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The Digital Archimedes

Matti Schneider
November 16, 2015

The Digital Archimedes

“Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the whole world.”, said Archimedes. One might not aim at moving the whole world, but changing corporate culture sometimes feels like an equally challenging task.
This session will present how a small team of Lean Startup and agile practitioners can use their methods and values as a lever to move bureaucratic mastodons.

Matti Schneider

November 16, 2015
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Transcript

  1. The Digital Archimedes
    The Digital Archimedes: large-scale organisational transformation through lean, agile and shiny toys.
    Central governments are probably today’s largest and most change-adverse entities one could think of. During this session, I will walk you through several initiatives for
    updating governments throughout the world, and we will observe the many similarities they share. Metaphorically, we’ll uncover the levers modernizing teams use, and the
    places they stand on, to move the whole weight of bureaucracies.

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  2. Matti Schneider
    I’ve studied software engineering and I’ve made startups, I’ve studied design and I’ve made products, I’ve studied anthropology and I’ve made agile teams. Basically, I come from
    the Internet.
    I’m now a Core team member at the Incubateur de Services Numériques, the Digital Services Incubator, a new task force from the French Prime Minister Office for Modernisation
    of Public Action.
    I am here today on my own, and views I will express are only mine and not necessarily those of my current employer.

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  3. 2011 2013 2014
    We’ll focus on three actors: UK (Government Digital Service), US (GSA, 18F), FR (SGMAP, Digital Services Incubator).
    They are not the only ones, but they are the most accessible (well-known context, talkative, in common languages). Estonia should be mentioned though, as they are probably
    the most advanced e-government at the moment, with most public services available in digital form and hardware authentication of citizens.
    All these services (now ~200, ~160, ~40) started as very small experiments on a specific product that needed to be thought as natively digital (gov.uk, healthcare.gov,
    data.gouv.fr). These products were made like a startup within the State.

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  4. Startups State
    (not to scale)
    Usually, when I say “a startup within the State”, people hear “oxymoron”.
    I’m told the two entities produce two very different things. It’s true, and it’s legitimate: they both have to handle very different constraints.
    But they do have a common trait: they exist to create and manage services for a set of users. They simply do it with very different communication and interaction ways. And it
    happens that one of these ways is more common for citizens in 2015.
    How come it is so easy to buy a used computer from a foreign country, follow its trajectory across the globe and get a text half an hour before delivery… and so hard to know
    when my immigration card will be done? Which of those has the greatest impact on my life??

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  5. Startups State
    (not to scale)
    By applying methods and values of the digital startups, the State becomes able to build digital products that are at least as good as their private counterparts.

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  6. Here is a first example: the official UK government website.
    Everything government, consolidated in one place. Search-first. All silos, removed.
    The aim is really to add a digital layer of simplicity over the complex administrative truth.

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  7. M E S - A I D E S . G O U V. F R
    O N L I N E C O M P U TAT I O N O F F R E N C H S O C I A L B E N E F I T S
    Here is another example: a web application that helps citizens know which benefits they are eligible to.
    The base friction is that of “non-recours” to social benefits. That is, not claiming benefits people have a right to! In 2008, 80% of people eligible to financial help for health
    insurance (“ACS”) did not ask for it. 68% of low-income workers who were eligible to a complement of revenue did not ask for it.
    After several months of research, the answer was to consolidate all forms in a single claim file. However, many administrations are involved in giving the benefits. And each of
    them has different rules for giving them! So the final paper form ended up with a dozen sheets and thus a terrible user experience.
    That’s when a State Startup started incubating.

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  8. This application is available at mes-aides.gouv.fr since october 2014.

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  9. It simply asks for a few basic information, such as your age and nationality.

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  10. Same questions for your children and spouse, if you have any.

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  11. You then give in some information about your housing conditions, and your income.

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  12. And then, under 6 minutes for a first-time user, you get a list of all the benefits the family you described is eligible to, with computed amounts.
    How could such a public service be created under six months, and improved over the last 12 months?

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  13. 2 weeks
    Iterations
    2 weeks
    By making it public very early to collect feedback, and by continuously improving the product based on that feedback.
    Every two weeks, improvements are delivered in a fully transparent way.
    Transparent both in delivery (no user experience disruption, small incremental changes) and in roadmap: every task worked on is publicly visible, as are all the discussions that
    lead to the choices made.

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  14. 2 weeks
    Iterations
    2 weeks
    waffle.io/sgmap/mes-aides-api
    By making it public very early to collect feedback, and by continuously improving the product based on that feedback.
    Every two weeks, improvements are delivered in a fully transparent way.
    Transparent both in delivery (no user experience disruption, small incremental changes) and in roadmap: every task worked on is publicly visible, as are all the discussions that
    lead to the choices made.

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  15. 2 weeks 2 weeks
    Iterations
    ?
    Indeed, the real question is: how is decided what will be done in the coming fortnight?
    The product team makes choices based on its workload, opportunities and partnerships. But also from information collected from different stakeholders.

