As part of our service offering in building digital capability and maturity, we have been promoting technology reuse and sharing to increase quality and reduce costs.
Over the last twenty years, many large organisations have struggled to prevent duplication of effort and an ever-growing bloated technical estate. This has been exacerbated by relentless and constant change across technology tools, frameworks, platforms, products and services.
The UK government has been no exception, and at the Sprint 15 conference in February 2015, 'Government as a Platform' (GaaP) was announced with a goal of developing common digital service components for government departments and the wider public sector. Delivering that vision to date is the Government Digital Service (GDS) with GOV.UK, VERIFY, PAY, NOTIFY and PaaS (Platform as a Service).
This work provides a beacon for all large organisations wishing to be more effective and generate more efficiency. But it is still commonplace to hear of many failed attempts to share and reuse technology components in organisations. And in government there is little success in departments outside of GDS.
We used our experience in Government as a Platform while working with the Cabinet Office to define a model of how reusable digital things can be shared between services. This identifies clear criteria for reuse and how to comply with standards and policies, such as the Digital Service Standard and the Technology Code of Practice in government.
We refined this model iteratively leading to new insights such as how shared services sit within a much wider context of digital reuse across an organisation. Also that the adoption of centrally created components, and the potential for more decentralised creation and operation of these components, is affected by an organisational wide culture of reuse, or lack of it.
We then identified the interventions needed in organisation for widespread provision of technology through sharing and reuse, they are:
actively driving a culture of reuse in cross-organisation communities and networks,
use proportionate governance for different forms of reuse from light collective governance to formal central control,
provide appropriate use of incentives to establish and reward reuse behaviours,
evolve towards the marketplace driving progressive commoditisation, and
mature towards consistent experiences both for end users of services that employ service components and for client service teams as they adopt reusable components.
The model also identifies how decentralised departments can contribute and share common components, when and where centralised provision is essential, and how the wider industry and external suppliers can play a part too.
For many large organisations these interventions towards shared platforms, components and reusable business capabilities are now needed to realise their outcomes and targets.
We have used the model successfully to drive effective change in medium to large scale organisations and to provide rapid digital transformation of services. In one example the approach enabled us to go from user research and service design to full release of a high quality scalable and tested international service within one week elapsed. The quality was high with only one minor issue reported and cost savings were in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The approach helps justify and drive investment in sharing and reuse within any organisation, evolves how digital services are delivered, and ultimately how an organisation is structured and how it works.