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.

Video - How new technology will change the mechanics of government services

Lately, I have had some blank looks from Mrs Foden when I have been talking about my work, particularly about how new technology ('cloud' computing et al) will alter the workings of government. I thought I'd have a shot, with the able help of John McCubbin, at a simple explanation in this video... How new technology will change the mechanics of government services (in plainish English)

There was a positive reaction to it, including...

See other reactions from folk like Mike Bracken, Liam Maxwell in this Storify.

Using this video

You are free use this video and its content according to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. If you feel you might want to go beyond these terms then please do get in touch.

In attributing the work you must make it plain that the ideas and rights belong to me - Mark Foden. Where material based on the ideas in the video is displayed on a website you must provide a plainly and continuously visible link to this page. Where it is presented in media - such as videos, images or slide presentations - the text "Mark Foden -" must be plainly and continuously visible.

Not a condition but if you do use this material I would really appreciate it if you let me know how it has been useful to you.

A very good thing...

I was asked recently what I thought about the new Inside Government section of the almost new website.  I wrote this:

Ah! Well...

I love the way it looks. I love that the content is written in plain English that I can read quickly and understand readily. I love that the pages look smart and that huge care has been taken about the layout and small things like the choice of typefaces. I think it is great that the content displays as well on mobile devices as it does on screen. I think it's brilliant that the look and feel will be consistent whichever department provides the content. I love the style. It beams confidence. It makes me think about Government differently.

I love the way that the Government Digital Service (GDS) have gone about the job. Their design principles are marvellous. It's great that they have started with a small amount of content, that they will be adding more soon, and that they are geared up to improve what they have done based on the feedback they get. It's inspiringly bold to put an indicator of how they are doing at the top of the pages (even though it only shows 2 out of 24 at the moment). It's wonderful that they have used open source software and any additional code they have written themselves has been shared for anyone to use. I love that they have already written twelve public blog posts about what they are doing and that these were authored by eight different members of the team; it's heartening that these people so obviously take a real pride in what they are doing.

And I love the reaction. It's wonderful that people like Tim O'Reilly (whom I respect hugely and who has no reason on earth to say things he doesn't mean) have been so positive about this and the other things that GDS are doing.

GDS have (genuinely) thought big, started small and moved fast. It's a completely classy job. They are showing the way.

We should follow.

'nuff said.

Agile Tea and the Four Ex Model

Today I spoke at Agile Tea, a networking session run by the Innovation and Delivery team of the Government Digital Service. As the event was in the cafe of House of Fraser in Victoria Street (very nice: you should try it), there were no whiteboards to write stuff on. So we used the floor. Here is a digital version of what I said: hang on to your seat...

Huge thanks to Abby Peel and Mark O'Neill for inviting me; to Steve Lamb and Paul Norris for photos; to Jon the very understanding manager of the cafe and to Vince for coming an awful long way to stick 6 bits of tape to the floor.