Last year an Annual Skills Survey here in DH concluded that about 20% of our staff considered themselves below ‘basic capability’ at digital stuff (with basic being defined as Level 7 on the Government Digital Strategy’s scale of inclusion). So either there’s a chronic lack of self-confidence here in the Department, or there’s some trouble afoot for us here in the Digital Team.
Fearing the latter, we set about forming a plan to boost the capability of everyone in the Department. Our target: to get all staff up to level 7. Given only two of us currently work on digital strategy, that’s a fairly big ask, so we decided on a plan which would utilise our Digital Champion Network to deadly effect...
- The Plan
We needed to create some kind of tool that would assist everyone, across a vast spectrum of levels, and enable us to do some kind of reporting at the end to be sure capability had gone up. In the end, we decided on calling it our Digital Passport, which kind of does what it says on the tin- it aims to put everyone in a position to ‘travel’ up our digital scale of inclusion. Ultimately, this should improve efficiency, engagement and skills for all members of the Department, no matter what their role.
- The Execution
We decided to break our tool down into key themes we feel everyone needs to know about:
- Digital DH- why digital is crucial to us here in the health and care system, and the opportunities it affords us
- Tools- a breakdown of the open internet tools (like Google Drive, Trello, Eventbrite etc) that we can use to improve the way we work
- Users- the importance of a user-centred approach when developing anything, from policy to operations to HR to…well, everything.
- Content- how to write stuff for the web (the key is NOT to write it like a massive consultation)
- Security- how to be safe online, and reassurance about what we as civil servants can, should, can’t and absolutely must not do
- Agile- some basic training on a different method of project management, which encourages reflexivity and adaptivity
Finally, we designed a self-assessment for everyone to take at the end (and, as we always practice what we preach, we did this using open internet tools like Google Forms, Google Analytics and WordPress).
Once we’d got a rough prototype of the tool together, we decided to send it out for initial testing with our Digital Champions. We gave them a fortnight to have a go and submit feedback. We then compiled their results and this is what we got (NB due to some results not being disclosed, %s as displayed are not always in line with number of responses!):
- About 60% of our champions responded, and 84.5% of them passed.
- A few topics in particular had much lower scores though, even from our Champions, so we'll be taking a look into those areas.
- On the whole, engagement was good across the department’s different divisions and their constituent Digital Champions:
- Participants did well with what we felt was the hardest question; only around 6% of people got it wrong (although they did get it drastically wrong!):
- The question which got the most wrong answers was the one about writing web content. The ideal answer was b) written with the web in mind, but clearly many participants still felt that web content should be written much like a formal written government document.
- Most participants had understood that the user is central to a digital approach to product or service development, and is at the heart of the new Open Policy Making agenda as promoted by Cabinet Office. Nonetheless, a few still felt that the end product (i.e. the solution) should be the main focus, rather than the user (or problem).
- Participants had a good understanding of both the opportunities and risks presented by digital as a medium of working remotely, and most answered correctly (selecting the first 3 answers). Notably however, a few still felt it was acceptable to share all information using open tools, whereas the Passport highlights this is only an appropriate approach with non-sensitive information, which is not restricted.
- Most participants recognised the potential that social media platforms represent, yet a small minority still considered them ‘a potential security nightmare’ and no better than standard press releases.
- There was a great variety in answers to the question on which online tools are appropriate to use, and we will be taking another look at the wording of the question to make it clearer. (when in fact all bar one of the options are appropriate for sharing non-sensitive DH data). Alarmingly, only 52% of respondents recognised that Wikileaks is NOT appropriate for sharing government information, suggesting a need to emphasise this message in a clearer way in the next iteration of the Passport.
4. Feedback from Testing
The main messages were often contradictory, highlighting very different needs even within our Digital Champion Network. But the salient points were:
- more detailed and improved analysis to include grade and role, allowing us to see differences in digital capability on a more granular level than just by division
- clearer use of hyperlinks
- lack of clarity in some wording of questions
- dislike of use of humour, sometimes perceived as ‘cynicism’
- some felt it was too simple/ obvious
- others felt ‘more hand-holding’ was needed, and that digital could be ‘daunting’, so wanted clearer explanation right from the most basic level
- more context/work-based examples of how to put this into practice
- improve general look & feel of interface (‘text is too small’/ ‘text is too big’ etc). If possible show progress through site, or make a more linear process
- provide a pass/fail mark as well as an actual certificate after taking the test
- list pros and cons of digital tools
- be clearer/ more reassuring on security policy, which might be perceived as contradictory to other guidance available in DH
- perhaps include online video ‘how-to’ content for tools
Main considerations are summarised in this wordcloud:
5. So what next?
So now for the fun bit! We’ve been reflecting on the comments we got from our Champions, and also on the highs and lows of the test, and will now be incorporating what we learnt into our next iteration. Once we’ve polished it up a bit, we’ll launch it to the rest of the Department, and it will be the Digital Champions’ responsibility to guide their colleagues through it. We might even cough up for a prize for the team/branch/division that gets through first…