Government tech reforms aim to ensure projects help improve Whitehall collaboration

Written by Sam Trendall on 21 July 2019 in News
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GDS innovation chief says that civil service business cases should encourage the development of ‘shared aims and objectives’

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A review of how civil servants construct business cases for digital projects will focus on encouraging organisations to better work together towards common goals, according to the innovation head of the Government Digital Service.

The GDS team led by deputy director for innovation Sue Bateman last month published the Government Technology Innovation Strategy. After almost a year in the making, the strategy laid out a wide-ranging vision for how, in the coming years, government can best cultivate and support innovation in three different areas: people; process; and data and technology.

One of the key pledges in the process section was that government will review how business cases are applied to digital projects.

Currently, proposals for government projects, policies, and strategies require the use of the so-called five-case model. This method asks civil servants to construct a compelling case that encompasses strategic, economic, commercial, financial, and management arguments.


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The innovation strategy said: “Currently, the way in which business cases are applied requires a high degree of upfront certainty in terms of the eventual costs and benefits of a project. However, there is a degree of uncertainty inherent to digital transformation programmes.”

Bateman told CSW’s sister title PublicTechnology that reviewing the use of business cases for digital projects is something she and her team are only “just starting to work through with the process owners”.

But she said that the intent behind the review was to identify ways in which the business case process could better support government entities in working together where they have a common purpose or goal.

She said: “Where we were coming from in terms of business cases was [asking] how do we enable public sector organisations to join up more effectively together where there is a shared aim and objective, and help them to demonstrate the benefits for a number of organisations that may reach beyond a traditional business case with one organisation.”

The potential revamp of business cases is one of a number of measures in the strategy that aim to address a common complaint among advocates of Whitehall transformation: the obstruction posed by government siloes.

“I think we're starting to get there, not just [with] the Innovation Strategy, but with some of the other foundations that that we and other organisations have started to lay from the centre,” Bateman said. “So, the Digital Economy Act has unlocked a number of barriers around data sharing, and that [has been] encouraging organisations to come together. [There’s] going to be a lot of this foundational stuff that ultimately helps unlock that ability for government to join up.”

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