Here at DH Digital Technology & Strategy, we provide digital advice, support and assurance to 15 different organisations – the Department itself, plus 14 arm’s length bodies (ALBs). Last year, my colleague Hong Nguyen told you about the launch of our Service Transformation and Standards community, which aims to bring these organisations together to share expertise, best practice and trouble-shoot issues.

The first session in December 2016 focussed on identifying the common pain points that DH teams and ALBs have when delivering digital projects, and each session since then has focussed on one of those pain points. We have also invited speakers from across the Health and Social Care system, Government and industry to present at these events. You can read about our second session on Digital Procurement here.

On 26th April 2017, we ran our third session on Digital Spend Controls. Again, this was a pain point that had been fed back to us at previous events.

Digital Spend Controls

For those of you who don’t know, since May 2010, DH and its ALBS like other central Government organisations have been subject to Cabinet Office(CO) ‘Efficiency Controls’, as part of a plan to secure some £6 billion of efficiency savings in 2010-11, and ongoing saving in future years. The controls placed immediate freezes on external recruitment, new consultancy spend, and new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects over £1 million, and paid-for communications, advertising and marketing activity, which at the time included digital activity.

The CO introduced specific digital controls in July 2013, which are still in force and are managed by the Government Digital Service (GDS). These differ from most other controls in two significant ways: they introduced a zero spend threshold for most new activity, and mandated compliance to the Digital Service Standard.

The DH Digital Leader (via the Digital Technology and Strategy team) is responsible for ensuring that all DH and ALB spending on Digital adheres to the controls, and that any resulting products and services meet the Digital Service Standard.

So, by improving awareness of the controls and helping DH teams and our ALBs to better understand the need for digital spend controls and how they relate to the Digital Service Standard, this would in turn, help them to produce better Spend Control forms and better products and services, which would be of benefit to us all.

On the day

The session was well attended and we were pleased to see at least one representative from almost all of our ALBs.

We also had a great range of speakers from:

who covered common areas in the Spend Control form and Digital Service Standard, that we often see internal teams and ALBs struggle with:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • User needs and user stories
  • Agile and evidence of an Agile approach
  • Procurement best practice
  • Using the Digital Marketplace

We also asked one of our ALBs (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) to share a useful decision tree they have developed, which we think is an exemplar, for working out whether digital or ICT spend controls apply to a project. This can sometimes be a difficult call to make, as projects may cover more than one area.

The event concluded with a Surgery session, where attendees could put their questions or specific queries to our team and/or the speakers. We also asked attendees to leave their suggestions for future Service Transformation and Standards community events.

Get in touch

If you have any ideas for a future Service Transformation and Standards community event, or would like to find out more about this session or upcoming sessions, please contact the Digital Technology and Strategy team at:

Our next session on Technology will be held on 19th July 2017.

Original source – Stephen Hale

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