The world is still flat: how economic change is straining our ability to remake public services

I want to talk to you about what is arguably the greatest domestic policy challenge facing governments over the next decade.

How to create the conditions for a sustained transformation in our public services in a way consistent with the fundamental values that underpinned their creation.

In this first in a series of blogs, I want to anchor the debate about public service reform in the context of a number of global pressures affecting governments.

Every government is challenged by a similar set of pressures. The most significant of these is when a combination of rapid technological change leads to profound transformation of the economy. This has significantly increased prosperity. But governments are struggling to maintain a consensus of support, particularly as communities experience periods of insecurity and upheaval when technology is introduced.

The change unleashed is provoking tough and searching questions for governments of all political persuasions.

How do we reconcile rising flows of goods, services, capital and labour mobility with the need to create and sustain socially cohesive communities?

At the same time the capacity and capability of health, education, social care, housing and other public services to respond to change is curtailed by continuing austerity. And our ability to build cohesive communities is even more difficult when the very mechanism for reconciling competing tensions within communities – the institution of government and the process of democracy – has never been more questioned.

People’s sense of ‘connectedness’ with government and the political process looks increasingly weak and shattered.

Next week, I’ll post about how business has responded to the challenge of technological change. The most successful businesses are agile – attempting to reinvent their their business model to meet rapidly evolving customer needs.

Meanwhile if you enjoyed this you might also enjoy my summary of our government digital trends survey. We asked civil servants how their work is influenced by new digital ways of working and the benefits for the public

Regulation and compliance: the new certainties in life

by Miles Elliott, Director of Credit Risk

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes’. But in these more modern times, especially for financial services organisations – we should perhaps add ‘regulation and compliance’ to the list. In 2018, a wave of new regulation is being introduced – and one of the most far reaching is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

GDPR: are you ready…?

From 25 May 2018, organisations across Europe will have to strengthen controls associated with collecting, managing and using personal data. Resulting activity will see significant changes to IT systems as well as the way organisations engage with their customers.

There’s less than a year to go until GDPR becomes a way of life, but a survey in May 2017 suggested that only 10% of organisations have mature GDPR plans in place – with a further 40% at an intermediate phase.

That leaves half of organisations at the beginning of their compliance journey – and the clock is ticking!

GDPR: the cost of non-compliance…

Becoming fully GDPR compliant will be challenging and will require a holistic approach to data management and governance. Organisations run the risk of failing to respond to the scope of activity involved and the amount of time needed to ensure compliance. Another common issue is the lack of skills and experience to deliver such a comprehensive change to governance controls across a business. To put this into context, in 2016 alone there were 1.4 billion data breaches across the industry.

Fines for failing to comply with GDPR are expected to be highly penal as well as leading to material reputational damage.

Don’t go it alone – work with an expert in assured compliance

So what should today’s hard-pressed organisations do, especially if they don’t understand the full extent of GDPR?  The answer is to work with an organisation like Sopra Steria that’s got a track record in complex data management AND offers a ‘comprehensive’ approach to GDPR compliance. Our pragmatic ‘think, build and run’ approach empowers organisations to pick and choose the path to GDPR compliance that is right for them. As experts in Data, Analytics and Technology, we can help you quickly identify data gaps and risks, work with you to develop remediation solutions and support you moving forward with on-going compliance monitoring.

The clock is ticking…

So don’t get caught out! Make sure you aren’t one of the 50% of companies still asking “What is this GDPR”?  Take your first steps today to GDPR compliance and get fully prepared for the 2018 deadline. Remember, 2018 is the year of new regulation – make sure it’s a happy one!

See more information about how we can help you get compliant.

Get in touch to discuss how to meet your GDPR challenge and support your journey to assured compliance.

Everything is connected. Don’t innovate in isolation

…These are the words Alberta Soranzo left the audience with as she drew the final keynote speech of this year’s UX Scotland conference to a close.

Alberta, who was recently appointed Director of End-to-End Service Design at Lloyds Banking Group, strives to make a real impact on the financial outcomes of people by taking a look at both the big picture as well as focusing on the very small things, which she believes ‘matter a lot’.

