This guidance provides principles for creating a Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan (DSAP) from the perspective of the Authority. The principles are supported with explanations, recommended techniques for how to comply with each principle and real-world examples to contextualise these.
Once drafting is complete, Ofgem will consult on this guidance to then use it in relation to licence obligations for energy network price controls. To find out more about these, please visit these two following links:
Digitalisation: the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business
Public Interest: the welfare or well-being of the general public and society
Products and Services: anything that a party can offer to a market for attention, acquisition, use or consumption that could satisfy a need or want
DSAP: Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan
The Government Digital Service (GDS) provides wide-ranging support for topics relating to data and digitalisation; it gives information and methods that span all of the principles in this guidance. Of particular relevance are the following:
Prioritise providing benefits to the stakeholders who pay for the products and services and also benefits to the broader Public Interest
Ensure products and services work towards a defined vision
Take full advantage of opportunities to deliver benefits early and to iterate improvements to products and services
Make it easy to understand the products and services, the status of their delivery and how to access them
Ensure visibility about the nature and status of actions in the Digitalisation Action Plan
There is shared understanding of success and performance is measured
Coordinate with the wider ecosystem of products and services
1. Prioritise providing benefits to the stakeholders who pay for the products and services and also benefits to the broader Public Interest
It is essential that the needs of those who pay for products and services are identified, and also the needs of the broader Public Interest. Benefits to these from the delivery of each element of the DSAP must be made explicit, including for any enabling products and services that make end-user products and services possible.
The audience must be reasonably able to understand who the publisher of the DSAP thinks their stakeholders are. This means including the benefits stakeholders are seeking; their implied needs for these benefits to be gained and; how this information has defined the DSAP. The DSAP must make explicitly clear how the needs of potentially digitally excluded stakeholders have been heard and integrated.
A DSAP must gain stakeholder validation and assurance that solutions to be delivered through it (ie its products and services) are the right ones to gain the targeted benefits. The DSAP will set out a summary of stakeholder feedback, provide response and be updated accordingly.
Stakeholder Identification and characterisation
To prioritise stakeholders’ needs effectively there must first be an understanding of who the stakeholders are, what they want, what they need and what is important to them. There are wide ranging established techniques for carrying out research on these topics. Common methods are listed in the table below. For these methods source material describing good practices is readily discoverable through many channels, we have selected a few examples of such material to help characterise it in this context.
Approaches to running small group workshops are described in the GDS service manual, the links found within this GDS guidance include an insightful video provided by The Conference. The video showcases one type of risk: the possibility of stakeholders being pigeon-holed and potentially driven to becoming digitally excluded.
Digital forums have been a feature of internet technology since near its invention; They are used to communicate and engage with stakeholders virtually in an asynchronous way. This allows stakeholders and researchers to raise and respond to topics at their convenience and in the open by default. The use and benefits of current day digital forums are well described in this Discussion Board article of the Digital Practice handbook from the University of Derby.
Customer engagement metrics
Monitoring customer engagement with your products and services can provide valuable insight into your stakeholder needs. This Zendesk blog gives a useful general explanation for how they can be used. This technique has particular value in the context of complying with the Ofgem Data Best Practice guidance, which includes a requirement for data to be made available and shared, as doing so presents many opportunities to gather information and statistics about the usage of this data to learn about and improve data sharing services.
Experience maps provide a visual representation of what users do, think and feel over time, from the point they start needing a service to when they stop using it. This technique is well explained by Think With Google, who provide marketing resources for digital innovation. The GDS service manual also provides helpful information on Creating an experience map.
Spotless, a service design agency, provide a helpful contextualised explanation for developing customer experience maps in their article. They apply the technique to visualise the user journey of booking train tickets online.
Learning can be gained through sharing with equivalent organisations about understanding of stakeholders, particularly where those stakeholders overlap and there is no direct competition for products/services. This can help socialise knowledge and best practices to ultimately better inform your understanding of the stakeholders to your organisation. This can also be beneficial as part of coordination with the wider ecosystem of products and services as described in Principle 7.
The digital world is relevant to our lives and is growing more important. It is vital that data and digitalisation works for everybody, including those stakeholders who for whatever reason face greater barriers to benefiting from digital and data services. For inclusive digitalisation to succeed it is vital that providers of services understand the sheer diversity of views, perceptions and circumstances of their stakeholders.
