in following the idea of “no legacy” as a principle requiring the redesign of any government information system older than 13 years. It aims to sustain government agility in the longer term by continuously adapting to changes in context. The length was determined based on the length of typical information system life cycles in the private sector and allowing for a “public sector” margin.

Source: Taken from the Draft E-Leaders Governance Handbook prepared for the 2019 meeting of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials and based on discussion amongst the E-Leaders Task Force on Governance (unpublished); OECD (2015[5]) Public Governance Reviews: Estonia and Finland

Legacy of technology and infrastructure

A third area that shapes the context for designing and delivering government services are the tangible artefacts that result from previous efforts in this area. Some of those artefacts relate to the infrastructure associated with physical locations: not only in the buildings but in the associated habits formed by citizens and communities around their use. Where this model has been adopted by several networks there can be a duplication of physical locations in the same community. In these cases, there may be efforts to consolidate all services under one roof in order to achieve twin outcomes of simplifying the experience of government and rationalising its property estate.

In realising the strategic opportunities associated with broadening service delivery that and designing responses to the needs of the public face to face service channels remain a critical bridge between the government and citizens. As such, making sense of this physical infrastructure and identifying the potential for all networks to work together in supporting access to services is critical.

Alongside the physical infrastructure there can also be a legacy of brand recognition and awareness. Whilst some parts of society may deal with government on a regular basis there will be those who perhaps interact once a year. For those who seldom deal with government the importance of brand continuity may mean that they are suspicious about any new design if the change is not well communicated. Equally, if websites are to be consolidated and services delivered through new online channels it is critical to maintain the integrity of the internet and ‘leave no link behind’ so that bookmarks can be maintained (Box 2.4).

Whilst the physical and conceptual traces of previous networks will feature in the public consciousness of service delivery in a country the internal arrangements and technological logistics within government introduce a further layer of complexity. Institutions will have agreements and ways of working that support the delivery of services that cross organisational boundaries, perhaps through accessing data or developing bespoke technical solutions. In some cases these experiences may have been negative, or constraining. Ensuring that valuable relationships can continue while also revisiting those which have proven problematic is an integral factor in achieving greater interoperability and avoiding unintended consequences for the services that have accreted over time.

Indeed, the contractual arrangements between a government institution and the management of its web, telephone or physical service delivery channels is potentially one of the most significant barriers to transformation of the citizen experience. The legacy of existing arrangements may mean that contracts do not have break clauses or would incur significant costs around making the necessary architectural and infrastructure changes to align with a new strategic direction. Nevertheless, this can be helpful as the dates associated with contracts that reflect this sort of situation can shape a country’s roadmap and timeline towards its transformation allowing for a more effective and considered prioritisation process to take place.

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Box 2.4. #NoLinkLeftBehind, maintaining 1m+ URLs after launching GOV.UK

Over time government web estates expand. Every organisation, each service, and even short lived campaigns might end up with their own domain. As sites decay and are closed down, little thought is given to the URLs stored in bookmarks, on printed materials or buried in other services. Many organisations decide that redirecting sites is an onerous task, so they either redirect all the old links to the front page of the new site, or simply switch the site off in its entirety. When URLs change, the ‘strands’ of the World Wide Web break and people cannot find what they are looking for.

For the United Kingdom the centrepiece of its digital government agenda is rationalising all citizen facing government websites into a single domain – GOV.UK. This meant over 1 500 domains, containing over 1 million URLs would need to be closed down with the content either being archived, or transitioned onto GOV.UK. Rather than removing those URLs, the team committed creating individual redirections for each and every page so that users either found the archived content or the equivalent page on GOV.UK. Committing to preserve URLs like this isn’t just about being good citizens of The Web but about putting users first to ensure that when people follow links and bookmarked pages they do not see ‘404, Page Not Found’.

Source: Government Digital Service (2012[6]) No link left behind (

Society and geography

The final area to consider in terms of the context for understanding the appropriate blend between online, telephone and face to face based service provision in pursuit of transforming design and delivery of services is the character of the country’s population and its geography.

As countries have pursued ever greater levels of digital service provision and sought ‘digital by default’ approaches to identity or accessing other services a foundational enabler, and constraint, is the level of connectivity experienced in a country. This can either be through the provision of high speed internet to people’s homes, the extent to which there is coverage for mobile data connectivity and the affordability of those data connections themselves. Governments may take steps to enshrine access to the internet as seen in Mexico where access to the internet has been established as a fundamental right within the constitution with Mexico Conectado then supplying internet access to 250,000 public spaces including hospitals, libraries, schools and government offices (Box 2.5). Understanding the connectivity landscape and ecosystem in a country allows for a more sophisticated response to encouraging adoption of services while ensuring the discussion around face to face provision and community internet access is strategic and led by data.

A further factor that can be supported at a community level is around digital inclusion and digital literacy. Supporting citizens to increase their use of digital services and transition away from face to face locations implies that sufficient attention is also given to the needs of those who cannot use online services. In this case physical and telephone locations not only retain an important role in resolving the need of the citizen but in providing training and support to users that give them confidence to try a digital route in future. Nevertheless, some of these challenges are broader than digital literacy and touch on education in general: data from 2016 show that for OECD countries, an average of 54% of individuals with higher education submitted forms through public websites compared to 17% of individuals with lower levels of education (OECD, 2017[7]). Box 2.5 highlights through the 710 000 tablets delivered to schools across Mexico to support literacy and digital literacy that the enshrining of internet access as a right is not just about connectivity but about being able to consume it.

Aside from education, there is also evidence to show that level of income and age are further determinants of confidence in using digital services, and consequently likely to influence the extent to which face to face or telephone services are preferred. Data from 2016 show that for OECD countries, about 49% of the richest quartile of society access online services compared to 25% of the poorest and furthermore, while 42% of those aged between 25-54 went online to interact with government, only 24% of people aged 55-74 did so (OECD, 2017[7]). Consequently, a detailed understanding of age, education and income is essential to developing a national strategic approach to the design and delivery of services.

A final area to consider is that of geography. The terrain of a country may impede the ability to deliver full connectivity whilst disparate populations spread out across a wide area will mean face to face provision will never provide full coverage. In Chile, the ChileAtiende network has developed a response to this particular challenge with one in five of its locations not having a permanent office, but instead being served periodically by a mobile venue. This ensures that more remote communities are not denied the opportunities to resolve their issues with the state. In this way a digital channel strategy needs to be aligned with questions of digital inclusion and digital connectivity to ensure that nobody is left behind in the fundamental responsibility of the state to deliver services to citizens. This is well demonstrated by the experience of Portugal where the face to face approach offered through its Citizens Shops and Citizen Spots (see Box 2.18) was a necessary complement to its telephone and web-based offering due to the limited levels of internet access within the population at the time.

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Box 2.5. Mexico’s multi-faceted and coherent approach to digital transformation

In April 2013 Mexico established a governance model for coordinating various activities under its Digital Strategy and later that year, on 11 June 2013 The Telecommunications Amendment was published which provided the legal basis for a complete transformation of the way in which the country approaches its digital transformation.

Central to this transformation is the recognition of access to the internet as a fundamental right, established in the Mexican constitution. Through Mexico Conectado internet access is being brought to 250,000 public spaces including hospitals, libraries, schools and government offices.

However, the approach to digital government in Mexico has a broader focus than internet connectivity:

  • The single government website,, was launched in August 2015 to be a single point of access for all citizens. It provides access to more than 4000 government services and consolidates 5000 federal government websites.

  • A platform where citizens can provide ideas, report corruption and participate in building better services and policies.

  • A new ICT policy for improving the way that federal government acquires technology to maximise public value and access better technology. This included launching ‘Fixed-Price Contracts’ for software licensing and ICT related hiring.

  • An Action Plan for implementing the principles of Open Government with a publicly accessible dashboard detailing progress against the commitments at

  • The creation of for publishing datasets and the Mexico Open Network as a supporting network of practitioners discussing and sharing experiences with open data

  • The launch of “Innovation Agents” to identify and respond to public problems with digital and technology solutions.

  • The launch of “Public Challenges” as a means by which citizens could identify and respond to public problems with digital and technology solutions

  • A Digital Inclusion and Literacy Program delivered 710 000 tablets for the school year 2014-2015 in 6 states within the Mexican territory

Source: OECD (n.d.[8]) Digital Government Toolkit – Mexico: National Digital Strategy (

copy the linklink copied!Philosophy for the design and delivery of services

Having understood the existing context for the service agenda in a country the next area of focus are the practices that shape and direct the strategic activity associated with the design and delivery of services. This relates to the leadership for the agenda, the vision that it sets and then the way in which service design and delivery is approached.

Leadership and vision

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) identifies in its 5th, 6th and 7th provisions the importance of securing the necessary leadership and political commitment to digital government strategies for them to be successful (OECD, 2014[1]). It indicates the need for this to take place through efforts to promote coordination and collaboration, providing clarity about priorities as well as to increase stakeholder engagement and ensuring that the digital government agenda complements and supports other activity within government. Finally it suggests the need for effective organisational and governance frameworks for co-ordinating implementation.

Whilst focused on providing a holistic framework within which to achieve the digital transformation of government as a whole, these ideas are relevant in considering the specifics of service design and delivery. Nowhere is this clearer than at the highest level for elected representatives, their appointees and the senior government officials who lead institutions to recognise the value of putting the application of digital, data and technology at the heart of their country’s future. Individuals throughout the public sector can provide localised leadership and inspire their colleagues to deliver value. However, there is no substitute for the momentum that follows from a clear vision that is owned and shared throughout government for understanding the needs of citizens and including them in the design of their resolution.

Political leadership

From the perspective of political leadership this includes having a clearly expressed vision for the role of digital in the future of the country and as an extension, the implications for service design and delivery. The experience of Estonia (Box 2.3) recognised the value of having a commonly understood role for digital amongst a country’s political leadership from an early stage. In Panama, during the 2019 Presidential election, each candidate made it clear that digital, data and technology were a priority (OECD, 2019[9]).

Having such leadership from the top helps to show that the application of digital, data and technology is not optional but sits at the heart of what a country will be trying to do. As a result, it makes it easier to establish an agenda supported by appointed minsters and that will consequently spread throughout government because there is a mandate from the very top (as seen in Norway Box 2.6). In Chile, several important aspects of the digital government agenda have been enshrined in the Digital Transformation of the State Law (MINSEGPRES, 2019[10]).

As discussed earlier in this chapter (Representative and organisational politics) there can be challenges in having too visible a political champion but this needs to be set against the importance of having the political capital and influence to be able to effect the necessary changes in support of rethinking and redesigning services. Without a clear mandate to address the patchwork of different channels and organisational fiefdoms arriving at a consensus may prove difficult. It is not always sufficient for government leaders to provide funding and other incentives to change the status quo.

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Box 2.6. The Norwegian “Digital First Choice” initiative

The Digitalisation Memorandum (Digitaliseringsrundskrivet) in Norway established that the government should communicate with citizens and businesses through digital services that are comprehensive, user-friendly, safe, and designed to ensure everyone can access them.