Alberta stressed the importance of nurturing diverse talent and stated that it is vital to foster a culture of continuous learning within a design team. This is something that resonated with me as a culture we are striving to cultivate here at Sopra Steria — through hiring a diverse range of people from a whole range of different backgrounds and with differing areas of expertise. However, most importantly, each of these individuals share a desire to learn and continually improve. This allows the design team to avoid the previously mentioned isolated innovation which Alberta warned about and work as a team to grow and develop.

Those who attended UX Scotland may well have met the various members of the Sopra Steria team who were there – either during the various workshops and seminars on offer or at our stand in the foyer. Some may even have entered our interactive competition which invited people to ‘step into out customers shoes’. Through sponsoring the stand we were afforded the chance to speak to a whole host of interesting people during our time at the conference, including a couple of people who have since interviewed for and accepted roles within the Service Design team at Sopra Steria.

Over the course of the three day conference we got the chance to experience a number of great talks by a range of different speakers. We were given the opportunity to hear from leading industry experts such as Jared Spool and Dana Chisnell. We were also able to take part in the various workshops on offer which allowed us to develop our existing skills as well as learning new ones.

With many of the talks and workshops occurring at the same time, there were understandably frustrating moments where we were unable to attend all the talks that we would have liked to. Thankfully, with so many members of the team present at the conference, we were able to minimise the effects of timetable clashes by spreading ourselves across the events which occurred at the same time. By taking notes during each session, team members were able to report back and share their knowledge with the team who were unable to attend.

Our Service Design team listening to Jared Spool’s keynote speech
Our Service Design team listening to Jared Spool’s keynote speech

 

This notion of shared knowledge strikes right to the core of what Alberta Soranzo was talking about during her Keynote speech. By avoiding innovating in isolation, and looking at development at a wider level, it allows the team to grow and develop their skills at a greater rate.

By allowing everyone to benefit from the knowledge gained at events like this, we help cultivate the culture of continuous learning and as the old adage goes, allow the team to become more than the sum of its parts.

What do you think? Do leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Finding 10,000 ways that don’t work: what government can learn from business

Failure is not something to be embarrassed about. As Thomas Edison said about his many attempts at creating a lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”. Then, of course, he found a way that did work and that is all anyone remembers.

Our government today is too often paralysed by fear. Taking risks is viewed as reckless because civil servants are afraid of getting criticised should a project stumble. Nobody wants to face the fury of the Public Accounts Committee.

But among entrepreneurs, failure is more like a badge of honour. It is proof that you were not afraid to push your limits. In fact, some tech companies will not hire people if they are unable to point to at least one great failure. Steve Jobs is the most remarkable example of this phenomena. He co-founds Apple Computer when he is 21, and by the time he is 23 he’s a millionaire. He becomes legendary. And then, at 30, it all comes crashing down.

We need more of this entrepreneurial mind-set in government. And we need public sector leaders to create the conditions for it to flourish. If somebody starts a company and fails then they start another company. If that person is smart and humble they learn the lessons. Jobs wanted to prove his early success at Apple was not a fluke. He launched a new computer company, NeXT, and also Pixar Animation Studios. I love Pixar movies!

In 1996, a struggling Apple acquired NeXT, returning Jobs to the company he helped to create. And the following year Jobs became Apple’s CEO, driving the company to its greatest successes, from the iPod to the iMac to the iPhone to the iPad.

It is too commonplace to blame the blunders of government on civil servants and other public servants. Yet the way our public services are currently structured means success is rarely defined as achieving results. Instead it is about keeping your head down, putting in the hours, and not breaking the rules. Process dominates and outcome is secondary.

In business, of course, the outcomes always has to be first. Because if you do not make enough money then your business dies. Anyone who has run a small business knows the feeling of having to innovate to survive. In those moments people come up with some of their best ideas.

I am not suggesting that government should be run like a business. Or that all politicians should act like entrepreneurs. However, we do need to take some of the elements of the best of business – being agile, networked, innovative and willing to take calculated risks. And making mistakes. And incorporate them into government. Given how fast the world is changing it is the only way government can keep up.