The 2015 explorative research by the Royal College of Art as part of the European SuslabNWE project have demonstrated the complexity of capturing the range and divergence and commonality of peoples' perceptions through their research and publication Drawing Energy: Exploring Perceptions of the Invisible. Works such as this demonstrates the complexity of articulating and understanding peoples' needs and perspectives on intangible subject matter, such as energy and such as data and the digitalisation of products and services. The challenge of capturing, understanding and integrating the needs of all stakeholders into DSAPs must not be underestimated; if stakeholders are not properly understood, a DSAP is unlikely to be successful.
The British Standards Institution has highlighted the importance of digital inclusion in its guide to managing to inclusive design. The GDS Technology Code of Practice and its information on Making things Accessible and inclusive provides expectations on government services that are readily applicable to other organisations. In particular, it specifies recognised standards for digital services to comply with to ensure their accessibility and inclusivity.
The below table characterises some specific techniques for helping ensure digital inclusion is delivered, however, the challenge of ensuring digital inclusion must not be underestimated. This is a topic that the whole energy sector and economy in general will have to continue learning about and improving its capability at delivering.
This Government article explains how setting up popup research in locations where people with low digital skills already go for support can help you capture opinions of these groups. For example libraries, day centres or education centres.
In this context a “pair” is often a user with few digital skills and a friend, relative or another person they trust to help them. Recruiting pairs can be easier than participants with low digital skills on their own.
Through pairing it can be made easier to reach out to and learn from hard to reach stakeholders. The Lambeth Digital Buddies scheme exemplifies this approach, it organises volunteers to give support to other people in the local area to help them engage with digital services.
Offering targeted engagement, products and services for stakeholders can mitigate the risk of their becoming digitally excluded.
Age UK provides services and digital guides targeted for older people on their website. Dedicated business solutions are available for ensuring the availability of targeted services too. Oscar senior is one such example which provides video calling solutions for the elderly.
ProjectsByIf publishes its Data Patterns Catalogue. This information usefully showcases the wide range of service methods available through which stakeholders can choose their preferred method of access to data products (and also permissions for how (or not) their data can be used). Different stakeholder prefer different types of service this demonstrates an array of practical opportunities available for meeting those needs.
Summarising and sharing research
Summarising and sharing research with stakeholders allows for them to feedback and validate whether their needs have been correctly understood. Having a validated understanding of your stakeholders creates an easier and coherent means of explaining why your chosen products and services have been prioritised for delivery. This assurance provides a stronger basis on which to deliver the DSAP and ensures a common understanding of the ultimate goals of the DSAP.
There is no one singular best approach to summarising and playing back user research to stakeholders and adopting a range of techniques can help when targeting a variety of stakeholders. We have listed common techniques in the table below, but as above, there are a wealth of resources and channels available for learning more about these techniques.
User personas are short summaries that represent stakeholder segments. They are the distillation of research about stakeholders, including information such as expressed needs, pain points and quotes that capture the essence of their priorities.
The usability.gov site by the US federal government provides a wide range of support for the development of digital services, including good practices to follow when creating user personas.
In the energy sector, an example of user research being summarised in the form of user personas and then shared openly is the Regen Local Energy Data Innovation research that was conducted on behalf of Innovate UK. Equivalently, the research carried out by ONS for BEIS includes user personas and user journeys for stakeholders with needs for energy data visibility. This work is published on the Ofgem website.
Using infographics illustrative images that combine data, text and images in a cohesive design is a long-standing way of providing clear and succinct explanation, this can readily be applied to summarising understanding of stakeholders.
Audio and video media
Pre-recorded content and animations available on-demand for stakeholders convey information through more than just words. Imagery, tone and human emotion offer additional channels of communication. These can also be an effective way of sharing soundbites of opinions and needs from stakeholders directly and not only from the organisation authoring the DSAP.
Microsoft use animations to demonstrate to embed their understanding of stakeholders' needs into their advertising. Here their promotion of their product, Office 365, does just that. This video from the Energy Networks Association is another example. They use a short animation to describe their Pathways project to stakeholders. Similarly, the UKPN DSAP has been published with an accompanying audio podcast to supplement its written strategy.
Tables, graphs, statistics and interactive dashboards
Summary information presented in a structured and approachable format can provide stakeholders with key metrics that both show them the information that underpins a DSAP and in the best of cases also enables the stakeholder to explore that information for themselves.