In order to achieve this the Memorandum set out specific delivery criteria:

  • By the end of 2017, ministries were required to map the potential for digitalising services and processes with supporting plans for how all appropriate services would then be made available digitally.

  • By the end of 2018, ministries would look at their services in relation to those provided by other organisations and consider whether it is possible to develop ‘service chains’ offering end to end user journeys and solving whole problems. As part of this expectation, plans and strategies for developing those combined services would be developed.

As part of the mapping exercise Norwegian organisations were to identify whether or not services were already digitalised and, if not, assess their level of suitability. The exercise was also designed to assess the quality of existing services in terms of the extent to which they were user-driven, user-centred and user-friendly and judge whether they needed to be re-designed, simplified or even eliminated.

Furthermore, the Digitalisation Memorandum required not only that services were analysed but that the relevant regulatory framework and legislation be reviewed.

Source: OECD, (2017[11]) Digital Government Review of Norway: Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector

Organisational leadership

While elected representatives set the political direction and high level vision, responsibility for implementing that intent and delivering on the ambitions of government belongs to the civil service. The OECD’s previous work concerning the governance of digital government in Chile (OECD, 2016[12]) highlighted the importance of clearly identifying leadership from an institution to coordinate the strategy and priorities for transformation. Given the relevance of the digital government agenda to the transformation of government services in a country there are benefits to this leadership coming from the same organisation, or if that is not possible, ensuring close coordination.

Indeed, it is critical that leadership of the service design and delivery agenda is understood as a coordinating role and works closely with leaders across the public sector to embed the importance of designing and delivering high quality services in the day to day work of the civil service as a whole. This is particularly important in securing the overall commitment to transforming cross-cutting services that involve multiple parts of the public sector to decrease the potential for duplicated effort.

Civil servants collectively need to embrace the importance of digital transformation in respect of service delivery and work together to open up data, and contribute to the discussions about shared, reusable resources. Nevertheless, inadequate institutional coordination among relevant agendas, such as those on the digital transformation, public services and regulatory reform, can impede a shift of approach towards a coherent use of existing and emerging opportunities to deliver improved service experiences to users.

External leadership

Finally, there is an important leadership role provided by those who are neither elected by the public, nor employed by government. Government cannot choose its users or market services to only a subset of the population and so non-government experiences come with certain caveats but an external perspective can help identify priorities for the service design and delivery agenda, highlight areas that might otherwise be missed and consider how to encourage greater adoption in society. The strategic discussion about services in a country, and digital government itself, will benefit from the insight of academia, civil society and the private sector, as well as the experiences of other countries, to ensure a rounded view of the issues.

Behaviours of service design and delivery

With the necessary leadership identified and strategic direction provided it becomes necessary to think about the characteristics of a service design and delivery culture and how associated good practices might be established and nurtured throughout the public sector. For some parts of government, this will mean making the transition from analogue government straight to digital government approaches whilst in others there will already be a track record in providing e-government services perhaps through administrative simplification efforts or a focus on individual life events. Both situations present their own challenges for subsequently framing desired behaviours around service design and delivery.

This section will consider several of the behaviours of service design and delivery whose presence in a country can contribute to better meeting the needs of the public and transforming their experience of interacting with government. It will look at understanding, and responding to, a whole problem; services that make sense of the end to end experience; involving the public in design and delivery; combining policy, delivery and operations to work across organisational boundaries; and taking an agile approach.

Whether government is considering the renewal of a single service or looking to transform the entirety of government services the scalability of service design and delivery is critical. In doing so it is important to start from a clear and effective definition of ‘services’ and to consequently prioritise those working practices that help deliver against that vision. Box 2.7 presents the work of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-Leaders) Thematic Group on Service Delivery and a summary of principles to underpin the design of good services proposed by Lou Downe, one of the leading voices in government service design.

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Box 2.7. Overarching principles for designing, and delivering, services

Proposed General Principles for Digital Service Delivery

Under the auspices of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-Leaders), OECD member countries have been considering what constitutes best practice in this area for several years. At the 2017 meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, the Thematic Group on Digital Service Delivery presented a set of General Principles that both member countries and other governments could follow. These principles emerged from the experiences of member countries in implementing their digital agendas.

  1. 1. User driven - Optimize the service around how users can, want, or need to use it, including cultural aspects rather than forcing the users to change their behaviour to accommodate the service.

  2. 2. Security and privacy focused - Uphold the principles of user security and privacy to every digital service offered.

  3. 3. Open standards - Freely adopted, implemented and extended standards.

  4. 4. Agile methods - Build your service using agile, iterative and user-centred methods

  5. 5. Government as a platform - Build modular, API enabled data, content, transaction services and business rules for reuse across government and 3rd party service providers

  6. 6. Accessibility - Support social inclusion for people with disabilities as well as others, such as older people, people in rural areas, and people in developing countries.

  7. 7. Consistent and responsive design - Build the service with responsive design methods using common design patterns within a style guide

  8. 8. Participatory process updating - Design a platform to take into account civic participation in the services updates.

  9. 9. Performance measurements - Measure performance such as Digital take-up, User satisfaction, Digital Service Completion Rate and Cost per transaction for a better decision-making process.

  10. 10. Encourage Use - Promote the use of digital services across a range of channels, including emerging opportunities such as social media.

Source: Proposed General Guidelines for Digital Service Delivery prepared for the 2017 meeting of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (Unpublished)

15 principles of good service design

Lou Downe was the Head of Design for the United Kingdom government during the expansion of its service design profession into an established part of the digital, data and technology professional framework for civil service. In that role they encountered lots of teams wanting to know what a good service looked like but found that the service design profession had not developed a language for talking about the purpose of designing services. That prompted them to define that a good service must:

  1. 1. Enable a user to complete the outcome they set out to do

  2. 2. Be easy to find

  3. 3. Clearly explain its purpose

  4. 4. Set the expectations a user has of it

  5. 5. Be agnostic of organisational structures

  6. 6. Require the minimum possible steps to complete

  7. 7. Be consistent throughout

  8. 8. Have no dead ends

  9. 9. Be usable by everyone, equally

  10. 10. Respond to change quickly

  11. 11. Work in a way that is familiar

  12. 12. Encourage the right behaviours from users and staff

  13. 13. Clearly explain why a decision has been made

  14. 14. Make it easy to get human assistance

  15. 15. Require no prior knowledge to use

Source: Downe, (2019[13]), Good Services: How to Design Services that Work; Downe, (2018[14]), 15 principles of good service design

Understanding, and responding to, a whole problem

“Public-facing services allow citizens or their representatives to achieve a desired outcome” (Pope, 2019[15]) and as such the act of designing, and then delivering those services is not a theoretical pursuit but a practical exercise in working with the affected people and adding value to their lives. In order to do that, the first characteristic is to understand the problem in order to respond to what is found rather than setting out to implement what has been imagined.

The starting point for services will be either a newly identified policy intent, or an existing approach to a long-standing problem. In both cases, service design approaches will help to understand the opportunities to deliver value against the policy intent and how the service might practically make sense of the existing landscape. In contrast to sectoral or organisation focused administrative simplification developing that understanding will require looking across the whole of government to understand how different activities are contributing to, or detracting from, the desired policy outcome. Responding to what has been found in order to better meet needs may then require a fundamental redesign of the service, or more minor tweaks to the way in which government is working. Service design involves working out how the existing landscape of government provision fits together, analysing the extent to which needs are being met through them and then identifying how to reconfigure or redesign the approach to improve things.

Taking this approach is important because if a service (whether newly developed, or existing) isn’t immediately understood then people can get confused, make mistakes, or decide not to use it. When that happens it increases the effort government has to invest in order to resolve any issues, and the burden on the citizen to deal with the issue they had in the first place.

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Box 2.8. Redesigning the Disability Certificate in Argentina

In Argentina, an estimated 3 million people have some disability. To certify this disability, the Medical Evaluation Boards (MEB) distributed throughout the country issue a Certificado Único de Discapacidad (disability certificate, CUD) that allows people to access the rights and benefits provided by the Government. According to the National Agency for Disability, 1,405,687 certificates have been issued to the present.

However, despite being a right, the process for obtaining a CUD was a painful and difficult process. There was no digital service to support it with the result that the process could last up to seven months as it involved four steps that required the user to go to a public office in person to:

  1. 1. Find out what documentation would be required according the disability and age of the person

  2. 2. Submit the documentation and make an appointment to be evaluated;

  3. 3. Attend the evaluation by the MEB;

  4. 4. Receive a paper certificate.

Not only was the turnaround slow but the process itself was adding extra burdens and complexity to people’s lives at a point where they needed increased levels of support.

Having identified that this was a service in need of transformation the National Agency for Disability paired with the team at Mi Argentina, Argentina’s platform for providing citizen centred services to carry out a rediscovery and transformation of the service. This multi-disciplinary team was made up of not only software engineers and designers but also psychologists, political scientists, anthropologists and sociologists. Together the team set out not only with the intent of simplifying and speeding up the process but in coming alongside people as they carry out a difficult process and providing them with the service they deserve.

To do this the team carried out user research by interviewing people with disabilities, their families and health workers. As they built up a picture of the challenges people faced they identified opportunities for simplifying the process and designing an approach that could be carried out online in one step (as opposed to the previous 4).

A wizard now guides citizens through the requirements of their application rather than requiring them to attend a physical meeting to establish what documentation is required. The physical meeting is still required but an online appointment system schedules the interview, meaning that users can avoid hours of waiting in queues. Finally, the service proactively provides notifications in the citizen’s digital profile ensuring the user knows when the CUD is expiring and offering to help with its renewal.

Developing the solution was only part of the challenge because the solution needed to work with the 453 separate MEBs. This is a challenge because of the political structure surrounding MEBs as well as practical considerations like availability of internet access, furthermore the service delivery culture of the MEBs is not guaranteed to be citizen centred. In response the team developed a strategy that would address the relationship between central government and the MEBs, support the practicalities of connectivity and focus on developing the necessary skills through training whilst iterating the CUD service as they learn more about it.

Source: OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, (2018[16]) Redesign of the Unique Certificate of Disability

Services that make sense of the end to end experience

Because government services have often evolved over time with different policy initiatives leading to different interactions a user’s journey can often be somewhat fragmented and hard to trace across different parts of government and different channels. The most effective citizen experiences should not require a detailed knowledge of the inner workings of government or involve the burden of working out how best to meet a need across a myriad of different websites, call centres and service delivery locations. They should instead lead users through a simple to complete process and where possible reuse data to anticipate and proactively address aspects that might otherwise have involved further interactions.

In addition to successfully achieving the impression of seamless government, regardless of the messy reality ‘behind the scenes’, a service design approach prioritises handling the transition between physical, offline and digital elements of a service. Ultimately, a service should be understood:

  • from when someone first attempts to solve a problem through to its resolution (from end to end)

  • on a continuum between citizen experience and back-office process (external to internal)

  • across any and all of the channels involved (omni-channel).

