Alpha-Beta-Live is not enough

For me, this picture of the Alpha-Beta-Live model for implementing a service is one of the enduring images of the government's 'digital transformation'. I see it presented often.

When do I see it, I often think that - although it works well for starting services up - it leaves much unsaid about what happens afterwards. I know it's not meant to; but I just think that.

Last month, I talked with some people managing a digital transformation in a government department and found they felt much the same. They needed a clear way to explain how their transformation would work at a macro scale; in particular to show how new services might mature and replace existing ones over time.

I thought and I came up with the picture at the foot of the post - which they liked. It combines two ideas from my past work:

First, a model of the future structure of government services - a transition from vertical silos to a horizontally-layered services-oriented structure - explained in my Gubbins of Government video and represented in this picture (by Paul Downey)...

Transition to the Gubbins model
Transition to the Gubbins model

Second, a capability maturity model - the 4Ex Model - that I developed for a digital change programme I worked on. This is a screenshot from a Prezi that explains it...

4Ex Model
4Ex Model

The 4Ex Model shows four stages of the maturity of a capability. These are linked to the current and future business benefit the capability creates. I named the stages: Experiment, Explore, Exploit and Exhaust according to the management/delivery culture appropriate to each. I put everything not yet delivering benefit (even though well developed technology might exist) in a box bluntly called Idea. This model was, for some years, the dominant concept of agile working in the department I developed it for.

Stealing an (excellent) idea from Simon Wardley, I put the Gubbins 'stack' on the y-axis and the 4Ex maturity scale on the x-axis; and (using Paul Downey's symbols) ended up with this diagram of the current state of progress...

Gubbins Transformation Model
Gubbins Transformation Model

I’ve not tried to beautify it. It is an incomplete and crude thought-in-progress but it meant something to those I shared it with. If you struggle with what I mean by it, take a look at the Gubbins and the 4Ex models.

Capabilities in each of the layers of the Gubbins model advance left to right, like chess men across a board, as they mature - each move being one or more Alpha-Beta-Live-like cycles.

The exemplars are in the Idea and Experiment ranks. Although the services work well, the organisation has still to learn from and adapt around them. It is as much a reflection of the 'digital maturity' of the department as of the services themselves.

The Alpha-Beta-Live model is used across government and is a great way to envisage a single service implementation. There is also a need for a simple, commonly-accepted macro-level view of the state of progress of a particular transformation. Maybe this is the beginnings of one.

I'd be interested to hear what you think.