To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate? Oh! If only I had the choice!
We’ve been working with colleagues across government to think about bureaucracy – what is it, when is it needed, and what does good (and bad) look like. We all have examples of processes, rules, myths and behaviours that get in the way of us being able to spend time on doing our actual jobs.
Our hypothesis is that if we can #HackTheSystem and make our working lives easier we’ll deliver better outcomes for our users, and that it is possible to make a positive difference to bureaucracy.
James has written about the overall plan and what we’re thinking about initially:
We have identified several problems as a group. This is the first one we’re exploring to see if it’s one that fits our criteria.
What is the problem that we are trying to solve?
The problem, as experienced by users, can be summed up by our own experience of trying to plan for this event. Communicating across all the organisations where the team members are based, when using an online collaboration tool, was impossible.
The various departmental security policies blocked us and we had to give up and use our own phones instead. The underlying reasons why security people sometimes don’t want to open up systems are more difficult to understand but we hypothesise that it is as much about their interpretation of their main responsibilities (to protect us!) and the departmental culture, as it is about any actual technical issues.
For #HackTheSystem we’re using five criteria to work out if this is a problem we want to include on the day:
Does it happen in lots of different places in the public sector – as in, is it a structural and widely recognised problem?
We know from some early research that James did that our experience was not unusual, and anecdotally we’ve heard lots of examples where permissions, architecture, approach to security, and people’s behaviours means that collaboration is difficult. We’ve all admired organisations who make it look easy, and become frustrated in organisations where it isn’t. We also know that there are examples of where people are subverting their organisation – maybe they’ve simply started using trello and slack without asking for permission.
Is it a problem we can do something about? Is it actionable?
We think the problems aren’t just about technology (but that’s a big part), it’s as much about culture. We know it’s possible to do something because some people have already done it. At Hackney we have made some progress – most of our productivity tools can be accessed easily from anywhere using any device by accessing the internet. Next henry lewis and his team are going to implement a new network design so that all our applications can be accessed in this way.
Can it be solved (or prototyped) in a day?
We think so. So long as we keep the scope manageable, are clear about what we’re not doing, and set ourselves achievable goals. The technology solution is quite straightforward so the focus might be upon how we can share solutions in ways that make sense to colleagues managing security and infrastructure, how we communicate and collaborate rather than the technical details. We might also want to explore why. collaborating outside our organisations is so important – what’s our elevator pitch?
We might want to think about which organisations we could target to share our design solutions, such as the National Cyber Security Centre, organisations that security colleagues work with regularly and trust. Who are our potential advocates?
Will it lead to a real difference – will fixing it give us more time as public servants to deliver value?
Taking the ability to easily video conference as an example, we think that collaboration builds trust between people and teams, and that in turn allows people to achieve more than they can by themselves. This isn’t a public sector only problem – we need to improve productivity generally: making use of 21st century tools would enable us to work more effectively. Thinking about culture, if we can create a culture in our organisations that says “Yes, if…” rather than. “No” that will have an impact beyond the problem we’re trying to solve here.
Is this something that is easily grasped?
A lot of the language used by security experts isn’t very accessible to everyone, so we will need to be careful about the use of jargon. But the core ideas behind Hackney’s technical solutions are quite straightforward to explain in a way that can generate a good discussion on the day. We ran a recent open session with colleagues from other organisations to open our work and get feedback on the design; this worked really well and delegates didn’t need lots of technical knowledge to be able to engage.
Look out for more posts coming soon as we continue to think about what we would like to cover in the hack.
If you’d be interested in coming along on 3 July – block it out in your diary now, and (simple!) sign up details will follow soon.