    One of the unintended consequences of a ‘digital by default’ agenda was to create situations where difficulties were introduced for those who had a preference, or a need, to access services in person. Following a ‘digital by design’ approach recognises the value that can be added to face to face channels when services are developed in a channel agnostic way that enables users to access a given service at any point in the end to end process of meeting their need, according to their most convenient channel.

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Box 2.9. Transforming the Justice system in Panama from end to end

In 2012, Panama’s National Authority for Government Innovation (Autoridad Nacional para la Innovación Gubernamental, AIG) began working with the country’s Justice system to rethink the experience of justice across its several branches of government.

The collaboration involved all the necessary stakeholders and saw a transformative approach taken to the end to end experience in delivering the Accusatory Penal System (Sistema Penal Acusatorio, SPA), which provides the foundation to the way in which courts operate.

AIG’s designers took the existing, complex process and broke it into its constituent parts in order to arrive at an understanding of the needs of both those accessing the services and those providing them. This made it possible to prioritise particular elements of the journey and address different elements over time. By 2018, this resulted in transforming not only existing digital elements but also the issues related to physical infrastructure and analogue interactions in the entire experience of justice. There is no longer any paper involved and it has reduced the time involved by 96%.

Source: OECD (2019[9]) Digital Government Review of Panama: Enhancing the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector

Involving the public in design and delivery

In order to understand the whole problem, teams working on designing and delivering services need to work with the people who need to use the service. Digitally transformed public services need to engage their users as early in the process as possible. This allows the design process to reflect their views, needs and aspirations from the outset. Such an approach is in line with principle 2 of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]).

The principles of digital government change the way in which services can be designed and implemented. They create opportunities for citizen-driven activity and civic participation in terms of sharing views, collaborating with peers and expressing dissatisfaction. Service teams that stimulate opportunities for citizens to work with them can embrace innovation and rapidly normalise emerging technology where it can add most value. Having a deep understanding of user needs and an openness to citizen involvement in the process of policy design and service delivery, as seen in Box 2.10, mean teams are well positioned to consider all possible opportunities to apply technology and be agile enough to take advantage when new things arrive.

Partnerships can be developed with community groups and other stakeholders to meet the community and ensure that their experiences shape how government services operate. This approach is exemplified by the experiences of Canada and Portugal in travelling throughout their countries to engage with the community of their users. In Portugal, updating the Simplex model of service delivery (discussed in more detail under Channel Strategy) involved a tour of the regions covering 10 000 kms, speaking to 2 000 people and collecting 1 400 contributions focused on improving the lives of Portuguese citizens (Welby, 2019[17]).

Face to face opportunities not only provide tangible evidence of a responsive government seeking to include the voices of their citizens in the design and application of digital government they can introduce new opportunities to enhance the technical skills and confidence of the public in using online channels, as well as increase their awareness. Supporting citizens to use the internet to access government services has broader benefits in empowering and enabling them to take advantage of other online services.

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Box 2.10. Designing and implementing a citizen centric employment services system in Australia

In January 2018 the Australian government appointed an independent Expert Advisory Panel to advise on the future of employment services in the country. The panel considered it was fundamental for the design of future employment services to centre on users. With this focus, the panel heard from around 1 400 unique users across a range of different methods from face-to-face consultations, a public discussion paper and user-centred design research.

Users were engaged to prototype and test policy options through design research workshops, focus groups and one-on-one interviews. The process involved 550 users of employment services including job seekers and employers. User research was conducted across six metropolitan and regional locations with panel members attending sessions to engage with users first hand.

Those experiences shaped the publication of the department’s discussion paper which was followed by an extensive consultation across Australia in all the capital cities and selected regional centres. The consultation process involved both roundtables and community forums reaching 540 people (Figure 2.2). Alongside the consultation process 451 unique written submissions were received with 328 of those coming from individuals, more than 50% of whom identified as job seekers.

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Figure 2.2. Attendees at consultation round-tables
Figure 2.2. Attendees at consultation round-tables

Source: Department of Jobs and Small Business (2018[18]), Employment Services 2020: Consultation report

Ultimately, the proposed new employment services model was endorsed and pilots began in March 2019. The service involves a new digital platform that will provide personalised support to all job seekers, with many intended to self-service online. Additional support is available to more disadvantaged job seekers with incentives available to those providing support to them in person.

The new model is being piloted in two regions before being rolled out nationally in 2022. During that period consultation and user-design efforts will continue.

Source: OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (2018[19]), Design and implementation of a citizen centric employment services system; Department of Jobs and Small Business (2018[18]), Employment Services 2020: Consultation report, Commonwealth of Australia (2018[20]), I want to work: Employment Services 2020 Report

Combining policy, delivery and operations to work across organisational boundaries

Successfully transforming service delivery necessitates changes to approaches to both policy making and implementation processes. The status quo has been for policy teams to develop an approach which is then handed over to a commissioning team that instructs an external supplier to deliver against a specification and who, in turn, hand the delivered service over to a fourth team to operate.

When policy decisions are taken in isolation from delivery realities, and operational teams have no ongoing relationship with either, then siloes form. Such a disconnected approach causes problems for both the people accessing the service and government itself. Badly designed services benefit neither political objectives, or meet the needs of the public.

The digital government approach recognises the importance of bringing policy, delivery and operations together throughout the implementation lifecycle to ensure a common vision and coordinated development process. As such, it should be an ambition for those designing and delivering services to unite what might otherwise be siloed as a single team, focused on solving a particular problem together, shown in Figure 2.3.

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Figure 2.3. Two paradigms of delivering policy and services
Figure 2.3. Two paradigms of delivering policy and services

Transformed services rely on diverse, multi-disciplinary teams of designers, developers, subject matter experts, policy officials, lawyers, operational staff, user researchers and content professionals that bring together different perspectives and commit to working across organisational boundaries. Taking a cross-discipline approach and involving those from across government helps to better understand the needs of all users. This idea includes the needs of civil servants within government with the responsibility for administering a service and sits behind the creation of the One Team Government movement (Box 2.11).

Developing cross-government service communities help to create a clear mission that unites all those involved with solving a particular problem for citizens or businesses. In doing so, they help to address several of the other behaviours discussed earlier in the chapter. In the United Kingdom, this approach has seen the creation of 4 different communities involving 236 members from 15 organisations with results ranging from simplifying content and user journeys for members of the public through to the redesign of internal procurement processes (Government Digital Service, 2019[21]).

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Box 2.11. OneTeamGovernment

In the summer of 2017 a conversation between two civil servants in the United Kingdom planted the seed for the idea of a gathering that wasn’t structured around existing tribes of ‘policy makers’ and ‘service designers’ but was focused on bringing civil servants together to talk about shared problems and common goals.

Three months later, 186 people gathered together for an event called One Team Government. It was expected that this would be a one-off but after the success of the event meant those who arranged it were inspired to see it become a community of practitioners shaping the conversation in government.

The community has seven principles:

  1. 1. Work in the open and positively

  2. 2. Take practical action

  3. 3. Experiment and iterate

  4. 4. Be diverse and inclusive

  5. 5. Care deeply about citizens

  6. 6. Work across borders (professions, departments, sectors and countries)

  7. 7. Embrace technology

Following that first event in London in 2017, these principles have been adopted by chapters in countries and governments around the world. July 2018 saw the first global event with 700 public servants from 43 countries coming together in London in an unconference format to explore how they might share their knowledge and work together to better meet the needs of their users.

In a demonstration that the movement is now truly international and not simply reliant on the original team in London, the 2019 global event took place in Canada where another global gathering discussed 40 different topics with a common theme emerging around improved communication and effective talent management.

Note: A summary of discussions from the 2019 unconference is available here:

Source: Welby (2019[17]), The impact of Digital Government on citizen well-being

Taking an agile approach

Both the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) and the Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2017[2]) place a high premium on ensuring that as governments develop policies and services the public should be involved. Nevertheless, there are different ways and extents to which the ideal of user-driven approaches might be approached during the policy making, service delivery and ongoing operational lifecycle.

The public might be engaged by governments through consultation during the policy design process, in seeking the experience of those affected during pilots during the initial implementation phase and gathering feedback once something is operational. However, as shown in Figure 2.4, these are usually independent of one another, do not feed from one into the next and are generally reactive rather than reflecting and mutual ongoing discussion. A result of this is that policy consultation is siloed from the insights derived from both testing a service before it launches and operational feedback once it is live. As a result, the public end up being secondary to the views and activities of public service teams who are not empowered to understand or deliver against outcomes that transform the wellbeing of citizens.

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Figure 2.4. A traditional approach to the interaction between government and the public during policy making, service delivery and ongoing operations
Figure 2.4. A traditional approach to the interaction between government and the public during policy making, service delivery and ongoing operations

This situation contributes to the siloed delivery approaches discussed in the previous section (Figure 2.3) and as a symptom of Waterfall approaches to delivery. The traditional Waterfall approach is built around a sequencing of activities or phases that must be completed before moving on to the next. This approach attempts to manage uncertainty by creating a plan up front. In this way requirements are identified as a distinct phase before any work is undertaken. There is then no interaction with the solution or any opportunity to provide feedback until the final product is delivered. You only have one chance to get each part of the project right, because you do not return to earlier stages. Should any change want to be made there are high costs associated with what may need to be the revisiting of fundamental decisions.

In contrast, the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-Leaders) Thematic Group on Service Delivery advocates for governments to adopt an Agile methodology (Box 2.7). The core values of Agile were first set out in the context of software engineering in the Agile Manifesto below.

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others to do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more (Beck et al., 2001[22])

These ideas are increasingly a staple of digital government. Agile involves embracing uncertainty and expecting to continuously learn and improve approaches based on what is learnt in order to prioritise adding value to users as quickly as possible. All the elements found in a Waterfall process are instead carried out concurrently: the activity associated with gathering requirements, planning, designing, building and testing. By starting small with Discovery and Alpha phases teams can research, prototype, test and learn about the needs of their users before committing to building a real service allowing them to fail quickly and correct course in response to what they find. The development of that real service only goes live when enough feedback has been gathered to demonstrate that needs are met and the service works.

Fundamental to this change in approach is the importance of ongoing research and a cyclical model of delivery, Figure 2.5. The separation between the public and government in Figure 2.4 is replaced with government engaging the public on an ongoing basis to explore user-driven approaches and carry out research.

