Setting a new naval standard
18 November 2015 was no ordinary day for the then head of the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS), Mike Bracken. It was then he received a letter from President Obama thanking him for his assistance in setting up the United States Digital Service, which had been largely based on its UK counterpart.
Such a high profile endorsement was a testament to the success of GDS in transforming and standardising online services, particularly its efforts to pursue ‘government as a platform’. Today, ten years on from its formation, the GDS is still going strong and its Service Standard supports consistent and user-friendly end-to-end government digital services.
Organisations across government have made use of this standard to drive transformational change and their success has helped prompt the Royal Navy to seek a similar approach. The aim was to make it easier, simpler and more cost-effective to deliver the Navy’s digital and technology services, whilst also ensuring that the standards that are used are appropriate for a Defence context.
So, how’s it gotten on?

Casting off

The Navy Digital Strategy team conducted research into developing a Royal Navy Digital Service Standard (RN DSS) which could provide greater support to Defence delivery teams and which, in time, could be scaled to provide a single, coherent approach alongside a broader standards and assurance programme led by Defence Digital.
Our multi-disciplinary team embedded in the Royal Navy have been working to develop and support the adoption of the RN DSS. Having obtained feedback from service delivery teams within Navy Digital Services, the team sought to understand what, if any, additional Defence context would be needed for the new naval standard.
Overall, our findings showed a clear need for additional Defence context which could be split into five key themes:
  • Deployed settings/operational contexts
  • Security considerations
  • A blended workforce
  • Existing ways of working and processes
  • Defence dependencies

Shaping the Royal Navy Digital Service Standard

Based on the feedback, we decided to add four additional elements to the RN DSS. The additional elements were intended to support Defence users in applying the existing standard but where possible, it was kept generic to Defence in order to support the development of a cross-cutting Defence Service Standard in the future.
The first additional element we added was a ‘What it means for Defence’ box to support the interpretation of the service standard in a Defence context, such as operational deployments. It also notes where meeting the service standard might be more challenging for Royal Navy teams, or where more analysis might be needed.
The second was a set of Defence related resources pages to guide users towards Defence specific policies, standards and best practice resources. We also added points of contact – individuals from within the Royal Navy who have expertise in their designated area of the standard and that teams can reach out to for further guidance if required.
And finally an assessment checklist and sample questions were produced for all 14 points of the RN DSS at each lifecycle stage (Discovery, Alpha and so on.) These have been produced to provide additional guidance and support for teams to meet the standard and not as a mandatory test.

Compass setting

The RN DSS has gained support from senior leadership and has been welcomed by service teams across the organisation. It is now mandatory to apply the RN DSS to digital projects in the Royal Navy and it is also being used in service assessments.
We continue to liaise regularly with Defence Digital and other Front Line Commands to ensure alignment as digital delivery matures across Defence and we’re looking at how we transfer our learning to the rest of Defence.
While we’re at the start of this journey, our pan-Defence team are striving to meet this ambition – watch this (digital) space.

About the author
Sophie Bennett is a Senior Data Analyst at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

Recommended reading

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Sophie Bennett

Senior Data Analyst, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence