A Culture of Reuse

Large organisations now require a culture of technology sharing and reuse

Over the last twenty years, many large organisations have struggled to prevent duplication of effort and an ever-growing bloated technical estate. This has been exacerbated by relentless and constant change across technology tools, frameworks, platforms, products and services.

The UK government has been no exception, and at the Sprint 15 conference in February 2015, 'Government as a Platform' (GaaP) was announced with a goal of developing common digital service components for government departments and the wider public sector. Delivering that vision to date is the Government Digital Service (GDS) with GOV.UK, VERIFY, PAY, NOTIFY and PaaS (Platform as a Service).

This work provides a beacon for all large organisations wishing to be more effective and generate more efficiency. But it is still commonplace to hear of many failed attempts to share and reuse technology components in organisations. And in government there is little success in departments outside of GDS.

As part of our digital capability and maturity building offering, we have been on a mission to help promote reuse and sharing and avoid further failures. This has led to defining a model of how reusable digital things can be shared between services. This identifies clear criteria for reuse, how to fit with standards and policies, such as the Digital Service Standard and the Technology Code of Practice in government.

We refined this model by working with the Cabinet Office leading to new insights such as how the GaaP initiative sits within a much wider context of digital reuse across government. Also that the adoption of components centrally created by GDS and the potential for more decentralised creation and operation of these components is affected by organisational wide activities and a culture of reuse, or lack of it.

We then identified the interventions needed in organisation for widespread provision of technology through sharing and reuse, they are:

  • actively driving a culture of reuse in cross-organisation communities and networks,
  • use proportionate governance for different forms of reuse from light collective governance to formal central control,
  • provide appropriate use of incentives to establish and reward reuse behaviours,
  • evolve towards the marketplace driving progressive commoditisation, and
  • mature towards consistent experiences both for end users of services that employ service components and for client service teams as they adopt reusable components.

For government these interventions are now needed to realise the outcomes targeted in the UK's 2017-2020 Government Transformation Strategy of shared platforms, components and reusable business capabilities. The model identifies how decentralised departments can contribute and share common components, when and where centralised provision is essential, and how the wider industry and external suppliers can play a part too.

This approach helps justify and drive investment in sharing and reuse within any organisation, evolves how digital services are delivered, and ultimately how an organisation works.