Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

  • Open Knowledge Foundation Blog » Blog Archive » Open Public Data: Then What? – Part 1 The opening up of public data is a vast, complex, never-ending process that encompasses thousands of different actors. It shifts information, power, and responsibilities, in ways that are difficult to foresee. Its consequences will probably be felt in many different areas: the business of service organizations, decisional software, participative democracy, job requirements for civil servants, budget funding of public agencies whose job it is to produce data, media economics and content, etc. And depending on how we open up public data, and on what we do on top of making data accessible, some of these consequences may be less positive than most of us would like.
  • Government productivity in UK social security has not grown across two decades to 2008 – largely because DWP senior civil servants blocked any move to ‘digital era’ services | British Politics and Policy at LSE For much of the 1980s and ’90s DWP’s organisational culture was also dominated by the ‘new public management’ (NPM) doctrine, which focused on disaggregating large bureaucracies into smaller agencies (now put back together again); outsourcing to big IT contractors; and incentivising staff and contractors to deliver outcomes. DWP managers mostly ignored an alternative paradigm for public management in modern times, ‘digital era governance’ – which stresses re-integrating and joining-up services; remodelling internal structures around client needs; and digitalising all administrative operations.
  • My ongoing love of consistency | The Local Government Officer How does one get hold of civil servants? I mean, if you don’t have an ongoing relationship on a particular issue, do you start at the top and work your way down, ring reception and ask for the policy area in question, or what?
  • Why are public sector efficiency savings so hard? | Flip Chart Fairy Tales Service processes differ from those in manufacturing in that the customer is actually an actor in the process, rather than someone consuming the product from it at the end. People being what they are, their needs and requirements are always slightly different so, while a process might look the same on paper, it is never quite the same for each customer. It will vary each time depending on how the customer interacts with the service provider. Service processes, therefore, are rarely as controllable and predictable as manufacturing ones.This is exacerbated in the public sector because public-facing organisations have to deal with whoever comes through the door. While price acts as a gatekeeper for private service organisations, public sector organisations must deal with the poorest, least educated and least articulate people, some of whom may not speak English as their first language. Consequently, the customer’s impact on the process is even more significant. There might be a neat box on the process map saying ‘assess customer requirements’ but, in practice, this might take five minutes or five hours.To standardise and streamline processes, service organisations often try to design out the complexity and unpredictability – because simple equals cheap right? However, this often means designing out the main source of the complexity and unpredictability – the customer. By channelling people through pre-determined options in call centres and forcing them to use standard forms or websites, the providers can make their processes more uniform and therefore cheaper.
  • / FT Magazine – Why we do what we do If behavioural economists do not really understand why we do what we do, there are surely limits and dangers to the project of nudging us to do it better.
  • HMRC’s Latest IT Fail – and What to Do About It – Open Enterprise Of course, when I went yesterday, it was raining. And, of course, when I got to this inconveniently-located HMRC office, thereby wasting the key time of my writing day, I was informed that this new, updated system was “down”, and they they didn’t know when it would be coming “up”. And no, they couldn’t just look at the two documents establishing my identity, and enter the info later because, well, you know, the “system was down”, which meant that everyone was reduced to a state of organisational de-cerebration.
  • My #ukgc11 session on Agile lessons learnt in local government by Michele Ide-Smith Here are the slides I presented in the session:
    Lessons learnt from agile in local government
  • A quick overview of digital activism « Curiouscatherine’s Blog We tend to treat Policy as a constant – the point of this post is that it shouldn’t be. The objective of the policy is the constant – the policy itself needs to vary in face of changing context and the delivery plan needs to vary even more and we can deliver better outcomes more effectively if we allow this to happen.
  • How Facebook Used White Space To Crush Myspace | Techdirt The tendency to plan for any daring enterprise is irresistible, and critically necessary in many cases. But Hartung’s point is that innovation is a different beast from other types of business management. When you choose to innovate clever, competitive solutions to new market conditions, you have to be open to the possibility that you might create a newer business model that cannibalizes or “devalues” your current product or service.


  1. The public sector and, indeed much of the private sector have moved relentlessly towards a procedure driven culture at the expense of one centred on responsibility. There is an obvious attraction in enforcing standards and deskilling tasks but it is no panacea, especially in dealing with people. I do not advocate a complete about face but the balance does need redressing if we are to improve. After all, nothing was ever invented by following procedures and we could do without the the standard lame “we will examine our procedures and ensure this can’t happen again” response to major blunders. “We got it wrong and will try to improve” would be much more honest.

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