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Adapting the Government Digital Service Service Standard for Defence

The Government Digital Service (GDS) Service Standard supports the development of consistent and user-friendly end-to-end government digital services and is made up of fourteen points, including ‘understand users and their needs’ and ‘make sure everyone can use the service’.

Government organisations such as the NHS and Ministry of Justice have made use of the Service Standard to drive transformational change. Defence is keen to adopt a similar approach to make it easier, simpler and more cost-effective to deliver its digital and technology services, whilst ensuring that the standards that are used are appropriate for a Defence context.

Defence Digital and the Royal Navy are at the start of a journey to bring together teams across Defence to share what we have, adopt what is relevant, and create any standards that are needed but missing.

First up: The Royal Navy Digital Service Standard

Our multi-disciplinary team in the Royal Navy are working to develop and support the adoption of a Digital Service Standard, inspired by the GDS Service Standard, and associated manual and guidance. This Digital Service Standard, however, will be tailored to the Royal Navy, noting the differing contexts, settings and needs of our organisation and users.

A graphic showing personnel in uniform holding a banner reading 'Royal Navy Digital Service Standard

Driving value for the Royal Navy was the initial driver for this work, but we’re raising our ambitions. Working with Defence Digital, and other areas of Defence in due course, we hope to make the new Service Standard a proof of concept for Defence. The intent is that the lessons identified will lead to a Service Standard that is fit for a Defence context and that can be scaled across Defence to provide a single, coherent approach, alongside a broader standards and assurance programme led by Defence Digital.

Building a team

We have established a small tiger team to drive the work on the Digital Service Standard. The team comprises a blend of civilian and military personnel who represent Royal Navy users and provide guidance on how to best adapt the Standard for the Navy.

These individuals are from varying parts of the organisation, bringing differing skills, insights and experiences to shape the Standard and ensure it is fit for purpose. Equally, they act as ambassadors, and will be important in communicating and championing the Digital Service Standard in the Royal Navy, across Defence and beyond.

We also have dedicated individuals within the tiger team tasked with developing the Digital Service Standard, working with service teams to learn, iterate and improve it to ensure the Standard delivers the value intended.

Validating the Digital Service Standard

A graphic showing two hands shaking, a megaphone and the silhouette of a person's head with lines either side of their ears, indicating that they are listening.The team have developed a first version of the Digital Service Standard focusing on context setting, following feedback from a consultation and the wider tiger team.

In order to test the Standard, try out ideas and support our learning and development, our proof of concept and initial adoption will focus on a digital service project within the Royal Navy.

We will work with this digital project to learn, develop and iterate the Standard and understand whether additional Defence guidance or examples are needed.

The team are currently involved in selecting the pilot digital project for the proof of concept phase, liaising with different service owners to understand their respective projects in order to see which is best placed to deliver the most value in terms of feedback and insights.

A look forward

Looking beyond our proof of concept, we anticipate a widening of scope in the next phase to apply the maturing Digital Service Standard to other Royal Navy projects whilst continuing to listen, learn, develop and iterate to get the best fit for the Royal Navy and digital teams across Defence.

Ultimately, we want to join up the process of assessing new digital capabilities with the ongoing iteration of the Digital Service Standard, so that these activities can inform one another. This in turn will be embedded into the Royal Navy’s digital funding process as part of the Digital Investment Programme at the Digital and Data Board, which makes investment decisions to support the Royal Navy’s digital transformation.

The bigger picture

The broader ambition for this workstream is to have a Defence-wide Digital Service Standard, following this initial proof of concept within the Royal Navy, as well as an open, accessible set of digital and technology standards across Defence.

To do this, we are working closely with Defence Digital to ensure the approach we take in the Royal Navy is something that can be built on by other Front Line Commands. This will not only provide a consistent user experience across Defence but will also provide opportunities for innovation and support the realisation of Defence’s strategic goals and objectives, positioning our armed forces as an effective fighting force, underpinned by efficient and coherent enabling functions.

While we’re at the start of this journey, our current, pan-Defence team are striving to meet this ambition and will be reaching out to more digital teams across Defence in due course.

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