Portrait of Sally Meecham
Portrait of Sally Meecham

I have been involved with GDS, or a forerunner to it, for more than a decade.

Fifteen years ago I was at the Office of the e-Envoy, 10 years ago I was working at DirectGov, 5 years ago I was at GDS – and in April, after period at Defra and the Crown Commercial Service, I returned as GDS’ interim Chief Operating Officer.

Working both at GDS and other public sector agencies and departments, enabled me to see how critical GDS is to digital transformation across government.

Back to the centre

Coming back into the centre is exciting. Returning to GDS provides an important perspective and knowledge of the obstacles departments can face when attempting digital transformation.

When I was last at GDS, I was a Transformation Lead with the DVLA, working on its end-to-end transformation of services. Back in 2014, I blogged about the then new digital ‘View your driving licence information’ service.

Since then GDS has, naturally, changed and developed.

An awareness of just how demanding transition can be is something which has certainly grown since I was last here. Now there is more appreciation of how the entire organisation – not just a few committed individuals – needs to be on board for successful digital transformational change to happen.

In 2016/17, while I was Chief Digital Officer at Defra, we were able to successfully take its online fishing rod licence service from private to public beta. GDS provided us with fantastic support and they helped us develop positive digital change and deliver on this service.

An excellent service can only be delivered by the right people with the right skills, but also the right finance, right environments etc. in which to work. So that’s why recent publication of the The 7 Lenses of Transformation is really important.

It identifies that in order for brilliant services to be created, the whole organisation needs to think of themselves as part of the delivery.

This leads to one of the things I like most about GDS and something which hasn’t changed: its role in supporting departments. Its position at the centre of government means it can understand the transformational challenges that departments and agencies face and is there to support that.  

A new development for me was the creation of the GDS Academy, formerly the DWP Digital Academy. It is one of the key ways that GDS can support these complex changes across government.

There is an urgent need to build digital, data and technology skills and capabilities in departments and agencies, and the GDS Academy provides support in both basic and advanced digital skills. This will enable places to create their own transformation.

Equal opportunities in tech

We need to lessen the gender and diversity imbalance that exists across both the private and public technology sector.

When I started out in digital nearly 20 years ago, I was thrilled by the opportunity of technology developing more equal opportunities. I would not have imagined all these years later there would be the disparity we see today.

GDS has a gender-balanced senior management team, but GDS’ Director General Kevin Cunnington and the senior management team are constantly looking to address issues of inclusion and diversity across the whole of the organisation. For example, we have a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representative on every interview panel.

Being an interim COO

I am keen to ensure we become better at talking about all the brilliant digital services we help departments to deliver. I want to demonstrate that GDS offers value for money and quality products.

We are putting monthly reporting in place and have built Dashboards to help update our reporting processes. The business operations teams will provide the tools and support to ensure a common way of working across GDS and these dashboards assist this goal.

It’s been wonderful seeing familiar faces, but it’s also been a real thrill to see all the new people who have joined GDS and what fantastic skills we have here.

It’s great to be back at such an exciting time for GDS.

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Original source – Government Digital Service

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