An interactive dashboard offers an advanced version of presenting these types of information. The UK government’s data dashboard for the Corona virus is an example of a self-service tool that allows everyone to gain a common understanding of stakeholders, while also offering some ability for people to explore the information in their own way. Similarly, Microsoft uses an interactive dashboard to track global market trends on this webpage.
Validation of research
Summarising and sharing research is a steppingstone enabler to allowing research about stakeholders to be validated with the stakeholders themselves, but accomplishing this requires two-way communication and feedback loops between the author of the DSAP and those stakeholders. Additionally, that feedback can only realise stakeholder benefits when learning resulting from it actually influence and change DSAP activities. It is essential that feedback is factored into the ongoing iterative updates to the DSAP.
Information gained from validation can also supplement traditional direct financial considerations and create stakeholder-oriented metrics as business value measures. By capturing the voice of stakeholders, organisations can identify stakeholder insights, particularly those that can help define or augment their planned activities. This also makes the outcomes more tangible as it provides a framework to assess the value of uncertain opportunities in the innovation pipeline.
The techniques described above, in the table in the “Stakeholder Identification and characterisation” section, are readily re-usable for gathering feedback on DSAPs. Below, we have listed additional techniques that can also be beneficial for validation:
Direct bilateral communication
Meetings, phone calls, emails and online chat services are all highly personalised ways of gathering feedback. These can be a vehicle for implementing other techniques, (eg engagement with interviews or surveys), but are also effective at gaining feedback on specific issues. While this tends to be a resource-intensive method for conducting research, it can play a significant role with important stakeholders and with stakeholders who are otherwise hard to reach by other means.
Applying scientific method
Particularly important topics and/or highly controllable user journeys might benefit from applying robust scientific method for instance, A/B testing.
A/B testing is where stakeholders are shown variants of the same product/service to test preferences. This process is well described by Facebook as part of advertising services they offer.
Similarly, in the article Using data to build a better help screen by Monzo they have a section called How do experiments work? Itdescribes how they have used A/B testing to optimise their help screen.
All of these above examples, and A/B testing in general, are potentially too detailed for a DSAP, however, they are included here to demonstrate the potential benefits of systematic testing of products and services and in particular to showcase how data gathered from existing products and services can be used to gain insight from stakeholders about how to improve them. This act of re-using data to improve offerings itself can be an impactful component of an effective DSAP.
Independent experts can provide valuable validation of product or service investments. These can be particularly valuable when dealing with significant uncertainty about needs. Engaged experts can help define problems that one or more organisations are trying to solve and they can be effective independent mediators to help assure that targets and goals are met.
Engaged customers will willingly give reviews and opinions when they are enabled to do so and many businesses are built on this engagement. These businesses provide customer insight as a service. Mainstream examples include Which?, Trustpilot, and Google, who each act as third parties and gather information about products, services and opinions about other organisations. This can be a helpful resource for feedback.
Consultations offer a formalised route to gathering views. They particularly work effectively as focal points that distil all research to date in one place to allow stakeholders to form a rounded opinion on larger-scale topics and decisions.
Below are a variety of additional specific examples of where the above techniques have been used to practical effect for the benefit of stakeholders. These can provide useful insight to aid the development and updates to a DSAP on the theme of providing benefits to stakeholders and to the Public Interest.
Government Digital Service (GDS) and digital exclusion
This blog by GDS shows how they developed user personas to help with website accessibility testing. GDS staff use this set of profiles to manage the risk of digital exclusion from Government services.
Royal College of Art research on enabling technology for disabled users
The Enabling Technology report has done a lot of research into the digital experience for disabled users. The Digital services recommendations section gives tips on how to design services with these users in mind. These include allowing services to be customised and also using timed task completion to measure accessibility.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) user-centric approach to inclusively sharing digital information
ONS have publish user personas that describe the segments of people they have learned to be regular users of their website and statistical services. This is part of their wider work writing on the web, that sets out how they are writing and structuring digital content to be accessible, searchable and readable.
Ocado, using machine learning to understand customers during service delivery
This article from Ocado describes how they are using technology to improve their customer service. They have developed machine learning algorithms that use Natural Language Processing to read through emails and determine their priority. A customer that is in more urgent need of support is ranked higher so that the customer service operators can get to their query sooner.
