An open challenge the UK technology industry should embrace

Surevine have been asked to contribute our feedback on the the Beta of the Government Digital Service’s Design Manual.

In the spirit of Surevine’s model of “working in the open” I have chosen to blog about it here, and forward a copy of this blog to Intellect for their consideration. We think…

Intellect should support the Service Standard: it is good for UK citizens, the economy and our technology industry.

  • They standards will result in better Government services for UK citizens
  • They will result in fewer expensive Government ICT failures
  • They are good for the technology sector, and hence the UK economy

They will result in better Government services for UK Citizens

…because they services are driven by user needs

  • A team must demonstrate that they have: “conducted research to develop a deep knowledge of…what the user needs are”
  • A user need is “the need the user has of government, not the need of government to impart information to the user.”
  • They encourage teams to “Prioritise features for [users] over everyone else – including your big, scary stakeholders, and seek their feedback early and often.”

…because they are developed iteratively and in an agile way

  • Meaning they are more likely to meet the needs of the citizen
  • The services will be delivered more quickly, not under cumbersome programmes, so mistakes can quickly be undone

…because they demonstrate an understanding of how people choose to use the web

  • The standards are based on Progressive enhancement and responsive design
  • Which means they are made for the one open web
  • Services aren’t written for devices, they are written for people: not separate designs for mobile, or as apps for proprietary, vendor specific platforms
  • The standards are clearly based on an understanding that people are increasingly accessing the web on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets)

They will result in fewer expensive government ICT failures (which is good for the technology sector and the UK)

They are good for the UK technology sector, and hence the economy

They encourage a more open market…

…by insisting on open standards and APIs
  • This will allow for the technology sector to build extensions or services which make use of those APIs in ways which the designer of the API could not predict.
  • The insistence on open standards means that the technology sector will be more likely to develop products around it as they will feel confident that those products are likely to have a wider market, and be usable in other contexts
…by guarding against monopolies and vendor lock in:
  • Vendor lock-in is only good for the vendor (and their approved partners) not for the technology sector as a whole
  • Ensuring that no point of the technology stack is locked into a single vendor solution will allow for more competition at each level of the stack.
  • Services built on vendor-specific components often restrict not only the ability to move away from that component, but often restrict the market of things which can extend it or work with it.
  • Adhering to the standard will mean the market will not be limited to vendor “approved partners” but draw on, and encourage a much wider pool of skills
…and reinforcing in-house skills will promote the UK technology supply chain.
  • Because the standards promote working in the open and the teams working on Digital services will have “made all new source code open” those outside of the internal teams will benefit from the software developed either by using the software, or by building new commercial offerings around it.