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Figure 2.5. An Agile approach to the interaction between government and the public during policy making, service delivery and ongoing operations
Figure 2.5. An Agile approach to the interaction between government and the public during policy making, service delivery and ongoing operations

As a result, instead of being initiated in government, policy responds to an understanding of citizen needs based on research conducted with them, reflecting views expressed across a wide sample of the population and informed by insights available from societal data. Having knowledge of the problem in this way allows for the development of policy to be guided and led by the needs of the public rather than the implementation of assumed or paternalistic solutions devised by public servants at their desks. With policy development taking place in close proximity to those carrying out the delivery of the service, research findings can be incorporated into the design and delivery of the service itself. Experimental, hypothesis led interventions involving the public further confirm whether or not a given approach will be effective. At launch, when the policy and any associated services are impacting on real lives, the agile, research-led approach emphasises the continued understanding of the user’s experience to establish impact and respond to any insights in understanding whether the policy is having its desired outcomes.

copy the linklink copied!Enablers to support the design and delivery of services

Simply taking into account the contextual factors influencing the way in which services will be designed and delivered, and setting out a vision for doing so may create a situation that feels daunting in terms of putting transformation into action. Countries may have upwards of 3 000 individual services and it will be slow, expensive and inefficient to redesign and rethink each of those from scratch. Therefore, the provision of ‘Government as a Platform’ enablers are fundamental for helping all those designing and delivering public services to meet the needs of their users at scale, and with pace, while protecting quality and trust.

The OECD considers Government as a Platform to be one of the foundational characteristics of digital government approaches. As a concept there are several ways in which it can be understood whether in supporting service teams, stimulating a marketplace for public services, or rethinking the relationship between citizen and state. These approaches are not mutually exclusive and represent something of a sequential, iterative approach towards creating the conditions for open and innovative government.

Taking the steps to build an ecosystem which supports and equips public servants to make policy and deliver services whilst also encouraging collaboration with citizens, businesses, civil society and others is critical to transforming the process by which services are designed and delivered. The idea of technical shared platforms is not new. The history of e-government contains many examples of shared services and technical interventions designed to offer common solutions to common problems. As a result, enablers can be thought of simply as technology driven interventions. However, this is to overlook the model imagined by Government as a Platform of creating a more holistic ecosystem that provides the resources that can create the conditions in which service design and delivery flourishes and where technology choices are secondary to a focus on the problems facing a particular subset of the public.

It is important to recognise that ‘Government’ is not a single entity but a collection of organisations and teams who work on designing, implementing and operating policy and the services it produces. Consequently, we start with the practical implications of delivering Government as a Platform with the service teams responsible for meeting the needs of citizens. Those teams may consist entirely of in-house capability, they may be outsourced, they may be a hybrid of the two or they may even be delivered independently of government by charities or private companies. Nevertheless, it is their activity which forms the intermediary between government and users and it is in support of their delivery that an ecosystem focused on common needs can abstract away many of the issues which people would otherwise have to do. This section considers eight areas of enabling practices and activities that fit within this Government as a Platform model and can prove transformative in simplifying and accelerating the design and delivery of services. They are:

  • Best practices and guidelines (including style guides and service manuals)

  • Governance, spending and assurance (including business cases, budgeting thresholds, procurement and service standards and assurance processes)

  • Digital inclusion focused activities (including digital literacy, accessibility and connectivity)

  • The channel strategy (emphasising an omni-channel model)

  • Common components and tools (including design systems, hosting and infrastructure, digital identity, notifications, payments, and low code)

  • Data-driven public sector approaches (including strategic, tactical and operational activities)

  • Talent (including recruitment and professions, communities of practice, consultancy and coaching, skills training and skills transfer)

Best practice and guidelines

The first way of enabling teams to deliver high quality services that meet the needs of their users is in providing guidance and materials that can offer insight into the practical steps that can be taken.

Style guide and language

The shift from analogue, via e-government, to digital government has often resulted in a separation of responsibility for serving information to the public and delivering transactions completed by the public. However, to develop services in line with the behaviours discussed earlier in this chapter it is important to recognise the important role that content and language play in the understanding the public might have and therefore the consequent effectiveness of any services that they are consuming.

One way of supporting this is to develop style guides that create consistency and set standards in terms of written communication, whether that is found in letters received through the post, forms completed as part of a transaction, emails triggered by completing a step in process workflow or the web content arrived at from searching the internet. A selection of these are presented in Box 2.12.

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Box 2.12. Style guides that support the delivery of services

The Norwegian Clear Language Project (Norway)

The Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) collaborates with the Norwegian Language Council to encourage user-friendly language in the delivery of public services:

  • The Golden Pen: an online course helping editors in the public sector to write in ways that citizens can understand.

  • klarsprå a website containing practical tools, advice and tips on how to make the language used in service delivery processes clear and user-friendly.

  • Funding Schemes: agencies can apply for financial support for clear language work. In 2016, two support schemes were made available: one for textual vision and one for measuring the effects of language proficiency.

  • Clear Language Prize: an annual award given to public agencies that make an extraordinary effort to use clear and user-friendly language in communicating with citizens and businesses.

Source: OECD, (2017[11]), Digital Government Review of Norway: Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector

Style Guides by Government Agencies (United States of America)

In the United States, catalogues 25 different style guides in use across the public sector and encourages public servants to participate in a plain language community of practice. One of the most notable style guides belongs to 18F. It not only covers questions relating to grammar and spelling but also provides guidance in developing ‘user-centred content’ built around five principles:

  1. 1. Start with user needs.

  2. 2. Write in a way that suits the situation.

  3. 3. Do the hard work to make it simple.

  4. 4. Use plain language and simple sentences. Choose clarity over cleverness.

  5. 5. Write for everyone.

  6. 6. Respect the complexity of our users’ experiences.

  7. 7. Build trust.

  8. 8. Talk like a person. Tell the truth. Use positive examples and concrete examples

  9. 9. Start small and iterate.

  10. 10. Make sure your content works for users. Don’t be afraid to scrap what’s there and start over. Write a draft, test it out, gather feedback, and keep refining

Source:, (n.d.[23]), Style Guides by Government Agencies (

The Government Digital Service Style Guide (United Kingdom)

The Government Digital Service style guide covers style, spelling and grammar conventions for all content published on GOV.UK. It helps to set standards on how to write using "plain English", bringing consistency to the way government talks to its users and making it as inclusive and simple as possible, across all government services.

Source: GOV.UK, (2016[24]), A to Z – Style Guide – Guidance – GOV.UK (

Service manuals

It is not only in the area of content that the shift to digital government introduces a completely different paradigm in terms of the design and delivery of services as discussed in the previous chapter. Blurring the distinctions between historically separated siloes while also introducing skills around user research and agile delivery mean that several countries have developed resources that act as reference materials to embed and establish a particular design culture.

In addition, the development of strategic approaches to the delivery of common technology (discussed later in this section) has also seen countries develop centralised references for architectural decisions and the documentation of associated APIs and integrations. A selection of these are discussed in Box 2.13.

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Box 2.13. Service manuals that support the delivery of services

Arquitectura TI (Colombia)

The Colombian IT Architecture Knowledge Base contains all the materials for ensuring that teams deliver against the provision of the country’s Reference Framework for digital government. It includes strategic documents to provide overall understanding, standards identifying technical specifications, step by step guidance materials for engendering a common approach to delivery, shared best practices, the necessary legal underpinnings and a proposed management model to align delivery and strategy within Colombian public sector organisations.


GOV.UK Service Manual (United Kingdom)

The United Kingdom’s Service Manual is actively maintained by a team of content designers who work with the different professional communities (design, delivery, product, research, etc.) to establish best practice and document it to resource other teams throughout the government, and the wider public sector.


Wikiguías (Mexico)

The Wikiguías are a series of recommendations for implementing standardised digital services on Mexico’s single government website The content consists of the framework for contributing to the single government website as well as the guidelines for implementing according to the provisions of Mexico’s Digital Services Standard.


Governance, spending and assurance

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) identifies that when it comes to digital government strategies countries should “establish effective organisational and governance frameworks to co-ordinate the implementation of the digital strategy within and across levels of government”. Such an approach is also valuable in the context of designing and delivering services and builds on the development of style guides and guidance. This section will consider the importance of business cases and budget thresholds, procurement and commissioning activity, and service standards and assurance processes in enabling the design and delivery of services.

Because government consists of hundreds of organisations delivering hundreds of services, it is impossible for one organisation to manage the design and delivery of all those things directly. As a result, it is essential that countries establish a clear definition of ‘good’ in respect of services and develop a credible approach to quality assurance. Such governance models need to be built around identifying clear coordination responsibilities complemented by visibility and controls covering spending and delivery activity associated with digital and technology interventions.

Business cases and budget thresholds

The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) identifies business cases as a critical element in securing the sustainability of digital government approaches through ensuring funding is available. Part of this exercise is to ensure a clear value proposition for all projects that can identify economic, social and political benefits as well as a process that involves all actors throughout government to ensure buy in and recognition of those benefits.

In the context of designing and delivering services such business case processes have important echoes of the need to carry out the research to understand a set of users, their needs and the potential ways in which government might respond. The business case and approval process needs to find ways to encourage experimentation by making funding available for research and prototype activities through a process that is lighter weight and less cumbersome than what might be expected for a full project implementation. Moreover, with an agile approach anticipating a continuous iteration of a service it is important for business case and funding processes to anticipate the need for delivery approaches that are continuously learning and as a result may pivot away from the original proposal having better understood the problem on an ongoing basis.

In the United Kingdom, a very early decision by the Government Digital Service was to make it possible for departments and agencies to carry out discovery and alpha activity without the need for a HM Treasury business case (HM Treasury and Government Finance Function, 2014[25]). In France, the team at have developed a similar ‘pre-incubation’ phase where funding is available for teams to scope a problem and demonstrate the potential for a response without requiring a business case (, n.d.[26]). The advantage of this approach to meeting well understood needs rather than spending time and energy on responding to assumed, but mistaken, needs can be seen in the way in which the United Kingdom developed GOV.UK Notify, as discussed in Box 2.14.

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Box 2.14. How the discovery and alpha process helped GOV.UK Notify to meet user, not assumed, needs

Waiting to hear back from government as to whether an application has been processed or a decision has been made can cause anxiety. Not knowing the status of a particular outstanding request often leads people to pick up the phone and contact the relevant organisation to find out. In the UK for example, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency would receive 2.4 million phone calls a year just for checks on the status of an application.

Given the cost this introduces for government and citizens this was an obvious contender for the UK’s Government as a Platform programme to develop a status tracking platform as a common component. However, no work in the UK’s digital agenda takes place without first completing a Discovery phase.

The starting point for this discovery was the desire to improve how government could keep people updated when they have made a request of government and the intent was to make it as easy as possible for service teams to keep users informed and so they interviewed teams and users from across government to establish their needs.

The most important thing the team did through this Discovery phase was validate the need for this problem to be solved. They found a huge demand across services for notifications from government - whether that’s a receipt, a reminder, a request for something, or an update.

However, they also established that status tracking tools and platforms were not the immediate priority. Instead, they tested a hypothesis that well timed, proactive notifications from services would remove the majority of needs for status tracking tools. Telling people automatically about where an application or decision was in its workflow would reduce the need to pick up the phone. They found that one team in the Department for Work and Pensions was able to reduce unnecessary calls by 40% simply by sending people an email to say that their application had been received.

Although status tracking appeared to be the obvious solution the team’s research showed that they are really “channel shift for anxiety” and solve a symptom rather than the problem. Although there is convenience in looking up the status this approach places a burden on the user to reach the point where they are worried rather than finding ways for services to communicate what they already know.