Unilever Annual Report orienting its performance around its stakeholders
Starting at page 12 of this Unliver Annual Report is a stakeholder review. It includes specifying the key stakeholders of Unilever with each stakeholder group categorised. Details of their interests and concerns, ways in which they have been engaged and the result of that engagement is all included. It is a simple structured approach that both highlights the importance of stakeholder, but also relates their needs to actions taken.
The Bulb Energy Community digital engagement forum
The Bulb Community is a digital forum for capturing the views of Bulb members. Issues are addressed by Bulb staff or other Bulb customers and in some cases customers provide suggestions for new services (e.g. paying the exit fees of new customers who switch to Bulb). The forum creates a living record of how customers are engaging with their products and services, provides feedback on what needs to improve and validation of what is working well.
National Rail Passenger Survey
The National Rail Passenger Survey (NPRS) gathers customer views on passenger satisfaction of the rail network. This data is used to create customer focused metrics that Rail Networks can measure themselves against when determining the benefits to new products and services. They also provide valuable insights for into the current utility and perception of existing products/services.
Microsoft Teams UserVoice feedback site
The UserVoice site allows for feedback on Microsoft’s products as well as new ideas for products to be raised. Other users can vote on these posts to help with prioritisation. The Microsoft team give updates on how work is progressing and how they are incorporating stakeholder feedback.
Northern Powergrid (NPg), “You said”, we did
NPg’s December 2020 digitalisation strategy includes information on “You said”, we did / “You said, we will. This use of an infographic is providing stakeholders with direct information about how their feedback is being responded to and providing a clear rationale for why work is being carried out.
Croydon Digital Service publishing its stakeholders' views
To gather this research they used online discussions, pop-up research for digitally excluded stakeholders and expert panels. This has helped them validate their plans and also develop new ideas.
GDS using the service design community to inform the Service Manual content
GDS has taken advantage of the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to develop services, as explained in this blog.
GDS spent time engaging with its service design community on the topic of “what good services look like” in workshops, conferences, training sessions and through an open Google doc. This gathered a wealth of information for the content of their guidance. They then tested and iterated this in a number of service design meet ups across government and in other countries.
2. Ensure products and services work towards a defined vision
The Digitalisation Strategy must include a vision and this must be defined to meet the learned needs of stakeholders and the Public Interest. Delivery of the vision must be articulated in terms of a collection of products and services that, once they exist, will wholly deliver the vision. The Digitalisation Action Plan must demonstrate action being taken to adapt and change the current suite of products and services such that they increasingly become the targeted products and services and so demonstrate a credible path to delivering the vision.
Where it is beneficial to the DSAP audience, DSAPs can include the internally enabling products and services on which the end-user products and services rely.
The Digitalisation Strategy must describe the rationale and benefits case of each of the products and services using the goals/objectives associated with its vision and in turn it must be demonstrable how the vision is derived directly from the researched, learned and validated needs of stakeholders.
The overarching DSAP vision and objectives must be clearly integrated into the overall portfolio of new and normal operations of the organisation.
The objective of this principle is to ensure there is a “golden thread” throughout the DSAP, whereby: it is always clear what practical and deliverable plans exist to realise the strategy from its top-down and; there is a clearly understandable basis why from the bottom-up each element of the DSAP has been included and how it fits into the bigger picture of the DSAP. The DSAP must form one whole and cohesive story and not include work other than that which has been evidenced as required.
While ensuring that a golden thread exists is vital to delivering a high-quality DSAP, this is a well established concept for when creating effective strategies and their action plans and so extensive regulatory guidance is not provided other than to explicitly clarify our expectations for this.
Integration of DSAPs into the wider organisation
Activities that involve data and digitalisation have a tendency to be diffuse and pervasive throughout an organisation, particularly in economic sectors where many people/assets communicate, such as infrastructure sectors. Also, data and digitalisation needs are almost exclusively only means to greater ends.
Due to these features, effective data and digitalisation work is usually better positioned in service of greater goals, rather than treated as an end goal itself. The most effective DSAPs are not standalone programmes of work instead, the DSAP actions, products and services serve as enablers to enhance the wider work of an organisation, for example as part of decarbonisation efforts or improving workforce data literacy. This leads to data and digitalisation (and ultimately digital transformation) being better suited to integration “horizontally” across all programmes and operations in an organisation, rather than as a singular “vertical” programme of work among an organisation’s portfolio of programmes.
