GDS to provide ‘greater clarity’ on Technology Code of Practice

Written by Rebecca Hill on 21 April 2017 in News

Rules for digital projects to be iterated again in collaboration with spend controls team

GDS to iterate Technology Code of Practice - Photo credit: Derwent London

The Government Digital Service has said it will iterate the rules that departments have to follow when designing, building or buying digital services to offer more clarity and guidance to users.

The Technology Code of Practice was updated last year, with the aim of simplifying the rules to make it easier for users to understand.

This saw the number of points that have to be met by government digital services fall from 21 to 14, which included rules on defining user needs, accessibility and the use of open standards.

The revised code was approved by the Technology Leaders Network and has been mandated by the Treasury, meaning it is part of the spend controls that government uses to make sure departments aren’t over-spending on digital projects.

GDS has now said that it plans to make further changes to the code, saying this was “never meant to be the final version” and that the aim was to continue to iterate the guide.

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Jonathan Middleton, a senior policy adviser at GDS, said in a blogpost that the “basis of the principles” wouldn’t change, but that the structure of the document would.

He said that user research had found that civil servants wanted “greater clarity and more guidance and support” around the principles.

“Teams across government would like clearer information on what is classed as a ‘standard’, and what we mean by best practice advice,” Middleton wrote. “They’d also like more specific examples about implementing the principles.”

He also said that it was important that the guidance supported “the main challenges” that teams face, particularly around buying and building technology in the context of existing legacy systems.

In addition, Middleton said that the work would be carried out in collaboration with the spend controls team, to make sure that the Technology Code of Practice “supports their work as clearly as possible”.

Spend controls are set to change soon, with the upper limit of £100,000 for a digital project due to be scrapped. Instead, the spend controls team will look at a department’s 18-month roadmap and decide which projects will be focused on.

GDS leader Kevin Cunnington said that this would likely mean that the department will be left to get on with 70% of the roadmap on its own, with GDS “keeping an eye” on 20% of the work and getting much more closely involved in 10%.

A recent report from spending watchdog the National Audit Office found that 47% of the spend control team’s time in 2015-16 was spent dealing with applications for work valued at less than £1m. These projects produced just 1% of the overall financial savings delivered in that year.

The change in approach will allow the team to shift its focus, which is likely to see them focus on the projects that will generate more savings - in turn helping GDS demonstrate its value in monitoring and controlling government digital spending.

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