As a result, instead of considering the need to build both a status tracking platform and improved ways for teams to send notifications, the team was able to validate the real need and identify a more straightforward approach to delivery that could be implemented more quickly and with less overhead. The discovery also identified the importance to citizens of not only text messages and emails but physical letters too, developing the offering beyond what they had initially imagined. Internally, their understanding of public servant needs in relation to the back office system landscape meant that whilst automatic notifications were recognised as the ideal, the reality meant staff needed to have less technical way of sending notifications directly without a technical integration.

Source: Government Digital Service (2015[27]) Gov, where’s my stuff?; Government Digital Service, (2016[28]), Status tracking – making it easy to keep users informed

Complementing business case processes are the ways in which countries invoke greater scrutiny of data, digital and technology spending when it reaches a particular budgetary threshold. That threshold can range from 10 000 EUR in Portugal to as high as 1 300 000 EUR in Denmark. These ‘spend control’ processes have become a feature where countries are developing the maturity of the broader public sector and seeking to shift particular approaches to procurement and formed part of previous recommendations made to Chile focusing on governing digital government (OECD, 2016[12]).

With the necessary mandate, such tools can enforce particular ways of working in terms of delivery methodologies or the re-use of common components whilst also providing a broad perspective on activity across government to help avoid duplication and increase the potential for collaboration on cross-government services that involve multiple actors. One important element in being able to create a far-sighted view on contractual break points and expiry dates as well as ongoing planning is to develop a pipeline of intended procurement. Denmark, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom are using this policy lever to improve the coherence and sustainability of investment, enforce the use of policy guidelines and standards and ensure any investment activity avoids any gaps or overlaps in delivery.

Procurement and commissioning

Whilst it is important to shape the way in which business cases are developed and spending approved it is also critically important to ensure that procurement and commissioning activities support the overall ambitions of service design and delivery across all relevant channels. The Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) emphasises the importance of procurement as an enabling contributor to broader ambitions around digital transformation. The ICT Commissioning Thematic Groups of the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-Leaders) has been developing its thinking around approaches that can support agile commissioning and the delivery of transformed outcomes through The ICT Commissioning Playbook (E-Leaders Thematic Group on ICT Commissioning and OECD, 2019[29]). It contains the 11 plays in Figure 2.6.

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Figure 2.6. Thematic Group on ICT Commissioning – draft principles
Figure 2.6. Thematic Group on ICT Commissioning – draft principles

Source: E-Leaders Thematic Group on ICT Commissioning, (2019[29]) The ICT Commissioning Playbook

Procurement and commissioning that follow these principles can simplify the delivery of services while also affording opportunities to increase and develop the skills within the public sector too (see later section on public sector talent and skills) to ask the right questions of their suppliers. By changing the nature of how government engages suppliers this approach can shift the focus to outcomes and how all actors involved with designing and delivering services are challenged to respond to the needs of users. Furthermore, rethinking procurement activity can disrupt incumbent suppliers where inflexible contracts might stifle government’s ability to respond to citizens.

The United Kingdom has adopted an approach, discussed in Box 2.15, that looks not only at how its Digital Marketplace has thought about the design of the frameworks shaping how goods are procured and commissioned but also at how expectations are set for suppliers through the Technology Code of Practice.

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Box 2.15. Using procurement as a tool to transform services in the United Kingdom

The Technology Code of Practice

The Technology Code of Practice is a set of criteria that helps government design, build and buy technology. It is a cross-government agreed standard that supports the UK’s spend controls process. As such, it informs the way in which business cases are developed by public servants. Because it is linked to the release of funding for delivering data, digital and technology projects it acts as a mechanism to influence the behaviours of any suppliers that are commissioned.

Source: Government Digital Service, (2016[30]) Technology Code of Practice – GOV.UK

Digital Marketplace frameworks

The aim of the Digital Marketplace is to make the commissioning of digital, data and technology projects and purchases simpler, clearer and faster. It does that by providing access to two frameworks: G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes and Specialists.

The G-Cloud framework provides a catalogue of cloud based goods and services – hosting, software and support. Between 2012 and 2018 GBP 4 billion of sales were reported with 45% of total sales by value, and 71% by volume, being awarded to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) framework in contrast is not a catalogue in which suppliers can list their goods and buyers can browse to find what they need. Instead, the DOS framework is based on buyers explaining the situation they need addressing which is then published for eligible suppliers to see. These could be for achieving a particular outcome (for example, completing a discovery phase) or in sourcing specific specialist skills. Suppliers can then ask questions about the request and then, if they feel they can respond to it, propose a solution to meet the need. Between 2016 and 2018 almost GBP 800 million of sales were reported with 31% of total sales by value, and 82% by volume, being awarded to small and medium-sized businesses.

Source: Government Digital Service and Crown Commercial Service, (2019[31]), G-Cloud framework sales (up to 31 December 2018); Government Digital Service and Crown Commercial Service, (2019[32]), Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework sales (up to 31 December 2018)

Standards and assurance processes

The power of a business case methodology in shaping the upfront behaviour of teams to ensure that they receive funding is clear and steps can be taken to influence the way in which procurement and commissioning is carried out. However, once that money is distributed the visibility of financial reporting will not necessarily provide confidence that the outcomes associated with the money will be in line with an overarching service design and delivery strategy.

One common response to this around the world has been for countries to establish a set of criteria against which the delivery and quality of services might be assessed. National standards for the design and delivery of standards exist in Australia1, Canada2, Germany3, Mexico4, New Zealand5, Singapore6, and the United Kingdom7 whilst they have also been developed at different tiers and jurisdictions of government around the world.

Alongside the conceptual importance of establishing good in terms of outcomes as experienced by the public, governments can also take a view on the cross-government technical architecture to establish standards that can help to promote a consistent method for delivering within the public sector. Although not directly impacting on the user’s experience of the services that are designed and delivered, the standards and attitudes around technology shape the ease with which innovation can be carried out and ensure that some of the most important enabling ideas, such as interoperability, are prioritised at an architectural level.

Some of these standards can be mandated centrally but the most effective approaches result from cross-government consensus about the opportunities and benefits of finding consistent approaches that allow for easier procurement and ensure guidance and best practices can be consolidated. These areas, as shown in Box 2.16 can cover quite diverse topics.

All these standards provide a common language for helping multiple delivery partners, whether public servants or suppliers, to work towards a shared ambition and according to agreed expectations of what good looks like. Nevertheless, it is important for the purposes of scrutiny, quality control and perhaps the ongoing release of funds, to establish appropriate assurance mechanisms that validate these standards are in place. One model is to create particular funding or delivery gateways associated with an increase in the quantity of users for whom the service is available (for example before a beta or before the live launch). An alternative is encourage ongoing relationships between the team responsible for controlling spend and the service delivery team so that assurance happens during the development of a service

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Box 2.16. A selection of IT architectural and technology standards

IT Architecture Principles (Norway)

Assumed as common guidelines for all IT systems in the public sector, the principles are an important contribute to a common public sector architecture.

  1. 1. Service orientation: Functionality and performance level should be the main consideration in the development of IT solutions.

  2. 2. Interoperability: Platform should be able to interact with other platforms at an appropriate level.

  3. 3. Availability: Electronic services should be available when users need them, easy to find and user-friendly and universally designed.

  4. 4. Safety: IT solution itself and the information dealt must be protected in terms of confidentiality, integrity and availability, based on formal and risk-based requirements.

  5. 5. Openness: The methods and processes of IT solutions should be explained.

  6. 6. Flexibility: IT solutions should be designed in a way that minimizes the changes in work processes, content, organization, ownership and infrastructure.

  7. 7. Scalability: IT solutions must be able to be scaled as a consequence of changes in usage.

  8. 8. References: References should refer to regulations, circular, documents, etc.

Source: OECD, (2017[11]), Digital Government Review of Norway: Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector

The Common Public Digital Architecture (Denmark)

The common public framework architecture is built around 8 principles designed to help Danish public IT solutions be more interconnected and support usability, data sharing and cross-cutting processes in a secure and efficient way.

  1. 1. Architecture is managed at the right level according to a common framework: significant architectural decisions are made as close to the task as possible.

  2. 1. Architecture promotes coherence, innovation and efficiency: the Common Public Framework architecture uses open standards with no binding to suppliers.

  3. 2. Architecture and regulation support each other: the architecture must support the fact that new legislation and regulation are digitally ready.

  4. 3. Security, privacy and trust are ensured: information security and privacy are incorporated into digital solutions.

  5. 4. Processes are optimised: digital solutions are developed across authorities with citizens and businesses as a starting point.

  6. 5. Good data is shared and reused: Concepts and data are described uniformly so that they can be reused and have a high quality.

  7. 6. IT solutions work together effectively: Digital solutions are built up so that they can interact with other organizations' digital systems.

  8. 7. Data and services are delivered reliably: The underlying infrastructure must meet agreed service objectives.

Source: Digitaliseringsstyrelsen, (n.d.[33]), Fællesoffentlig Digital Arkitektur

Secure Cloud Strategy (Australia)

The Australian Digital Transformation Agency wants to make it easier for government to invest in cloud technologies as doing so can improve resilience, lift productivity and delivery better services. The Secure Cloud Strategy provides an analysis of the benefits available to public sector organisations for adopting cloud technologies and describes a framework for change to support all agencies, regardless of their stature, in making the transition.

Source: Digital Transformation Agency, (2017[34]), Secure Cloud Strategy

Open Source Contribution Policy (France)

In October 2016 France’s law on the Digital Republic established an ambitious policy of promoting Open Source Software in the public sector. It prompted development of an Open Source Contribution Policy by the Inter-ministerial Directorate of Digital and the State Information and Communication System (Direction Interministérielle du Numérique et du Système d’Information et de Communication de l’Etat, DINSIC). The objectives of the policy are to:

  • set the rules and principles for opening source codes

  • support ministries and share good practice

  • define the governance of contribution policies

Source: (2017[35]) Politique de contribution aux logiciels libres de l’État 

Standards on APIs (Canada)

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provide an efficient and controlled way to make data accessible to other systems which promotes reuse and sharing of data and tooling. In Canada 10 standards have been identified to govern the development of APIs to better support integrated digital processes:

  1. 1. Follow the Government of Canada Digital Standards

  2. 2. Build robust RESTful APIs

  3. 3. Build well-defined and easy to consume message schemas

  4. 4. Consume what you build

  5. 5. Secure the API

  6. 6. Use consistent encoding and meta-data

  7. 7. Evolve and support the API throughout its lifecycle

  8. 8. Measure and publish API benchmarks

  9. 9. Use and design APIs sensibly

  10. 10. Publish and document the API

Source: Government of Canada (2019[36]), Standards on APIs

Digital inclusion

Digital divides are a significant obstacle to the successful and effective delivery of digital government strategies and in line with the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) governments should take steps to address any digital divides that already exist and avoid the emergence of new forms of digital exclusion. This aspect of the Recommendation is a reaction to some of the unintended consequences of previous e-government activities. Arguably the ideal of ‘digital by default’ was never intended to mean the pursuit of online approaches to the exclusion of alternatives but in some cases that is exactly what has happened. In the rush to achieve the imagined benefits of channel shift and digitising existing analogue processes it can sometimes be forgotten that internet access is not ubiquitous, that populations lack the necessary skills and that online interactions are not always suitable for responding to the public service needs of the public.