Communication about a DSAP, its purpose and role in an organisation can be improved by demonstrating not only how the DSAP is delivering the direct data and digitalisation needs of its stakeholders, but how doing this improves the delivery of the organisation’s other programmes of work and strategies.
Below are examples showcasing ways in which digitalisation is and has been integrated into organisations' wider operations.
The world economic forum has carried out a Digital transformation of industries project. Among their research and findings is a section on digitalisation case studies, this includes dozens of examples of global brands that have each made significant accomplishments at improving their business, products and services through various digital transformations.
This business school has published case studies of organisations that have integrated digitalisation across their business and who are using digitalisation interwoven into their organisation's traditional product and service offerings. The site, and more links therein, include a high-level summary of organisations, for example:
Starbucks. Includes a news interview with the CEO about how digitalisation and better use of data, AI and machine learning have improved company returns.
IKEA. Showcases how the types of service they offer are being augmented with digital capability, allowing people to visualise IKEA products in their home before making a purchase
Lego. Showing their extensive use of digital tools to refresh their business and change how customers interact with the company, enabling the crowd-sourcing of ideas for new Lego products.
The CDBB publishes case studies describing how it has worked with organisations operating in different sectors to bring about transformations to products and services. The brief reports they publish on their work provide useful insights about how to integrate digitalisation activities into an organisation’s operations.
3. Take full advantage of opportunities to deliver benefits early and to iterate improvements to products and services
The delivery of products and services must be approached in a way that takes full advantage of opportunities to deliver benefits to stakeholders early. Delivery will be for the release of incremental product and service improvements wherever practical throughout development and during operation. While doing this, it must also be made clear how these incremental improvements are increasingly delivering the products and services that realise the aspirations of the Digitalisation Strategy vision.
The Agile Framework
Agile working is a framework approach that encompasses different methods, tools, and techniques for incremental and iterative product development. While it is a modern software development approach, it builds on the engineering concepts of iterative and incremental development developed in the mid-twentieth century. Agile originated as a direct response to then-traditional “waterfall” methods of delivery characterised by long wait times until software delivers any benefit, tackling evolving requirements that lead to cost overruns and delays and by ensuring greater targeting of products/services to the needs of the the software user/customer.
Over recent decades, Agile working frameworks have become mature, tried and tested approaches to working that are specifically designed to ensure investments into products and services deliver benefits early and with frequent iteration. Agile working frameworks are particularly suited to data and digital topics.
The Agile Manifesto describes the guiding values and principles for Agile programme delivery. Its twelve principles provide a vital guidance that, when followed, ensure full advantage is taken of opportunities to deliver benefits early and that product and service improvements are gained incrementally through iteration.
The GDS Service Manual provides robust guidance to support the implementation of an Agile approach to delivery. This manual is the preferred programme management method of the UK government for when it is delivering digital/data products and services. Its manual is available in the public domain and is widely re-used by other non-government organisations.
Specific Agile working methods
There are many Agile working methods that can be used when building products and services, and each has its own set of tools and techniques. These working methods can also be of benefit to helping comply with the other principles of this Digitalisation Strategy & Action Plan guidance.
The below list is not exhaustive but provides a short explanation of commonly used methods. There are countless resources on how to implement Agile working and many of these are available as open source best practice advice such as from the Agile Alliance, the Association for Project Management, and many other organisations.
Scrum is an agile methodology best suited to addressing complex problems that require regular adaptation, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.
It is best suited for iterative and incremental knowledge transfer; development and delivery of complex work and; solving problems, where the end-solution is not knowable at the outset.
The main feature of scrum working is that work is planned in set increments known as sprints, typically 2-4 weeks in duration.
Kanban is a methodology to manage and prioritise workflow. It visualises both the process (the workflow) and the actual work passing through that process. It focuses on tightly limiting work that is actively in progress to enable teams to optimise flow, finish what they start and to not commit too much work at once.
This working technique is suited to identifying potential bottlenecks to delivery and fix them quickly. It is not necessarily iterative, but it is incremental. Kanban is best suited to where work is comprised of small urgent tasks, where requirements change often and fast, and/or where sequencing is complicated.
