Internet-era ways of working

Tom Loosemore (@tomskitomski)

October 12, 2018


An earlier draft of this list, stuck to the PD office door

Our definition of digital says: "Applying the culture, processes, business models & technologies of the internet-era to respond to people's raised expectations."

Once they've heard that, the next thing people always ask us is: "OK. But how? How do I make that happen in my organisation?"

Good question.

We've spent a lot of time thinking about the answer to that. Between us, we've collectively made a lot of mistakes over the last 20+ years of digital delivery, and learned from every one of them. We think the answer looks something like this: a todo list for putting internet-era ways of working into action.

Some of this will sound familiar to those of you who know the UK government design principles. You could think of those as an earlier iteration of this list. Now we've moved beyond the UK government and started working internationally, and with non-government institutions, we're noticing how many people understand the design principles, but want help on how to put them into practice.

So we don’t intend this list to be a replacement for the design principles. It's more like a new branch of the repository. Clearly, there's further iteration to come.

Internet-era ways of working

  1. Design for user needs, not organisational convenience

  1. Test your riskiest assumptions with actual users

  1. The unit of delivery is the empowered, multidisciplinary team

  1. Do the hard work to make things simple

  1. Staying secure means building for resilience

  1. Recognise the duty of care you have to users, and to the data you hold about them

  1. Start small and optimise for iteration. Iterate, increment and repeat

  1. Make things open; it makes things better

  1. Fund product teams, not projects

  1. Display a bias towards small pieces of technology, loosely joined

  1. Treat data as infrastructure

  1. Digital is not just the online channel

Finally: break any of these rules sooner than do anything barbaric. It's better to be pragmatic and make some progress, than wait for perfect circumstances that will never come, and not make any progress at all.

This list isn't set in stone. It gives you plenty of starting points, but don't be tempted to try implementing all of them, everywhere, all at once. As always, start small, pick your first project carefully, and focus on the stuff that feels most relevant to your organisation. Iterate the bits that help your teams deliver, in your organisation. Allow time and space to make your own mistakes, so you'll have your own additions to the list in future.

The internet era is still young; there's time for all of us to get better at working in it.