In the context of designing and delivering services, it is critical to recognise that the journeys which a user takes to fulfil their need is not always going to be neatly contained within a phone call, a face to face exchange or an online transaction. Understanding the interplay between different channels and organisations from the initiation of the exchange through to its conclusion is central to good service design but it is also integral for responding to the challenge of addressing digital divides in society.

Digital literacy

Several of the service standards discussed earlier in this chapter acknowledge the importance of ensuring that design processes understand the context of users and lower barriers to usage. Adopting design led models for content and interaction patterns as well as structuring services in ways that make them usable by voice assistants and other AI powered tools mean that services become accessible, even for those who may not have the necessary literacy themselves.

One significant intervention in attempting to close the digital divide in terms of the inequality between those who may have access to the Internet or knowledge of its benefits, compared to those who do not, can be found through the way in which physical service locations have been used to offer training to the general public. In Panama, the InfoPlazas network operated by the National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) (Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, 2015[37]) offers training and builds knowledge for citizens to be able to take full advantage of online services (OECD, 2019[9]).

Therefore, while the use of technology and data can allow for proactive services that anticipate the needs of citizens to reduce friction, and service design practices can ensure services work are designed for all, complementary strategic efforts to increase digital literacy should not be forgotten.


One of the advantages of telephone based service provision over all channels is that it is usually possible to make a phone call (if not on mobile then on a landline) throughout a country. Physical locations necessarily suffer from geographic constraints whilst digital services can be put out of reach by limitations over coverage or affordability. Therefore, in thinking through the strategy for designing and delivering services, especially where there is an ambition for seamless experiences between telephone, physical and digital channels, it is critical to be aligned with those working on the question of connectivity in society both in terms of physical infrastructure but also in providing access to those who can’t afford it themselves.

In Mexico (see Box 2.5), access to the internet has been recognised as a fundamental right, established in the Mexican constitution. Through Mexico Conectado internet access is being brought to 250,000 public spaces including hospitals, libraries, schools and government offices. In Panama, universal access to ICTs is also enshrined in law and led to the creation of the National Internet Network (Red Nacional Internet) covering 86% of the country and offering free access to the internet (OECD, 2019[9]).


A final aspect of digital inclusion concerns making sure that any service can be used by as many people as possible – including those with impaired vision, learning and motor difficulties and other disabilities. Some of these needs have been built into the physical environment for many years while telephone based services, particularly for those with hearing impairments, have also been developed. In Chile, a significant focus within ChileAtiende has been on the design of its settings to ensure that in person exchanges are as inclusive as possible. Online, some of those considerations can be overlooked and yet accessible websites and apps are better for all users – they often offer faster and easier to use or understand functionality.

An important aspect of service design is doing the research to ensure empathy with users and understanding their needs. This should extend to whether or not the service can be accessed. In the United Kingdom, the Government Digital Service has responded to this by developing an ‘empathy lab’ which can be used by others across government to use different digital assistive devices in order to understand the struggles a user might face (Government Digital Service, 2018[38]).

Although the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) oversees international efforts to develop standards including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)8 they are not always mandated by law or enforced. Amongst the European Union countries the 2016 Web Accessibility Directive has increased the expectation over the importance of ensuring online public services and apps are accessible (Box 2.17).

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Box 2.17. EU Web Accessibility Directive

Directive (EU) 2016/2102 came into force in December 2016. Its purpose is to provide people with disabilities with better access to websites and mobile apps used to deliver public services. The Directive:

  • covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies, with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. broadcasters, live streaming);

  • refers to specific standards to make websites and mobile apps more accessible. Such standards require for instance that there should be a text description for images, or that users are able to interact with a website without using a mouse, which can be difficult for some people with disabilities;

  • requires the publication of an accessibility statement for each website and mobile app, describing the level of accessibility and indicating any content that is not accessible;

  • calls for a feedback mechanism which the users can use to flag accessibility problems or to ask for the information contained in a non-accessible content;

  • expects regular monitoring of public sector websites and apps by Member States, and that they report on the results of the monitoring. These reports have to be communicated to the Commission and to be made public for the first time by 23 December 2021.

Source: The European Commission (n.d.[39]), Web Accessibility | Digital Single Market

Channel strategy

The vision for a country’s channel strategy in terms of providing access to a transformed experience of services is the responsibility of those with leadership roles, as discussed earlier in this chapter. However, the way in which different channels are designed and resourced plays a critical role in enabling teams to develop the services that can respond to the needs of their users with several examples discussed in Box 2.18.

The evolution of different channels in a country can leave behind a challenging legacy and a landscape of multiple channels. Although citizens might be able to access services via a website, over the phone, through a self-service kiosk in person they behave as separate siloes. This is the distinction between multi-channel and omni-channel approaches. In a multi-channel context interactions conducted online cannot then be followed up in person, issues raised over the phone are not trackable online and the services available through a self-service kiosk offer only a limited slice of functionality. With an omni-channel strategy the journey of a user is understood, and supported, across whichever channels they wish to use at whatever point in the journey they wish to access them and through whatever combination of services makes sense to their circumstances.

This returns to the importance of leadership in being able to ensure that there is a mandate for unifying service delivery brands across all of the channels identified in Figure 2.7 that might previously have operated as independent entities. While there is certainly a global trend towards consolidating all government websites into a single domain the real value of such an approach is in its potential for making sense of the full service landscape. As such, even before considering the enablers or channels best suited to the needs and practicalities of a given service it is fundamentally important to embed a philosophy of service design and delivery amongst those responsible for this agenda. Unless there is cross-government coordination and commitment to cut through organisational siloes and disrupt historic practices it will prove very hard to ensure a consistency of experience for the public.

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Figure 2.7. Omni-channel services
Figure 2.7. Omni-channel services
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Box 2.18. Channels in Portugal, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom

Citizen shops, Citizen spots and ePortugal (Portugal)

Portugal’s Administrative Modernisation Agency has the responsibility for a multi-channel approach to services. Operating physical locations, a call centre and the online channel, ePortugal, the focus is providing citizens with straightforward access to interactions with the state.

The first Citizen Shop opened in 1999 bringing together multiple public and private services into one location. Today there is a network of 56 locations, including a mobile venue, which have provided services to over 150 million citizens. This network is augmented by over 600 Citizen Spots that provide a point of access to approximately 200 services from different public sector entities allowing citizens to deal with a driving license, solve issues concerning employment, or change the address associated with their digital identity, among others. Some of these are co-located inside Citizen Shops but they are also found in many government buildings and post offices.

Alongside these physical locations, ePortugal streamlines the relationship between citizens, business owners and the Public Administration. This latest iteration of a single services website for Portugal was launched in 2019 and replaced the Citizen Portal, it is the primary channel for accessing information and providing public services. One of its features is Sigma, a virtual assistant that is also available through Facebook, which can quickly clarify queries, support navigation and carry out services such as changing an address. In contrast to the limited range of services available through face to face channels, ePortugal offers over 1500 services from around 580 entities.

Source: Administrative Modernisation Agency (AMA), (n.d.[40]), Assistence

Delivering local government without a town hall (Netherlands)

In January 2013 the municipality of Molenwaard was created following the merger of three local authorities. In the run up to this change the individual authorities had already merged their administrative operations but wanted to go further in terms of harmonising policy and processes whilst still being able to maintain closeness with their community.

In the event it was a discussion about where to build the new town hall that resulted in the Molenwaard Nearby. Facing a cost of 15 million € the council asked itself whether it needed to spend the money after all and, having digitalised its internal processes, decided to achieve greater flexibility and efficiency by operating ‘virtual offices. Council staff do not have a fixed office; they work at home or at existing village halls, local clubs or even cafés in one of the municipality’s thirteen villages or in a building where the local authority rents office space.

For the public, the majority of services are available electronically but where a physical interaction is required, for example for a driver’s licence, passport or ID card, applications are handled by appointment with citizens choosing where they want to apply. The local authority goes out to where citizens or business are: the authority is mobile, digital and nearby.

When it comes to the democratic activity of the municipality then council meetings are also held at different locations.

Source: OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, (2018[41]), Providing municipal services without a town hall

Helping users navigate between different channels (GOV.UK)

Every week millions of people use the UK government's GOV.UK website to do complex and sometimes life-changing tasks, such as learning to drive, getting a visa, or starting a business. Through ongoing user research and analysis of user journeys it became apparent that users were struggling to find what they needed in order to complete complex tasks.

The difficulty was that in order to complete the end to end process they would need to complete several tasks involving multiple pieces of content, accessing online services, obtaining physical forms or completing an offline step.

With these different steps owned by separate and siloed parts of government users had to piece the whole journey together themselves. Prior to the existence of GOV.UK the challenge would have been harder as users would have had to navigate multiple websites.

However, with GOV.UK being a single government domain it mean all content and transactions were hosted on the same site and could therefore be brought together and presented as simple, clear services. With all of the steps, whether content, transaction or offline, broken into easily manageable steps. While it sounds simple to achieve, this involved collaboration between multiple government departments to map the entirety of the end to end user journey recognising all the channels and interactions with government or third parties that might be involved.

As such, step-by-step navigation is more than a simple piece of additional functionality on GOV.UK it has become a model of collaborative workshops and re-usable design components, which means the process can be replicated for any government service.

More than 1.2 million users used the Learn to drive a car: step by step in its first 6 months and there are now over 30 step-by-step journeys live on GOV.UK, including some of most important and difficult tasks a user might ever need to do. These include:

  • Employ someone: step by step

  • Apply for a Standard visitor visa: step by step

  • What to do when someone dies: step by step

The use of structured data means that these step-by-steps can be understood by search engines and voice assistants and used as a source of answers.

Source: OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, (2018[41]), GOV.UK step-by-step navigation

Common components and tools

The conversation about digital in government can often assume that this is a technical problem requiring a technological solution. Historically, the e-government approach certainly encouraged this view of taking analogue processes and making them available online. To solve those problems means creating a shared set of enablers that look like websites, form builders and business process automation tools. However, such pieces of technology fail to account for the broader challenges of effecting the digital by design approaches that can transform outcomes for the public.

Technology in the form of common components and tools should be seen first as a means to supporting teams in meeting the needs of citizens rather than an end in themselves. Developing a ‘Government as a Platform’ ecosystem is about more than technology but enabling technology and platforms that can help teams respond to the needs of their users is a critical element of supporting the transformation of services.