Agile Portfolio Management applies "test, learn and adapt" principles and a decentralised control concept at a portfolio level.
Product increments and value propositions are broken down into small chunks and resource is allocated for specific value-adding components rather than at project level.
This technique promotes flexibility and enables portfolio managers to reallocate funds to emerging priorities based on changing customer requirements or new ideas that can be more valuable than the old ones.
Additional information can be found in this article from Kanbanzie.
SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)
Scaled Agile is a leading framework for scaling Agile working across a whole enterprise/organisation, this provides a mechanism for organisations to structurally organise themselves in a manner that enables them to sustainably meet the goals of agile working in a large organisation. This method is well described by Scaled Agile Framework.
LeSS (Large-scale Scrum)
Large-scale Scrum is applying the principles, purpose, elements, and elegance of Scrum working in a large-scale context, as simply as possible. LeSS is offering a deliberately “barely sufficient” methodology for scaling beyond a single-team Scrum allowing for efficient delivery of high-impact results. More information on this can be found on this interactive webpage by Less.
Iterative development and delivery is commonplace for when providing mobile applications (apps). The Royal Bank of Scotland led the world at providing online banking apps. In 2009 RBS’s first banking app only offered users a view of their statements and recent transactions. Despite this being a limited service compared to in-branch banking, it was helpful and useful. Instead of waiting until the app was the equivalent of in-branch services, RBS chose to deliver a simple service early, providing valuable feedback and some end-user benefits while more advanced services were developed. Banking apps now offer transaction services and online chat functions, and although the use of these apps still do not offer all of the benefits of in-branch services, they fill a large fraction of customers' needs and in certain areas they outperform in-branch services, such as with respect to the 24-7 availability of app-based services compared to physical branches.
Iterative product and software development
Companies who develop computer operating systems follow iterative processes to updating their operating systems product platform. They provide staggered updates for smaller changes and at less regular intervals offer significant updates to operating systems. Preferring iterative design means that users can make use of the benefits from new updates without waiting for a completely new operating system or product to be developed.
A specific example of this is how Apple has approached the development of the iPhone and its operating system, the iOS. Apple introduced iPhone in 2007 as a revolutionary new product, however, the first model was still very basic in terms of functionality. Apple has been evolving the product continuously, adding new features and specifications with each iteration of the device, eg introducing its App Store in 2008, video recording capabilities in 2009, a front-facing camera in 2010, Siri voice assistant in 2011, etc,. In-between product iterations, Apple released versions of both annual operating system upgrades as well as in-year upgrades.
Below are a variety of additional specific examples of where the above techniques have been used to practical effect for the benefit of stakeholders. These provide useful insight that can serve as an aid to the development and updates to a DSAP on the theme of providing benefits to stakeholders and the Public Interest.
Google embraces failure as an essential component of innovation and has a structured process in place to include learnings from failure into future product and features developments
Bulb Energy product iteration
Bulb energy iterates it’s online Bulb account to offer new services and change how services are presented.
Video games, iterative features updates
It is now commonplace for popular video games (such as Fortnite by Epic Games and Apex Legends by Electronic Arts) to provide iterative updates to content via a ‘seasonal’ updates format, this is used both to help set subscribers' expectations about changes, while also serving as marketing opportunities.
Many companies use either open or invitation-only private BETA releases to gather feedback and test products and new features before releasing public versions of their products and services. Examples include:
Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile mid-way through a programme
The Danish Business Authority provides an excellent case study, they started developing their digital-registration system using “waterfall” methods but faced difficulties and, after two years of development, switched to Agile to complete the delivery.
Spotify, on product oriented multidisciplinary teams
The Spotify Model (or Spotify Engineering Culture), is an example of agile organisational design where autonomous multidisciplinary teams are organised around specific products, always aligned to values and mission, and empowered to make decisions. The high level of autonomy across individual teams is illustrated by the amount of variation in tools and practices between squads.
4. Make it easy to understand the products and services, the status of their delivery and how to access them
The DSAP clearly identifies the products and services that end-users can currently benefit from and provides sign-posting information for how to access them. The DSAP also makes it easy for end users to understand the products and services that are going to be available in the near and distant future, including improvements to existing products and services.
