Most IT models of the past have a bad reputation for being lengthy, expensive, and out of pace with the rapid technological changes of recent years.

But a small (and growing) number of public sector IT reformers are refusing to accept the old ways: they are fundamentally transforming their technology services to modern, commodity IT at up to a tenth of the cost. They are doing this by adopting a user needs focused approach, designing before buying, using or reusing commodity and open standards services and encouraging “continuous” competition wherever possible.

However, an entirely new model requires a completely new way of working. And that’s why those early adopters need to share their experiences and inspire others to cut the billions of pounds wasted every year on inefficient IT.

In short, they need to work out loud.

No one has the time or money to wait years for expensive projects to fail and then try and learn from the lessons. Continual transparency is key and central to that is the concept of working out loud.

Working out loud involves being unprecedentedly open about what you are doing as you do it. According to social collaboration expert Bryce Williams, it boils down to narrating your experiences and making them observable to others. The principle of working out loud applies internally to organisations who want fast, iterative models of project delivery; and externally between organisations to enable them to constantly learn, improve and evolve.

But how?

Firstly it’s about making everything you are doing (and how you are doing it) visible all the time to anyone in your organisation who wants to contribute. Collaborative on-line tools can help make the process more open, but creating a culture where people feel safe narrating their work and making it visible is far more important. Although it can at first feel strange to regularly discuss work in progress to an open audience, the principle is not as scary or fraught with danger as you might think. Our experience has been that people are more likely to offer constructive help than criticism, those that criticise often become supporters and valuable advisors when given a voice. The benefits of creating a platform that encourages constant improvements at speed, hugely outweighs any initial feelings of self-consciousness.

The next step is to extend this process outside the organisation so that other public sector bodies can also see what you do. And finally making your work fully visible to the public.

Working out loud in the G-Cloud.

The development of the G-Cloud programme itself was an example of working out loud. It was iteratively developed by its users, buyers and suppliers. G-Cloud uptake will be developed in the same way. Despite the programme originally being resourced by just a handful of people, working out loud enabled the G-Cloud team to amplify the message of transformation and widely engage anyone who wanted to join-in. Hat tip Foden Grealy, you can re watch the original #gcloudjoinin video here!

To the next level.

Now it’s time to take the message to the next level through those who are investing in that change. Early adopters need to start shouting about their experiences.

Its great that some people have started to work out loud by sharing updates on blogs and publishing code — moves that are reaping benefits. But working out loud doesn’t stop there. It’s about generating more engagement by sharing strategies, roadmaps, and emerging design work to maximise collective talent. It’s for everyone in public sector IT, those delivering the new as well as those dealing with legacy systems. It’s also about sharing trials as well as tribulations — the community will likely add value to both.

Having a large group of great people with a wide pool of experience to draw upon is more valuable than departments and organisation-based networks of people with the same perspective. Give as much as you take, take as much as you need and everyone will benefit many fold.

Change is always harder than sticking with the status quo, but a small group of committed people is all that’s needed to make it happen. At Rainmaker we are committed to taking working out loud to the next level in conjunction with as many people as we can get to join in.

Rainmaker’s top tips for working out loud.

  • Get the tools right, help people to get comfortable, accept it wont be perfect.
  • Don’t limit it to one tool, but be careful of having too many.
  • Encourage working out loud constantly, but mandate a minimum daily interaction.
  • Lead by example. Show seniors working out loud and getting it ‘wrong’ i.e. not being right/perfect first time and taking on feedback from the entire team.
  • Celebrate working out loud success, no matter who it was in the team or what they are doing.
  • Don’t be scared — dive right in — you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


When will we work out loud? Soon! — Bryce Williams
Narration of work — Harold Jarche
Working out loud — Mark Foden
The Year Without Pants — Scott Berkun