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Tuesday, May 23 • 16:15 - 16:45
Agile Software Development in the UK Government: An Infiltrator's Secrets

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After wasting £12 billion on the biggest IT failure ever seen, and constantly disappointing UK citizens with huge overspends on extremely poor digital services, every aspect of UK government IT was in desperate need of fundamental transformation.

At this huge government scale, digital & agile transformations can be successful. But a system's bias for reverting to what it knows - manifested as resistance to change from those in power - is the biggest danger.

GDS - Government Digital Service - came to the rescue of UK government IT over 5 years ago and are now facing those very challenges. They implemented a culture of user-first, agile software development across government, resulting in world-leading digital services whilst saving millions in taxpayer money. Astonishingly, they put public sector software development on a path to reach the levels of Amazon, Netflix, et. al.

Governments all around the world are now copying the GDS model which involves creating a "one government" user experience, enabling a fundamental transformation of the relationship between citizen and state. An approach that relies on assessments to enforce adequate user research is carried out and to verify teams are working in small cross-functional teams striving for continuous delivery.

But GDS always faced constant resistance from senior executives and IT leaders who didn't want to transform - who wanted to stick to old habits of waterfall software development, huge outsourcing contracts, and big enterprise software. Factions started to build up around these two schools of thought. The new "digital" teams who open sourced all the code and wanted to talk openly (blogs, conferences) with UK citizens vs the old "IT" teams who wanted to maintain the status quo of closed-sourced and hidden away.

Despite all of GDS' success, a lot of their work is now being undone as these anti-change IT leaders start to claw back power and reverse the GDS improvements. So strong is the uprising, there has been a mass exit from GDS of the key influencers, including those at the very top who fear an end to the progress.

Governments and organisations of all sizes aspiring to carry out transformation should take careful note of these key lessons.

avatar for Nick Tune

Nick Tune

Sociotechnical Thinker, Independent
Nick is passionate about delighting users, creating business impacts, and crafting quality software, placing an equal focus on improving both the delivery capabilities and alignment of an organisation. He specialises in transformation projects, having worked with high-profile organisations... Read More →

Tuesday May 23, 2017 16:15 - 16:45
Ballroom D 1st Floor

Attendees (21)