Accompanying information that describes the nature and status of the products and services is included and is accessible to all DSAP audience members. Descriptions are concise and the presentation of products/services take all reasonable steps to minimise audience fatigue, taking into account the fact that many audience members will be interested in engaging with multiple DSAPs. For the benefit of particularly engaged audience members, opportunities to receive more detailed information must be readily available.
Making an organisation’s currently available and forthcoming products and services transparent and clear to the audience of the DSAP is achievable through routine methods, such as providing discrete lists in tables and/or through structuring of documentation or as part of graphics. These basic methods will not be discussed further here. While the basic methods are beneficial, on their own they do not reflect a high quality modern approach to creating transparency about products/services.
Greater clarity about the portfolio of products and services can be achieved through other methods, such as interactive product/service catalogues, timelines and roadmaps. Best practice approaches and solutions for how to deliver these is an evolving field, ongoing technological progress is leading to increasingly powerful opportunities to succinctly indicate when and what products and services will be available to end-users.
Today’s technology solutions make it possible to produce interactive media, allowing the DSAP audience access to tailored levels of information about products/services. This is being made possible through behind the scenes work that treats roadmap artefacts and information about products/service as a data asset themselves. Providing a data model about business plans is allowing for more advanced front-end services to be made available, such as data drilling capabilities. Enabling audiences with data models and front-end services empowers them to determine for themselves the information and perspective they most desire and to freely navigate based on their personal preference.
Giving people the power of navigation allows them self-service answers to their own questions and so builds up a personalised understanding of an organisation’s suite of products and services. Numerous methods for giving navigating power to an audience exist, what the best ones feature in common is that information of interest is easily available with minimum effort, “at the click of a mouse” (or equivalent).
Methods and examples of navigation and presentation
This traditional presentation method provides a written document with sectioning of material by theme. It has limited opportunity for tailored experiences for its audience. On its own this does not take full advantage of modern methods for making products and services understandable and accessible.
For certain subject matters this method still has a role; it is effective at ensuring the same message is received by all audience members, this can be beneficial for coordinating understanding. For example, an organisation might want to be more rigid when sharing its headline objectives that its products and services will deliver to.
This is a method that can be incorporate into numerous presentation techniques. It features in many of the examples given throughout this table and was explained in the body text, above.
Searchable product / service lists
Machine-readable structured data tables are valuable at providing lists that their audience can interact with, such as through sorting and filtering information to find what they are looking for. These are particularly beneficial for large/granular lists of products/services.
This approach to managing product/service information has direct benefits to the organisation providing them too, it allows for easy synchronisation of internal programme management and external stakeholder information as well as better enabling a sustainable approach to managing the portfolio of product/services.
Images are powerful tools for explaining to people what products/services they can expect from people and by when. Traditional non-interactable roadmaps are a tried and tested approach to sharing information. A handful of good examples have been picked out, below.
Cutting edge approaches to giving more inciteful roadmap information blend the above methods together and open up information to empower the audience both to explore plans and provide feedback as part of the roadmap.
Providers of collaborative project management software tools are regularly innovating better methods of sharing digital service roadmaps and catalogues openly with customers.
Publishing a standardised taxonomy of products and services
This method offers advanced treatment of data as an asset to the point that an organisation has a curated taxonomy that describes its end-to-end products and services. This is best carried out through the use of recognised standard methods of creating a taxonomy. The Technology Business Management (TBM) is an example of one such standard.
Approaches such as the TBM provide a detailed yet clear and structured approach to comprehensively describing products and services and providing a repeatable and sustainable method both of allowing the audience to explore products/services and for the host organisation to manage the information. The use of this as a standard practice is readily extensible and so also makes it easy for multiple organisations to deliver a common approach to describing their products/services. Compliance with standards such as this is beneficial to improving the interoperability of data and digital/data services.
Support for this planning data asset management is also available from centres of excellence, such as the TBM Council.
Pharmaceutical product pipelines
Updated on a quarterly basis pharmaceutical product pipelines give clarity about updates and changes to external-facing products and include information such as removed / failed / discontinued products. Examples include:
Glaxo Smith Kline’s pipeline this additionally includes alignment to different strategic areas for development, multiple filters can be applied, and the source data is also downloadable.
AstraZeneca’s pipeline is structured based on delivery phase and also has drilldown capability. They also make available the AstraZeneca existing product catalogue, which provides an alternative perspective on those products, allowing for stakeholders to better understand how they relate to one another.
