This article is part of a monthly blog series from Chris Chant, who was responsible for setting the strategy for the use of cloud computing across the public sector.

So you’re an organisation in the midst of digital transformation and the day has finally arrived. You’re going to start using cloud computing.

Cloud computing goes hand in glove with implementing user-centric digital services. But it’s not such a new paradigm. Put simply, it’s all about changing the way you work.

G-Cloud allows just the fast, low-cost iterative approach that’s needed for transforming public services. Indeed it’s why Government Digital Service (GDS) is one of G-Cloud’s best customers. But where and how do you begin?

The first question to consider is do you really buy products and service in a user- centric fashion? And do your staff?

The second is: does your organisation understand basic iterative — or Agile — development? If not, one of the first practical steps you can take is to talk to users. This helps to understand the design of your product or service before you buy it, or if you plan to take on development yourself, before you build it.

Build something, try it out on customers, watch how they use the service, get feedback, then quickly improve the service. And repeat.

There are plenty of great examples of easy-to-use digital services that have been developed in this way — any of your staff who use the internet will see it every day reflected in eBay and Amazon, among others. If your staff are worth keeping, they’ll get it.

Of course not all environments are appropriate for such an iterative approach. Take air traffic control for example, where only a right-first-time approach will do. Fortunately these instances are rare in the public sector setting.

It’s also important to ask yourself ‘do I have the right digital skills?’ How can you tell? Digitally skilled people expect technology to support what they do, at the speed they need to do it, and not get in the way.

As with all significant change, you’ll find that you won’t have all the people you need to achieve your aim. Some of your team will need to be re-skilled, but bear in mind you’ll need a plan for that and you’ll need to set about it quickly.

Make sure you have the capability to design, buy or build, deliver at pace and iterate. Interims or support from small companies (there are plenty listed in Lot 4 of G-Cloud) is likely to be necessary while you develop in-house teams. Dragging out every bit of skills transfer from your staff will be essential.

All of this must be done by ‘working out loud’. For more on this, see Tim Hanley’s post on the Rainmaker blog. In a nutshell, this is about making everything you do (and how you are doing it) visible to anyone in your organisation who wants to contribute. Collaborative online software helps but more importantly, it’s about creating a culture where people feel comfortable openly sharing their work.

The final step is to extend this process beyond the organisation so that other public sector bodies and the public can also see what you do. The development of the G-Cloud programme itself was an example of working out loud, iteratively developed by its users, buyers and suppliers.

Ok, so you get it, your organisation gets it and you have the right people. What next?

Chris Chant works with niche consultancy Rainmaker Solutions. Previously he served in a number of roles in central government including Ex-Executive Director of the G-Cloud Programme; Interim Executive Director of Government Digital Service (GDS); and Executive Director of Direct Gov and Digital Engagement in the Cabinet Office. He was responsible for the implementation of the Martha Lane-Fox report ‘Revolution not Evolution’ and launched the Alpha version of the GOV.UK website.

This is a reproduction of an article Chris Chant contributed to the Local Digital Campaign.

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