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Playbook to shape UK public sector digital, data and tech projects published

Public sector bodies in the UK have been issued with new guidance to help them deliver digital, data and technology projects.

The digital, data and technology playbook is a wide-ranging document that UK central government departments and arms-length bodies will be expected to comply with or otherwise explain why they have taken a different approach. The Cabinet Office has recommended that other public sector bodies take account of the playbook when commencing digital, data and technology projects too.

Simon Colvin of Pinsent Masons, who specialises in digital transformation projects in the public sector, said: “This playbook pulls together lots of best practice processes to ensure commercial teams and others involved in delivering major technology projects within the UK public sector set off on the right path in those projects from the outset and can manage delivery of those projects effectively through their different stages.”

“Flexibility is built into the playbook. For example, it does not mandate one single delivery model but instead recommends that contracting authorities to focus on outcomes when selecting a suitable delivery model – whether insourcing, outsourcing, or a ‘bridge’ or ‘borrow’ model of buying delivery from the market. It is clear from the playbook that the government supports more collaborative relationships between contracting authorities and suppliers and that it is also keen that sustainability and social value factors weigh into decision making,” he said.

Themes emphasised in the playbook include the importance of good governance over projects and effective contract management. Contract authorities are also encouraged to embrace an ‘open source’ approach to software development and support principles of open data and interoperability of systems.

The playbook also recognises that contractual terms for using cloud-based solutions can differ from those contained in traditional sourcing contracts. Public sector organisations are urged to have a strategy in place for managing changes to cloud supplier terms and conditions.

Contracting authorities are further encouraged to conduct a cybersecurity assessment on prospective suppliers, adopt an agile, iterative approach to development of new digital, data and technology services, and embrace testing and piloting schemes prior to the roll-out of new services. Colvin said: “It is good to see clear guidance on these key areas as they require particular focus for digital and data development projects.”

The government is also keen to ensure, through implementation of the playbook, that public sector bodies manage risks associated with ‘legacy IT’. Particular reference is made to the need for exit planning to stop legacy IT building up.

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