Nobody put this better than Steve Jobs in his speech to Stanford graduates in 2005 (two years before he launched the iPhone).

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life.”

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

The value of consistency in design

At Sopra Steria, the core of my role is to make everything that’s designed more consistent.

All our outputs are designed in some way, whether it’s research, documentation, bids, UI designs, diagrams, presentations or social media. Everything that’s seen by other people is part of our brand, all holding a consistent type of messaging (written or otherwise). This is especially important to consider when we are presenting to a large audience, within key sales or when we’re working with our client’s brands.

Why is design consistency important?

Recently I attended UX Scotland, where I enjoyed a talk by Andrew Purnell, a designer from the London and Glasgow based agency Snook. He shared my view that often on projects, following a consistent brand can be forgotten, with information and styles that do not look or sound like they come from the same company. This can lead to a confusing journey for whoever happens to be using the service, as screens that look and behave differently are not easy to use and do not feel connected.

This can also apply to other media or documentation. Think of two pitches that are from similar companies with a similar approach. One is written by several different authors all with a different style, and with diagrams scanned from several external sources. The other has been designed to have any image or diagram with the same branding, for the messaging to sound consistent though the authors are different. Which is more likely to hit the mark?

Design consistency reduces this confusion and creates a feeling of familiarity, providing reassurance and building trust.

Designing a consistent service

When we’re working on projects, we can think about the wide range of outputs that will come into contact with people as they use the site or system. Service design considers customer journeys from the first to the last point of contact, and takes into account all touchpoints that they may interact with, such as websites, call centres, emails, letters, social media or downloads. Will the service look and feel the same on the homepage, sign-up or email they receive?

Designing systematically

One way to increase consistency throughout each output is to implement a Design System that covers the guidelines for as many of the areas that people will see as possible, combining branding, content strategy, marketing and digital design. For a company, they can provide consistency across an entire range of touchpoints including branding, blog posts, Twitter messaging, business cards, iPhone apps, websites and email signatures. They can also include all the specific detail that makes up the site or system, such as tone of voice, imagery, colour palettes, type styles and (coded) component parts.

“Be consistent, not uniform” – Gov.uk design principles

As well as including everything that makes up the product or service, Design Systems are adaptable and easy to change, which makes them very effective across teams, and throughout a project lifecycle. They can be constantly updated and linked to the latest version of each output, so the project and ultimately the customers are always kept up to date.

To find out how we can help you to design your service consistently, please leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

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Some excellent examples of design systems:

IBM’s Carbon Design System – http://carbondesignsystem.com/

Atlassian’s Design System – https://atlassian.design/

STEAM not just STEM: how can we encourage more creativity?

Creative ideas take time. They are often generated after an initial period of thinking deeply about the problem, considering different ways to frame the problem, and exploring different possible solutions. Sir James Dyson developed over 5,000 prototypes before he patented his vacuum cleaner. And Walt Disney animated cartoons for nearly two decades before his first big success, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

So how can we encourage more creativity? How can we help people, as Apple famously put it in 1997, to ‘think different’? One way is to go back and start at the beginning. With children in school. And by rewiring our educational system to focus on STEAM rather than STEM.

In recent years, as the United Kingdom has faced stiff economic and technological competition from China and other countries, there has been a surge of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is clear that if we are to maintain our position as a global leader in innovation, we have to increase the emphasis on these four subjects in our schools.

Yet this is an area where we have lagged behind relative to other countries. We need to up our game dramatically. The UK ranks 16th out of 20 OECD countries for the proportion of people with technical qualifications. We have particular skills shortages in sectors of the economy that depend on STEM subjects. Nearly 40% of employers report difficulties recruiting staff with relevant STEM skills.

But STEM alone will not do it. We need to add an A for arts. Focusing only on the sciences is not enough to stretch the mind and encourage creativity.

Take a look at some of the most successful and innovative products produced in the last ten years. The iPhone is not simply a technological tool. It is a piece of art and a fantastic work of creative design. And the applications are more than mere products of programming. The best are feats of imagination.

