About how certainty can get in the way
Repost of an article written for Computer Weekly about the effects of mismanaging of complexity.
On working for the greater good.
A review of a book about applying the ideas of complex systems to government policy making.
On leopards. And spots.
This is the story of the production of this video. Foden Grealy (under our Eggvids banner) produced the video for the PSNGB - the industry association for the Public Services Network. It explains in about two minutes what the PSN is and what the PSNGB is doing to make it successful.
Summary of what happened...
7 May - Neil Mellor - a director of PSNGB approached us. 8 May - Eggvid man Mark Hainge and I had a half-hour telephone discussion with Neil and Stuart Higgins - another PSNGB Director. We explained our approach (see pic below). 7 June - The four of us had a 3-hour flipchart session to work out what should be in the video. It was an excellent interactive session where we ended up with the bones of the story. 14 June - We produced a full-length rough & ready first version of the video, which Neil and Stuart provided feedback on. They liked the overall style and the way we put over the main messages; they also gave us a list of revisions to consider and some ideas about the humour (which is where the "groovy boots" came from). They also asked us if we could get the video ready for the PSN annual conference on 25 June. 21 June - We produced an improved version that was discussed by the board of PSNGB. It was approved with a few changes. 23 June - We produced the final version (after a couple of late-nighters). 25 June - The video was shown at the PSN Summit.
This production went smoothly. Neil and Stuart were great to work with (the reason it went smoothly) and were keen to participate - it felt like an interaction rather than a transaction. I'd say that it would be near-impossible to produce a video like this in a transactional way from a traditional written brief. The humour, always a potential sticking point, came easily with some super suggestions from the PSNGB folk.
I was at the first showing of the video at the PSN Summit yesterday. There was laugher, spontaneous applause and many positive comments.
We wish the PSNGB and the PSN huge success.
More stuff about the video and its production.
We work iteratively. Here is a pic we used to explain our approach to Neil and Stuart...
This was the output of the flip-chart session. Scientific, this...
PSNGB We are the industry association for the Public Services Network
The GB bit originally meant Governing Body but we aren't one Instead, think of Growing Benefits, Government Betterment, General Blossoming, Any of those
Our members are companies supplying either the PSN, or the services delivered over it,
So, the PSN itself Public Services Network
It's a computer network. Think of it as a house-trained version of the Internet for the public sector.
Any organisation providing public services can connect to it.
It replaces a whole lot of terribly disparate network wherewithal from the past that made it very hard for people in government to do internetty things.
Most public sector organisations are on it now and are shifting their services across from existing networks like the GSI (God bless them and all who sailed in them).
Of course there's box ticking and IT faffing about involved but we are getting to the end of that.
The PSN will carry the services that existed before but the important thing is it's not just a replacement network, it is a jolly sturdy foundation that some people call a platform for building all sorts of completely new stuff . Like...
Organising public services around citizens by linking the operations of different departments Or... Enabling third parties to create new dead-funky services that no one has thought of yet Or... Making it possible for people in the public sector to use the latest technologies to work flexibly Hurrah!
And this totally new stuff will bring new ways of working, new communication, new policy, new support, new procurement, new structures, new management, new thoughts and new almost anything else you can think of
PSN can change the shape of government
Which brings us back to the PSNGB:
Yes, we'll do the usual industry association things: standards, technical palaver, all that helping suppliers to get their boxes ticked and their faffing faffed helping customers to get with the right suppliers
But we've got a bigger ambition. We want to do our bit to enable this change We want to connect people, spark ideas and make a genuine contribution to the reshaping of government
Right nuff said.
PSN, GB The industry association for the PSN... bringing Great Bounty and Glittering Breakthroughs So, fill your Groovy Boots.
About an article in the New Statesman.
I was asked yesterday for a view on what is likely to happen as a result of a change to government policy on document standards (described in this Guardian article) and the prospects for a switch to open source software. With the caveat that there are others with a better understanding of the specifics of the situation than me I wrote this... "I'd say the important thing is that it is document standards that are being specified not the software. Presuming that Microsoft update their software to make it easy to use the open formats then I imagine that departments won't need to do anything until existing licensing deals expire. I don't know what the licensing situation is but I should think that Microsoft will bend far to ensure that their software continues to be used.
A switch to open source alternatives would consume both the already-stretched IT service resources and the time (and probably more importantly the patience) of users. It would take will to make the change. I guess we will see new types of licensing deals - perhaps with Office software bundled differently with other products - and probably a reduction in cost but I don't envisage a rapid, widespread switch.
This is a broader point but that government should be thinking differently about how it manages both text and the way that people work together to create it - see Document standards and the rankling print presumption. It's quite possible I've become separated from my marbles here, but I do wonder whether we need documents at all."