This is particularly the case for those teams and areas of government responding to the ‘long tail’ of services. These are those processes that will never feature in the consciousness of politicians or organisational leadership because they may only consist of a handful of paper based transactions a week. Unlikely to be high profile they will not attract the resource to develop a transformed approach to the service and so they continue ‘under the radar’. Individually these analogue or legacy e-government services are insignificant but collected together it is likely that there are significant quantities of services that could benefit from transformation. Making it possible for those parts of government that would otherwise never be able to transform the experience of their users is a critical driver for providing common components and tools. If this responsibility is picked up by a central function that can ensure there are strategic solutions to questions of identity for example, means that teams themselves can invest their energies in meeting the needs that are unique to their users.

Developing this platforms approach requires strategic thinking it is own right and the recently published Playbook: Government as a Platform (Pope, 2019[15]) provides an excellent guide for exploring the different aspects of developing, expanding and operating platforms within government. It covers:

  • How to identify the users of your platforms and consider their needs

  • How to identify the most relevant and appropriate platforms

  • The importance of designing for self-service

  • Data infrastructure, APIs and Open Standards

  • Working across siloes

  • Re-use of platforms within your own country but also internationally

  • Funding and Operating platforms

  • The elements involved in securing adoption of platforms

  • The benefit to designing services of a platforms approach

  • Identity, trust and consent

Answering the questions that these issues pose will ensure sustainable and viable approaches to support and provide a range of technical enablers such as hosting and infrastructure, low code and design systems, or digital identity, notifications and payments amongst others.

These elements are most valuable when working in combination. Through access to low code solutions, design systems, common components and hosting and infrastructure, service teams can deliver not only at pace and scale but with a level of quality and consistency of user experience that builds public trust and coherence amongst otherwise disparate public sector organisations. Box 2.19 explores how different enablers helped organisations in the United Kingdom to collaborate and quickly deliver new services to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosting and infrastructure

Providing easy access to secure and scalable cloud infrastructure that reduces the demand for expensive web operations skills and simplifies the provisioning effort involved with moving from prototype into beta and on into live services is an approach that has been adopted by the United States of America9 and the United Kingdom10. This is particularly valuable for those teams working with the ‘long tail’ of services that might otherwise lack the resources to develop their infrastructure.

Low code and Design systems

Low code approaches allow small teams to build end to end services that can replace expensive and legacy systems. These visual interfaces make use of common components and do not require specialist software engineering skills. They have been particularly beneficial in local government contexts, such as Adur and Worthing Councils in the United Kingdom who have saved 200 000 GBP per year in software licence costs and a tripling of productivity among some teams (OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, 2019[42]). Nevertheless, low code solutions need to be looked at with a critical eye, mindful that they may deliver a solution with the risk of vendor lock in and at the expense of code quality, performance or accessibility.

A complementary approach is to develop design systems of reusable User Interface components, design patterns, accessibly written code and guidance to support implementation that ensure service teams can build in a consistent fashion. Providing reliable user experiences like this can help to build trust in a government brand whilst also continuously benefitting from the input of those teams that are researching and learning about its effectiveness in their use of its elements without being tied to the specifics of a given technology or contractual provider. Some examples of government design systems are those of Argentina11, Australia12, Brazil13, Canada14, Singapore15, the United States of America16, and the United Kingdom17.

At their best, low code solutions should build on and incorporate the elements of these common design systems as well as platforms such as those discussed in the next section. Rather than a new team needing to address all the technical overheads involved in building a service from scratch, or carrying out user research on each element, this approach allows all teams, but particularly smaller ones with limited resources to piece together a full service, focusing their efforts on the overall service journey.

Digital Identity, Notifications, and Payments

A third area of common components and tools is that which is most commonly associated with Government as a Platform thinking, the specific platforms for digital identity, sending notifications and taking payments as well as others.

In the case of Digital Identity the OECD’s report (OECD, 2019[43]) identified and compared the models being explored in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Korea, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Providing identity as a service to citizens and businesses that allows them to be verified in accessing digital services can be transformational in terms of obviating the need for physical documents and face to face interactions.

A second area is that of electronic notifications. In Norway residents have access to a digital mailbox while the example of GOV.UK Notify in the United Kingdom has been discussed in Box 2.14. Interestingly in the case of GOV.UK Notify the open source codebase has made it possible for Canada and Australia to reuse it in implementing their own common platforms for notifications.

Finally, payments is another area where countries are developing their own platforms with pagoPA in Italy18 and GOV.UK Pay in the United Kingdom19.

In India20, the Aadhaar identity service has evolved into IndiaStack, providing a set of APIs for government and business to offer access to a universal biometric digital identity, paperless personal records, a single interface for cashless transactions, and a consent layer allowing data to move freely and securely.

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Box 2.19. Enablers in action: responding to COVID-19 in the United Kingdom

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed daily life. The need for society to isolate as well as offsetting demand on health services has emphasised the role of digital in shifting away from physical interactions. In this situation, the service design and delivery foundations developed in the United Kingdom have been critical in enabling the fast and effective design and delivery of services demonstrating the breadth of how ‘Government as a Platform’ approaches can be understood throughout the public sector, and not simply in the context of centrally provided government services.

Content and services on GOV.UK

The most famous example of the UK’s Government as a Platform approach is the single domain, GOV.UK. It is a single, trusted, and immediately known point of reference through which government can disseminate information and members of the public can access services.

Embedding live press conferences and clear medical messaging, provided a single place through which to access all of the government’s activity. The content was produced, and iterated, by teams in many organisations but unified under the GOV.UK brand. This also included access to services such as ‘Offer coronavirus (COVID-19) support from your business’ or ‘Find out what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19)’. Each was published in its own open source code repository using the Design System, meaning teams could re-use accessible, user researched patterns with confidence the new services would work for users, and hosted on GOV.UK Platform as a Service, avoiding the need of standing up new infrastructure but instead immediately turning to a robust, secure and scalable solution. In one case, a member of the Government Digital Service reported going from initial commit to live service in 10 business hours.

Source: GOV.UK (n.d.[44]), Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do (; Government Digital Service (n.d.[45]), alphagov/govuk-coronavirus-find-support: Helps citizens find out what help they can get during the COVID-19 pandemic (; Government Digital Service (n.d.[46]), alphagov/govuk-coronavirus-business-volunteer-form: Lets businesses volunteer with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic (; Towers, Richard (2020[47]),

Scaling GOV.UK Notify

GOV.UK Notify helps teams to send emails, text messages and letters to users and is available for central government, local authorities, or the NHS. With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting an ever greater need for simple tools to communicate with the public and within the public sector, GOV.UK Notify saw almost 500 new services launched between mid-February and mid-April 2020.

The experience of GOV.UK Notify highlights the importance of developing common components in the expectation of needing to scale to meet the needs of government, possibly overnight. This means designing a resilient technical architecture that can handle a dramatic increase in throughput, in this case going from a daily average of 1.4m emails and 150 000 SMS between mid-February and mid-March to a new average of 5m emails and 400 000 SMS between mid-March and mid-April. It also means starting from the premise of ‘self-service’ so that a new service can launch without training or the several layers of bureaucratic approval. GOV.UK Notify helps to achieve this with a freemium pricing model where charges only start after sending 250,000 text messages or wanting to send postal correspondence.

Source: Government Digital Service, (n.d.[48]), [ARCHIVED CONTENT 20200208] GOV.UK Notify (; Government Digital Service (n.d.[49]), GOV.UK Notify (; Government Digital Service (n.d.[50]), Dashboard - GOV.UK Notify (

Code sharing and collaboration between local authorities

Many public services will be accessed through local and municipal government and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the power of inter-organisational networks to support collaboration, the role of open source code to make it easy for different public sector organisations to share and re-use solutions, and the important contributions that can be made by suppliers.

The London Borough of Camden initially worked with their supplier to develop the ‘Get help if you’re staying at home because of coronavirus’ service, including making the code openly available. Doing this allowed for its subsequent and rapid adoption by Buckinghamshire Council.

Elsewhere in the UK, local authorities including Croydon Council, Adur and Worthing Councils and Cumbria County Council have worked together using a common low-code platform to build, and then share, solutions for volunteer co-ordination, business grants management, workforce monitoring and workforce emergency alerts.

Source: Camden Council (n.d.[51]), Get help if you're staying at home due to coronavirus (; Buckinghamshire Council (n.d.[52]), Get help if you're staying at home due to coronavirus (; FutureGov (n.d.[53]), wearefuturegov/coronavirus-service-directory: Simple service directory for local government coronavirus response (; Netcall (n.d.[54]), COVID-19 low-code applications for the public sector (

Data-driven public sector

Transformed services are hard to achieve without a strategic approach to the role of data in the public sector. The path to becoming a data-driven public sector (OECD, 2019[55]) builds on the instruction of the Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies (OECD, 2014[1]) to “create a data-driven culture in the public sector”. It provides a framework for countries and public sector organisations to use as the basis for identifying, and then responding to the challenges and opportunities of data-driven government to create a holistic, coherent and effective strategy for data that covers data governance, its application to generate value and the contribution it can make to strengthening trust in government.

In terms of data governance the OECD’s model (Figure 2.8)) indicates strategic, tactical and operational areas of focus to ensure data-driven government. From this perspective, the elements of the model should be taken into consideration as a sub-layer of any public service design and delivery efforts, so that the value of data can be maximised.

In unlocking the potential for data-driven transformation of services, it is imperative that questions of implementation capacity (in terms of talent, stewardship and institutional leadership) and regulation (in terms of regulatory barriers and streamlined data access and sharing practices) are addressed. This will ensure that data flows steadily within government, across sectors and borders when needed, and always under the conditions to support trust.

Doing the hard work to solve the challenges of data sharing is important to unlocking services that are so good citizens are delighted to use them. Furthermore, at the technical level, it is important that data infrastructure and data architecture are prioritised to simplify the means by which services can access the needed data and instil confidence that when they do the quality is assured. Indeed, securing the quality and integrity of data across the value cycle (Figure 2.9) is essential for governments to have confidence in their innovations around the use of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence that can provide transformative benefits to the quality and scope of services provided by governments (Ubaldi et al., 2019[56]).

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Figure 2.8. Data governance in the public sector
Figure 2.8. Data governance in the public sector

Source: OECD (2019[57]), Digital Government Review of Argentina: Accelerating the Digitalisation of the Public Sector

With those foundations in place it becomes possible to innovate in the design of data-driven services. Instead of simply replacing analogue processes, the more sophisticated use of data in services allows for them to be reimagined and for value to be brought both to providers of the services (i.e. public sector organisations) and users too. The design and delivery of services should recognise the opportunities to understand and apply data throughout the Government Data Value Cycle (Figure 2.9). In so doing delivery teams will begin to understand the potential for applying data in the anticipating and planning, delivery, and evaluation and monitoring of services.