The STEAM movement is already being championed in the United States, spearheaded by academics and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). They argue that the US educational system (and, I think, the UK) is still functioning in the same way it did a hundred years ago. It has the same outdated systems, institutions and traditions.

We are trying to educate eight million children via an antiquated school system. Or as the academics at the RISD put it,

“Schools were, and still are, structured like the factories they were developed to serve. They treat education like an assembly line – you move from one task (class) to the next – day in and day out. There is little collaboration or interchange.”

The danger is that innovation will continue to wane. To become a more innovative economy requires the ability to seize new opportunities and adapt to change. But historically, the UK has not been as successful at commercialisation and development as we have been at basic research. We have often been slower than competitors to take up and deploy existing technologies.

Our education system tends to reward test scores and rote memorisation rather than creativity and problem solving. Our students are learning antiquated skills in a modern, and changing world. And that will be a recipe for disaster as the world continues to move towards greater connectivity, innovation and technological change.

Or, as the US secretary of education Richard Riley famously summed it up, “The jobs in the greatest demand in the future don’t yet exist and will require workers to use technologies that have not yet been invented to solve problems that we don’t yet even know are problems.”

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Information Chaos: the next big business challenge

“Every budget is an IT budget.  Every company is an IT company.  Every business leader is becoming a digital leader. Every person is becoming a technology company. We are entering the era of the Digital Industrial Economy.” – Peter Sondergaard, Gartner.

Most organisations now recognise that managing their information assets is just as important as managing their physical, human, and financial assets. So why are so many still drowning in a flood of unmanaged content and information chaos? The symptoms are plain to see: servers overflowing and multiplying, making it hard to find anything; sensitive information leaking, losing competitive advantage and exposing the organisation to litigation risk; information silos continue to develop, frustrating secure collaborative working; and because of cheap cloud storage, accessible from personal smartphones and tablets, knowledge assets are migrating to places beyond the reach of the company’s information governance processes – if indeed they have any!

Meanwhile new information continues to pour in, in an ever-changing array of formats, through multiple channels and on multiple devices. Organisations face rising costs for maintaining their legacy systems of record, and struggle to keep control of new systems.

No wonder many leaders in Knowledge Management believe that Information Chaos is the next big business challenge.

The core of all these difficulties is a lack of Information Governance.  With no rules, users can put their stuff wherever they like: the ‘C’ drive of their laptop, flash drives, Dropbox, etc. Shared network drives, intended to support collaboration, bring irritating access issues – and if no governance process is in place, users can create a folder anywhere, and give it any name. So no one knows where to look for things, and people mostly share files with colleagues using email attachments – leading to increased risk of data breaches, massive duplication, loss of version control, and excessive network traffic.

Information governance means:

  • identifying what information classes make up the knowledge assets of the organisation;
  • appointing someone to be the owner (and custodian) of each class of information – this will usually be the appropriate head of function; and
  • establishing rules for naming, storing, protecting and sharing knowledge assets.

The objectives of rationalising document management and introducing proper governance are:

  • To enable full exploitation of information assets, based on:
    • A business-led file plan and document management system (“A place for everything and everything in its place”)
    • Full Enterprise Search to improve productivity and consistency
    • No more repeating work (“re-inventing the wheel”)
  • To rationalise data storage and make savings, by:
    • Keeping one master copy of everything (wherever possible)
    • Maintaining clear version control (because sometimes it’s necessary to keep earlier drafts)
    • Eliminating duplication
    • Deleting ephemeral and superseded documents
  • To ensure the security and integrity of information, by
    • Applying appropriate access control to all information
    • Ensuring that sensitive information is classified and labelled correctly
    • Ensuring that approved and published information cannot be changed or deleted until the proper time

1.    Developing the Taxonomy

Information Governance requires a clear understanding of the kinds of information the organisation needs in order to function. At Sopra Steria I’ve worked with several clients on this problem using both top-down and bottom-up methods.  In a top-down approach, we help subject matter experts in the business to build a hierarchical taxonomy of their areas of expertise. The classes in the taxonomy will eventually correspond to folders in the idealised corporate file plan.

