The Standards Assurance Service (SAS) ensures that government spending on technology is proportionate and directed at programmes and projects that meet user needs and organisational goals.
The SAS is now recruiting! We hear from two new team members: one who joined from within the Civil Service and one who joined from the private sector, on their own experiences working in Standards Assurance.
Part of the appeal was joining the Government Digital Service (GDS) and contributing to the impressive and ambitious change already under way in government.
In particular, being part of a team that saved the UK Government £391m last financial year alone, showed not only what good work was being done, but also indicated what kind of activity could be carried out. All of which is not only beneficial to the taxpayer, but also rewarding in terms of contributing to securing those savings.
It's about more than saving money
More important than simply making savings (not that that is simple), is seeing capability and activity in government growing: from delivery, to technology options, to procurement routes and more. This is transformation on a massive scale and being able to contribute, in some small way, to the technology choices used by one of the top five digital governments, is a pretty good thing to be part of.
It is my role to work with departments, primarily the Ministry of Justice and Cabinet Office, to understand what activity is to be carried out, why, how and at what cost, and to help secure approval of the funds for that activity. That activity could be a digital service such as the Office of the Public Guardian’s Make a Lasting Power of Attorney, or the delivery of technology to support an activity, such as case management systems, or secure information exchange.
To guide me in that process, I have built on the skills I've developed from having worked in the private sector. Whilst this is my first role in the public sector and it’s been an interesting learning curve, I've shown that my skills are transferable.
Empathy is key
Having been on the delivery side of projects in previous roles, I understand the pressures that teams are under to ‘get things live’. It is my role to help departments navigate the processes that ensure effective spend of public money.
However at the same time, I have to be comfortable with challenging activity if value for money is difficult to demonstrate, or if delivery timescales seem unrealistic. To do that effectively, building up relationships is crucial, both within departments and across the wider GDS, in order to demonstrate that by collaborating, the best possible outcome can be achieved.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that it isn't always easy . Change is hard, for all involved. Departments and agencies are keen to do the right thing, but transition from the established way of doing things to the new, is challenging. It is part of my role to support teams in trying to adhere to the Technology Code of Practice and the Service Standard. The two sets of guidelines that have been agreed across government to deliver good technology and digital projects.
I've learnt a lot in the past almost-year and it’s been fascinating to have even a small insight into the machinery of government.
Being an existing Civil Servant in the Home Office, I was aware that GDS sits at the heart of the government's digital universe, and there is huge scope to make positive changes on a large scale, ultimately to the benefit of UK citizens.
I had a number of meetings within the Home Office where people from GDS attended, and I was always impressed with the scale and breadth of their knowledge and thinking. I was also aware of their reputation as a 'sexy' brand where stuff got done and wanted to see if this was really true!
A view from the centre
I saw the senior technology advisor role on Civil Service jobs - the first port of call for most jobs in the civil service. What struck my curiosity was the scope of the role: it was huge! To be sitting in the epicentre, but then interacting with a whole range of departments means you truly get to see the full breadth of services and operations that central government undertakes. Beyond seeing a lot, the job enables you to influence everything you see as well, which is a lot of responsibility and a great opportunity!
I work with a number of departments, and within those departments I work closely with individual projects right through up to senior leadership level. What I advise on varies too: delivery, architecture, technology choices, digital capability growth, strategy development, procurement/commercial are just a few!
GDS is all about trust and empowerment so be prepared to get stuck in and put yourself forwards. There is also a fantastic network of very skilled people to talk to and who will support you.
This job is all about helping to enable positive change, and bring responsibility for delivery and service design back into the Civil Service. Saving a bucket load of money is just a by-product of this.
Sometimes, you are the only GDS colleague in the room with a department, so having that confidence to challenge assumptions, drawing on your own knowledge and experience to influence project and programmes (and even departmental strategy) to embark down a positive path.
I think it’s as close to an internal consultancy role as you can get in the civil service, and the remit is massive! You are continually learning, seeing new things and when you’re able to join the dots across government as a whole, you really are in a privileged position.
All in all this is a really interesting and fast paced role, and you’ll learn a lot! I’d highly recommend anyone with a strong digital and technology knowledge, plus a head for strategy, to apply.
If the senior technology advisor role sounds like your kind of challenge you can find the full job specifications on Civil Service jobs
We’ll be interviewing on a rolling basis throughout the recruitment period so if you are interested don’t delay!
If you have any questions about the recruitment process contact the GDS recruitment team