A Digital Service Standard For Organisations of Any Size

Posted on Jun 7, 2017 in News

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the people behind the digital transformation of GOV.UK, and I regularly use their work as an example when talking to organisations about how to embark on digital transformation.

“The Digital Service Standard is a set of 18 criteria to help government create and run good digital services.”

There is a bit of a disconnect when talking to SME’s about digital transformation, because it’s clear that the Government Digital Service has more resources than are available to most Organisations.

But digital transformation is possible at any scale. Here is how we reframe some of the 18 criteria to apply to any agency or organisation, to help them “create and run good digital services” by following a Digital Service Standard that works at any scale from small to enterprise level.

1. Understand User Needs

“Research to develop a deep knowledge of who the service users are and what that means for the design of the service.”

You don’t have to conduct surveys and manage research groups. It’s great if you can! But usually the people within an Organisation who interact with your users will know a great deal about them.

Involve people from every level of an Organisation in the process of defining who your users are, and what they need from you.

2. Do ongoing user research

“Put a plan in place for ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously seek feedback from users to improve the service.”

This is not always possible with small budget projects, but ongoing user research can be captured by using services like Disqus to capture user feedback. Google Analytics can easily be used to look at heatmaps of your pages to see which content is engaging users, and which links are being clicked.

So while it may not be possible to have ongoing user research sessions, you can passively collect this data without having a devoted resource all of the time.

3. Have a multidisciplinary team

“Put in place a sustainable multidisciplinary team that can design, build and operate the service, led by a suitably skilled and senior service manager with decision-making responsibility.”

By using an Agile user-centric process, Organisations can be directly involved in the design and build of a product or service. By engaging Organisations in design workshops and communicating effectively throughout the development process, agencies give their clients (the Organisation) more ownership of their project and create consensus more efficiently.

As an Organisation, you’ll still need designers and developers, but you can cover the bases of a multidisciplinary team by choosing an agency that recognises the importance of good UX and Agile processes (see point 4).

The Organisation will be operating the service, so good training to use new software should be budgeted for, and the Organisation should invest in the digital awareness of their team e.g. qualifications, webinars or conferences about digital engagement.

4. Use agile methods

“Build your service using the agile, iterative and user-centred methods set out in the manual.”

Agile is a set of tools and techniques that can be used to design and build better products that cost less and are better at meeting the needs of their users.

There is no simpler introduction to the Agile method than the Governments own resource which can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/agile-delivery

8. Make all new source code open

Not usually possible for commercial products, instead we reframe this point to discuss how the service will be talked about to the wider world – who will be interested in adopting or learning from it? Can your Organisation benefit from being part of the wider community of Organisations undertaking digital transformation or producing new digital products?

12. Make sure users succeed first time

This cannot be emphasised enough, and by spending time doing User Personas (see point 1) and writing User Stories for them, you can ensure that this happens by running through those stories with every iteration.

13. Make the user experience consistent with GOV.UK your organisation

The UX Workshop process will help you identify the Organisations purpose and passion, turning it into a narrative. The User Experience should reflect this narrative. For example, a professional organisation’s user experience should reflect the professionalism that the organisation represents.

14. Encourage everyone to use the digital service

Everyone in the Organisation should be using the service. This is a great way to identify and fix bugs quickly, as well as getting to know how using the service feels for your users.

16. Identify performance indicators

What are the measures of success for your service? A percentage increase in membership, increased engagement of existing users? Identify these early on, and keep them visible within the organisation so that everyone is aware of why you’re building what you’re building.

Make sure every new feature you add supports these measures.

18. Test with the minister

“Test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it.”

I know a few people who would like their job title to be minister, but usually they get along fine with Marketing & Communications Officer, Subject Matter Expert or Customer Service Representative.

Whatever the job title of the person who will be responsible for operating the service from within the Organisation, they need to have full exposure to the service while it’s in development, and be part of the sign-off procedure.


Thanks to the wonderful team at GOV.UK for compiling a fantastic resource. I urge anyone involved in digital transformation to read the full set of 18 criteria here, deep dive into the ‘Read More’ links attached to each point, and to consider how they might apply in the context of their own Organisation.

Also, if some of the concepts are new to you, don’t be put off. Put them into action – there’s no better way to learn than by doing. And making a start is the best way to get to a place that you can iterate from (that’s a quote, but I can’t find the attribution…)

And if you’re an Organisation with a desire for digital transformation, get in touch at info@timetravelopps.co.uk

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