2.    Knowledge Audit

I supplement this top-down analysis with a bottom-up review of existing file structures, on the basis that frequently occurring document and folder names are likely to signify knowledge classes that need to be represented at the lower levels in the file plan hierarchy. I make use of a disk space analyser tool for this information discovery exercise, or knowledge audit. The more sophisticated tools not only keep track of the most commonly-used terms but also assess the scope and severity of the Information Chaos problem. They can identify where the duplicate, redundant and corrupt files are, together with their volumes. This information can also later support the cleansing and migration stage; i.e. partially automating the process of deleting “bad” files, and moving “useful” information to a new home in the revised corporate file plan.

In summary, an Information Governance project might consist of the following phases:

flow diagram through the sub head topics listed here

Experience has shown that developing a taxonomy is very difficult to do across an entire business (of any size). In fact, both the first two (parallel) steps in this process are best carried out piecemeal; i.e. team by team, business unit by business unit, project by project; joining the models together later, eliminating any class duplication en route.  This has the added advantage of delivering early benefits and demonstrating steady progress to management.

3.    Information Architecture

In stage three, the results of the top-down taxonomy work and the bottom-up knowledge audit are combined to develop a new Information Architecture for the business. The core of this will be a hierarchical folder structure similar to the familiar Windows Explorer layout, but with important differences. In the Information Architecture hierarchy the nodes are classes of information. For example, it may consist of generic terms such as Project or Supplier, while a File Plan would have a specific folder for each real-world instance of the class.  So the class, Project, spawns Project Alpha, Project Bravo, Project Charlie, etc; the Supplier class creates GoliathCo, Bloggs & Sons, and so on.

The other important difference is the association of metadata with each class, and with the corresponding folders in the File Plan.  This is likely to include the standard maintenance metadata (author, owner, creation date, last modified date, etc); plus the document type; any access constraints; and retention schedules and disposal triggers.

Carefully selected business metadata is an invaluable support to Enterprise Search, but can be seen as a nuisance when saving documents. For this reason, metadata should be set as high up in the hierarchy as possible so that content placed in lower level folders can “inherit” the correct values without the need for additional data entry by the user.

4.    Set up the new File Plan

The next step in the project will be to implement the Information Architecture in a File Plan. How this is done will depend on the selected platform; for example, an Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) system, SharePoint, or network shared drives (although the latter will not be able to support a rich metadata schema such as is described above).

5.    Cleansing and Migration

With the target File Plan in place the last stage of the project can begin. Owners sort through their holdings, deleting the documents they no longer need and moving the valuable content to the proper places in the File Plan. This is a “housekeeping” exercise, an inevitable chore for many, and management must be careful to allow their staff sufficient time to complete it.

With an agreed Information Architecture, and a File Plan based on it that all staff can use, proper Information Governance can be introduced.

ConclusionsHINTS AND TIPS 1. Solving your Information Chaos problem will mean an unavoidable “House-keeping” exercise to identify your useful content and delete the rubbish. 2. You can reduce the pain, and avoid a future recurrence, by developing a new File Plan to move your cleansed content into. 3. Develop the File Plan by a combination of “top-down” and “bottom-up” – but do it in small bites, joining all the pieces up later.

Addressing the Information Chaos problem requires: first, the development of a target Information Architecture; and second, an extensive “housekeeping” exercise to eliminate the dross and migrate the organisation’s vital knowledge assets. The benefits of such a project will be:

  • Reduction of business risk by ensuring:
    • full traceability of decision making
    • an increased ability to respond to enquiries (legal, regulatory, FoI, audit, etc)
    • a reduced risk of litigation
  • Boosted user productivity by
    • minimising the admin burden on end users
    • providing secure collaborative working through a shared Information Architecture
    • better re-use of existing knowledge assets
  • Cost reduction
  • Enhanced information quality
  • Streamlined document and records management processes

Satisfaction as information chaos eliminated…

Share with me any experiences you have of successful information cleansing and migration, and any tips on how you’ve made the process work in your organisation. Leave a reply below or contact me by email.