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Figure 2.9. The government data value cycle
Figure 2.9. The government data value cycle

Source: van Ooijen, C., B. Ubaldi and B. Welby, (2019[58]), A data-driven public sector: Enabling the strategic use of data for productive, inclusive and trustworthy governance

Data are an important resource for teams in the planning of services providing quantitative and qualitative insights into the needs of users and the future permeations of a given policy. Moreover, it is imperative that data continue to be valued and understood in improving the delivery of a service and its monitoring over time. The ability for services to improve continuously in response to feedback and data about usage is essential in ensuring that the needs of users continue to be prioritised and met. In the United Kingdom, real-time service performance data are made available through public dashboards21.

Understanding the performance of a service may benefit from mapping the flows of data across government. However, to achieve this a register of services may first be required. This can be a very simple concept and at its most basic simply list government services (such as examples from Portugal22 and Belgium23). Greater sophistication may include the collection of contact details for the Senior Responsible Owner of a given service. This creates a transparency within government and a reference point for any concerns, questions or feedback about the experience of using it, thus facilitating the sharing of experiences and scaling up of good practices.

Such an approach paves the way for the possibility of such an index allowing for the simplification and rationalisation of government by bringing together the associated parts of government which are involved in administering the end to end experience of a user. An index of services therefore provides a tool with which to understand and map user journeys.

In terms of the experience of accessing services, a data-driven public sector is not only proactive in innovating around the services that citizens access but effective in ensuring that citizens do not need to provide government with information that it already knows about them. This Once Only Principle is increasingly evident amongst OECD countries with Estonia providing leadership in this area and making it a legal obligation in 1997 and following it up with the resources to subsequently develop national interoperability infrastructure (OECD, 2015[5]).

Of equal importance to the experience of external users is ensuring that service design and delivery teams are aware of data resources and equipped to make the most of them. Finding ways, such as through a catalogue of services, base data registries and APIs, to ensure teams are able to find out what data are available and what attributes can be established without asking the user again is valuable. Particular datasets that can be used to develop services should also be easy to find. The OpenFisca project24, initiated by France but now containing the tax and benefit systems of eight countries including Italy, New Zealand, Tunisia, and Uruguay provides access to the underlying rules of government as code that can be used, and re-used to build more effective services (see Box 2.20 for more detail on ‘Rules as Code’).

Where data are being applied throughout the delivery lifecycle it is imperative that questions of trust are considered within the design of the service. Exploring the relevant trust implications of ethics, transparency, consent and security is a critical dimension to ensure that any services build the confidence of their audience rather than jeopardising their trust.

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Box 2.20. Rules as Code

The OpenFisca initiative discussed above is a technical response to the idea of ‘Rules as Code’. It provides an open source platform for modelling legislation (and rules) in code to improve the transparency of, and access to, the law.

This is one component of the broader ‘Rules as Code’ idea, which is less about technology and is instead more about changing the way in which government approaches one of its core activities: rulemaking. Government rules are found in a variety of places including legislation, regulations or policy documents, but are not produced in ways that can be readily consumed by machines.

The ‘Rules as Code’ movement is a reaction to the analogue nature of the systems that underpin the production of government rules, and an effort to address several of the problems that these systems cause. At its simplest ‘Rules as Code’ anticipates that government rules (legislation, policy, business rules) could be created in such a way that they could be consumed by machines (namely, computers). 

This represents a significant departure from the status-quo of how governments create rules and instead calls on governments to integrate established and new technologies into the rule creation process. Current thinking proposes three ways of conceptualising ‘Rules as Code’:

  1. 1. As an output: the result is a version of the rules in code that can then be understood and used by a computer.

  2. 2. As an approach, as well as an output: the result changes the process of drafting legislation, regulation and policy to enable the creation of rules that can be read and used by computers. Conceptualised in this way, it is about changing when, how, by and for whom rules are made.

  3. 3. As a fundamental restructuring of the rule creation process: machine-consumable versions of legislation, regulation and policy are part of the initial drafting stage rather than produced at its end. This means authoritative, machine-consumable version of rules being produced by governments for third party consumption not through the efforts of individual end-users.

Source: Mohun, Roberts and Amaral (Forthcoming[59]), Cracking the Code: Rule-making for machines and humans

Public sector talent and capabilities

The people who make up the teams that design and deliver services are crucial to the success of efforts to better meet the needs of the public. However, with the digital government and service design model representing a paradigm shift in practice it can be the case that government does not have the necessary talent and capabilities within its organisation and faces significant constraints in terms of their acquisition. This area is an increasing priority for the Working Party of Senior Digital Government Officials (E-Leaders) and in 2020 will see a new Thematic Group established to share best practices and support one another in addressing this area.

In terms of establishing the ‘Government as a Platform’ ecosystem that can support teams in designing and delivering services this section will explore five areas in which public sector talent and capabilities need to be thought about and developed. They are: skills and training, recruitment and job families, professions and their communities of practice, consultancy and coaching, and finally skills transfer.

Skills and training

The starting point for any analysis of the public sector talent and capability must be with the existing staff and team members who have been working in and around the design and delivery of services. This includes those who have worked in policy roles, delivery roles and operationally as the ambition is to create multi-disciplinary teams that understand the breadth of the user’s experience. Carrying out such an audit will help to identify those with an eagerness to branch out into digital government and service design roles and help support those for whom different roles might be better.

Where new training is needed, or a change of role more suitable there is a danger that such a move confirms the fears people have that the digital agenda is a threat to jobs and exacerbate tensions with unions who equate digital government with an inevitable loss of jobs. It is true that every time an analogue process is removed or a data-driven proactive exchange of information is introduced that happens at the expense of a previous manual task. Nevertheless, this provides an opportunity to explore retraining opportunities for those who are affected and work with unions to offset risks by including them as part of embedding a new digital and service design led culture in government.

Several OECD countries, including Italy and the United Kingdom have developed particular curriculums and training programmes that speak to the need to equip their staff with the necessary skills to support the digital and service design agenda. In the United Kingdom, the ambition of the Digital Academy is to create a critical mass of staff working at every grade throughout the public sector having confidence when it comes to digital, data and technology awareness.


Taking a service design approach to the delivery of services may require the reshaping of roles required to meet the needs of citizens. Whilst it may be possible to retrain long-standing members of staff there will be a capability gap that needs to be addressed through recruitment. However, with new roles comes the challenge of identifying the appropriate pay and conditions to be competitive with the market whilst operating within the constraints of the existing public sector pay arrangements.

Those constraints may make it impossible to bring digital government skills in-house immediately. Therefore, when faced with a lag in terms of retraining the existing workforce and challenges in terms of recruiting new staff, it will be necessary to work with the supplier ecosystem to explore ways of bringing in particular specialisms. This may necessitate the creation of special procurement frameworks or working with Human Resource colleagues to find flexibility in securing the necessary leadership, talent and capabilities on which to start developing the service design agenda. It is important to ensure that any service design and digital government agenda that has aspirations for transforming the way citizen and state interact makes the necessary commitment to accessing the skills required for it to be achieved.

Job families, professions and their communities of practice

A further important step is to recognise the longer-term realignment of job families and recruitment parameters. Working with Human Resource colleagues and those responsible for the structure of jobs and roles across the public service provides the opportunity to think about and define the job families needed to support digital, data and technology professionals. While many governments will have ICT functions and a track record in technology and e-government disciplines these may not be fit for purpose in terms of their roles such as Web Operations Engineers, User Research, Product Management and Service Design as well as others. Moreover, it will be necessary to identify the expected career path for these roles and be conscious of the steps that might be needed in order to retain or replace staff.

Having understood the skills of the workforce, identified the disciplines required and started to evolve recruitment practices and design the necessary career paths the next element in developing a cross-government environment that can support service design and delivery is to designate the necessary leadership of those professions and begin to develop cross-government communities. The United Kingdom’s experience in developing a profession and communities of practice is in Box 2.21.

Consultancy and coaching

One of the challenges with questions of talent and capability in the service design and delivery agenda is how you scale these skills and abilities throughout the entirety of government at the pace that’s needed to embed this paradigm shift. Whilst suppliers working according to the standards and assurance processes discussed earlier can be part of the solution the value of consultancy and coaching should not be neglected.

In Chile, the GobLab provides an excellent model for how such consultancy might look. While ostensibly providing a service to partners across the public sector, the interactions between GobLab and their clients has a coaching element. Therefore, as a centre of excellence is developed and different professions become more established throughout the public sector there is a valuable opportunity to be exploited in providing ‘consultancy’ services out to colleagues across government whilst at the same time investing in the skills of the organisation with whom the work is being carried out.

Skills transfer

The final area in which public sector talent and capability can be an enabler for teams working to meet the needs of their users is through the relationships that are developed with suppliers. Historically teams might have identified a set of requirements, run a procurement exercise and outsourced the delivery of the solution to an off-site team that was managed as part of a contract rather than there being any co-delivery. According to the philosophies of service design discussed in terms of co-working, collaboration and iterative development a different model of working with suppliers is necessary.

As such, procurement exercises that focus on outcomes rather than specifications for a delivered solution can provide an opportunity to specify knowledge transfer skills. In the initial exchanges with the supplier the responsibility might be for 100% of the delivery but, over time, if the expectation is part of the contracted outcome that should decrease as the public sector staff pick up more of the responsibility until there comes a point where the supplier is fulfilling a coaching role. At that point the necessary knowledge and capability has been internalised by the public sector organisation and the relationship with the supplier may no longer be needed.

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Box 2.21. Leadership for transforming public sector talent and capability

The Digital, Data and Technology Profession is a specific team within the Civil Service human resource structure that helps all government departments to attract, develop and retain the people and skills they need to achieve government transformation.

Their work covers workforce insights and analytics, career management, pay and reward, communities of practice, learning and development, attraction and recruitment, diversity and inclusion, and employer brand and culture. Their priorities cover five areas:

  • enable workforce planning through the use of insights and analytics (this aspect of human resource management forms the basis for a case study included within The path to becoming a data-driven public sector (OECD, 2019[55]))

  • bring consistency to job roles through a common capability framework

  • work on more consistent approach towards pay and reward; create and develop communities of practice

  • create training and development for digital, data and technology professions through the GDS Academy

  • support the development of a diverse and inclusive culture.

The UK has an estimated 17 000 civil servants employed in digital, data and technology roles. The Capability Framework describes the 39 different job roles that the UK has identified in the Digital, Data and Technology Profession and provides details of the skills needed to work at each level of the role.

Communities of practice have grown up around each of the roles – the design community, the user research community, the content design community. These provide a network of practitioners that can support one another, share best practices, learn and continue to evolve the discipline in government. Each community is free to organise in the way that is best suited to their needs but there is a designated lead who coordinates activity across government and within departments too.

In the context of the UK’s single government domain the content design community is particularly important. The GOV.UK editorial model is to have a core team of content designers responsible for high profile content but to then work with a distributed network of hundreds of editors who handle the content relating to their department or specialist users. ConCon (ContentConference) is an annual conference that brings together all the editors responsible for content on GOV.UK to share their experiences, to build relationships and to celebrate their successes together.

Source: Digital, Data and Technology Profession (n.d.[60]) About us; Digital, Data and Technology Profession (2017[61]), Digital, Data and Technology Profession Capability Framework


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