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  16. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

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  17. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  18. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  19. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  20. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  21. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  22. Collaboration
    ?
    First of all, the end users. Their needs and uses are collected through user testing. These user tests can be either made to challenge or validate hypotheses; or on a more
    exploratory setting, to discover possible improvements and new use-cases. That’s how user experience is improved.
    Obviously, the administrations are actively engaged to participate in the evaluation of computations. To help in this endeavor, an acceptance testing tool was created to allow
    one to create tests right from the end-user interface. Simply click a button at the end of a simulation to suggest a correction in the presented results. That’s how correctness is
    improved.
    Finally, “mediators” are federated. People who help citizens understand their rights are critical to the mission, as not everyone is able to use digital tools. However, such tools
    can empower humans to help other humans. All interested mediators are invited to a monthly meeting, held in a different town each time, to both collect feedback on their uses
    and disseminate best practices.
    Ok so, you might be thinking “yes but zis is ze French, of course they’re focused on their benefits and inclusive blah blah”.

    View full-size slide

  23. gov.uk/design-principles
    But this way of working is common throughout governments’ digital services.
    The asterisk is very important: user needs, not government needs.
    The GDS team created a fundamental piece of work: the Service Design Manual. Aimed at agencies, but really useful for everyone involved in creating any kind of service, even
    internal.

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  24. agilemanifesto.org
    Actually, all this has been part of the digital makers DNA for more than a decade.
    Build it, build it fast, build it together.
    And this “build it together” part is always more important.

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  25. government.github.com/community
    Most of the code produced by these groups is available for free under open-source licenses, on platforms such as GitHub (GitHub offers repositories for collaborative code
    editing).

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  26. embauche.sgmap.fr
    Another example, with the same ways of working, on a different topic.
    Here, an embeddable widget that computes the cost of hiring an employee, with all taxes and refunds included.
    I was responsible for the discovery and alpha phases of this Startup. The initial friction was to simplify the edition of payrolls. However, the possible solution were too risky to
    deploy under six months. Thus, pivoted on a first step that would more easily get interest: cost of hiring.

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  27. This widget is very simple so it can be embedded in any layout and made available to employers in their ecosystem. The aim is to solve a friction, not to create a brand new
    portal with partial information.

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  28. Here is the widget embedded in the website of a private startup that helps SMEs make their business plan.

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  29. The first public version of this tool was produced under 6 months and one full-time person.

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  30. Free & Open-Source software
    github.com/sgmap/cout-embauche
    What’s important to understand is that this tool can be used for free by any entity (administration, association, commercial…). It allows to create a digital common that makes
    law computable.
    However, distributing for free doesn’t mean “without any counterpart”. The monetary counterpart is replaced by a contribution counterpart: every improvement that is made by a
    user must be offered back to the community. Those that are found useful for all are then merged and made available to everyone.
    This is how the development of the more exotic rules can scale.
    It is of course easier for public institutions, but even private actors cannot ignore the value of open-source and collaboration. Very often, there’s overestimation of the
    competitive advantage of keeping everything secret, and underestimation of the added value of openness and sharing to find the best solution to industry-wide problems.

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  31. apientreprise.fr
    Each of those products are thus mainly an “appeal product” for APIs built to make law computable and open doors between the administration and the outside world.
    These products grant time and budget to develop APIs, leverage to negotiate openness with administrations, and raise public awareness.
    Same everywhere: api.data.gov, Digital Service Manual…
    This is how we both empower the ecosystem and spread innovation: even if reluctant at first, the administrations soon realize the untapped potential of exposing their data and
    services.

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  32. Digital Archimedes…
    1. Start with a friction.
    2. Learn, make, repeat.
    3. Build together.
    4. Take advantage of uncertainty.
    Nothing magical, only a different approach to risk management. The administration is usually focused on reducing uncertainty. We accept uncertainty and use it to, somehow
    paradoxically, reduce risk.
    There’s an increased risk of execution, but you will know it much earlier, and thus decrease the risk of delivering something no one really cares about, or delivering something
    that made sense two years ago but is already obsolete.
    So, the risk of failure is accepted. At small scales, iterations may fail. But even startups themselves may “fail”. However, failure is mitigated through openness.

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  33. Startups State
    (not to scale)
    This is how one gives the ability to States to build digital products that improve public services. I showed how focusing on the vision, iterating, collaborating and embracing
    uncertainty allow for great products to emerge with little cost.
    And I showed how one can use transparency and openness to make sure value is consistently delivered while still taking risks.

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  34. Startups
    (not to scale)
    State
    The final part is about spreading around that culture.
    This is the last part of the strategy. The “shiny toys”, all these products, are here to show what can be achieved with digital methods and values throughout the administration.
    Then, the teams that created these products are made available for giving a helping hand to others throughout the organisation.
    GDS: “we’ve made gov.uk, but now we’re working with the rest of government…”
    18F: “creating cultural change by working with teams inside agencies…”
    SGMAP: helping in recruiting and “incubating” products for other agencies.

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  35. Thanks!
    Q&A
    Matti
    Schneider
    @matti_sg
    @matti_sg_fr
    creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
    That’s how the digital archimedes change bureaucracies around the world today: digital methods and values as a lever, and using their previous achievements to find new places
    to stand.

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