Departmentalism doesn’t make sense for digital, says Bracken

Government Digital Services director Mike Bracken predicts shakeup for Whitehall structures as a result of digital service delivery


By Jacqueline Tenreiro

26 Feb 2015

Current departmental structures and silos don’t make sense for digital government, said Government Digital Services (GDS) director Mike Bracken.

At a digital government event on Tuesday, Bracken said Whitehall must change its structures and attitudes to meet user needs.

While services already in place make sense, the structures and departments that lock them in have to change in response to digital government, he said.

“Logical groupings [make sense] to ministers [because that’s how] we run Parliament. We need that.

“But in terms of delivery of service in a digital age, departments and structures don’t often make that much sense,” he said.

Speaking from experience of other sectors he said: “Whenever digital change comes along, the organising principle of the sector changes. There’s a 100% track record of that in every sector and every industry.”

“Maybe not in my time, but in the organising principle of government, I think digital will possibly see an institutional reform that will probably erode much of the departmentalism that goes on.

He added: “The best civil servants, and the best public servants, don’t really care for organisation silos and structures.”

When asked how the GDS was received in Whitehall back in 2011, he said: “There was a growing number of people at various levels, and various ages and powers in the system that just thought: "hold on, something’s got to give here."

“We wouldn’t have got anywhere without the leadership people in departments.”

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