Before I joined the Department of Health I sat down with Tim in the Skipton House canteen and he talked me through the DH digital organogram. He explained that there were at least two teams responsible for corporate digital communication in the department - including teams in Comms and IT - and that there were no formal links between them.
I joined the digital bit of the Communications Directorate who had desks on the second floor of Skipton House. Upstairs in the Information Services Directorate sat a separate digital publishing team. Four weeks ago we merged some of the functions that were previously separate. We now no longer have separate digital communication and digital publishing teams, we just have a digital team.
It remains to be seen whether this makes our digital operation more effective or not. There are fewer people overall with digital jobs in DH than there were before. But it feels to me as though we are already benefiting from having more knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm in one place.
Others in Whitehall and beyond are undergoing similar changes to their digital operations at the moment. Some are creating centres of digital expertise, others are mainstreaming digital skills within the organisation. Some have digital teams working alongside those who provide IT services, others are based within marketing or press functions. Some digital teams see it as their main role to provide technology platforms, others to run engagement campaigns.
I don't think there's a right or wrong way to do it. Digital objectives just need to match the objectives of the organisation, and these objectives can vary hugely, even within Whitehall. It probably doesn't matter where digital people sit in an organisation, so long as they are working together to deliver the same thing.
In our case, the DH digital operation (Comms and IT) had been organised to provide a publishing platform, and we had an organogram to match. The digital teams had skills and knowledge that nobody else in the department had, understanding how complex CMS templates could be used to deliver high volumes of information in a consistent way. And they had enough collective man-hours to absorb work, and to keep the publishing machine moving.
As a new member of staff, with a job description that said I should lead on digital communication for the department, I felt a little uneasy at first. I didn't understand why there were others doing digital jobs that were not part of the digital team that I was joining.
Since then, our digital objectives have changed to reflect the changing objectives of the department. We still need to service the publishing machine, but now we aspire to run engagement exercises, provide digital products to help policy making, and more.
The changes that we made to our corporate website also acted as a catalyst for organisational change. By switching out Stellent for WordPress as our primary content management tool, we changed the processes by which web content was created and published. Editors no longer needed the same in-depth knowledge of the CMS to publish content, it was possible to publish more quickly, and it was much easier for us to devolve the act of publishing. The day-long CMS training course for new editors was replaced with a 1 minute (I timed it) session showing staff how to click on "add new" and type in a box.
Digital tools and techniques are constantly changing, and the value of digital teams to an organisation is changing too. In DH, we have an increasing need for a broad range of complementary digital skills, so that our digital operation can reflect these changes and keep helping to deliver the big objectives of the organisation. We've taken the plunge and put more of these skills in the same room.