Pfizer’s pipeline includes a table with summary of key projects, and an advanced search function. The underlying data is also available to download as a presentation.
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)provides visibility of actions being taken across government in their. Actions are tubulised and include indication of whether they are new initiatives, their start date and their end date.
This example includes a succinct summary of their strategy in one interactive graphic, with a clear relationship between activities and themes. A dedicated detailed page provides additional information. This including action milestones, measurements and expected completion date. Any revisions are also publicised and noted as they happen.
While not technologically advanced, this example shows very clear structure, demonstrating alignment with commitments, and providing a clear list of deliverables to be in place by a specific date for each commitment. The strength of this example is that the relationship between commitments (ie products and services) and the actions being undertaken to get there is very easy to understand, including very specific timing information.
Wider ways of communicating progress
Keeping stakeholders appraised of updates and progress can happen outside of a DSAP itself. Announcements made about the completion of actions / collections of actions that now mean product/service improvements are newly available. For example, Slack uses webinars to give details on upcoming and delivered updates and features relating to its products and services.
The travel app Citymapper posts regular updates and new features to its products and services via its News blog. For example, when Cittymapper enhanced user capabilities for filtering and searching through transport its provided an approachable blog its New Routing Power - FAST features. In the post they succinctly describe the new feature, where it sits within the product, how to navigate through it and where to go to find out more.
5. Ensure visibility about the nature and status of actions in the Digitalisation Action Plan
Actions in the Digitalisation Action Plan are to include all delivery of new or improved external-facing products and services and (where it is beneficial to the DSAP audience) to include any enabling internal work for external-facing products and services.
Actions must be accompanied by concise information that describes them, this information must:
make their progress status clear;
state how the action improves the organisation’s suite of products and services in alignment to the Digitalisation Strategy vision and;
wherever practical, provide opportunity for the audience to gain more detailed information relating to the action.
The list of actions must include all previously completed/delivered actions, ongoing actions and planned/potential future actions. The actions are to be divided and scoped such that it will reasonably be possible to provide stakeholders with a meaningful delivery and progress update at a time no longer than 6-months into the future.
When the Digitalisation Action Plan is updated, any changes to information about the actions must be transparent. It must be easy to understand the progress made against each action and for there to be clarity about which, when and why actions have been changed, added or removed.
In addition, the relationship between each planned product/service (ie all new, improved or discontinued products/services) and the actions being undertaken to deliver this must be made explicitly clear. This must make it knowable to the DSAP audience the exact actions that must be delivered for them to benefit from a particular better product and service experience.
The prioritisation of actions must be clear and that prioritisation must be guided by the researched, learned and validated evidence about how to best meet the needs of the stakeholders who pay for the products and services and the Public Interest.
A Digitalisation Action Plan is publicly available and so presents an opportunity to make the status and direction of products and services visible and accessible to all stakeholders. The public nature of this information allows for the contents of the Action Plan and so the ongoing improvements to an organisations products and services to be promoted as part of a wider ecosystem of an organisation’s communications.
From a practical perspective, the act of providing a list of actions and information about them involves the same work as providing a list of the products and services an organisation offers/plans to make available. Therefore, the techniques and examples given for Principle 4 are applicable for helping comply with this current principle as well. The suggested techniques and examples are not repeated here.
For clarity, just as for Principle 4, achieving advanced performance at complying with this principle will require treating information about actions as a data asset in its own right. This is an enabler to achieving engaging, sustainable and low-burden approach to ensuring visibility about past, ongoing and planned activities for stakeholders relating to the pipeline of digitalisation activities and associated products and services.
6. There is shared understanding of success and performance is measured
The definition of successful delivery must be unambiguous and clear. For each overall DSAP objective, each product and service and each action there must be at least one performance measure in place and its definition must be available to stakeholders.
Measures and definitions of success must be validated with relevant stakeholders before delivery of all new products/services/actions and as soon as practical for all existing cases of these. Updates made to the DSAP must include performance reporting against the measures. Any changes to the definition of success and/or measure are to be agreed in advance through stakeholder engagement and feedback.
Traditional financial measures of performance can play an important role, for example by carrying out a Cost-Benefit-Analysis (CBA) for a product or service. Insights about financial performance can also provide useful information into product/service planning and how costs and benefits will distributed amongst stakeholders. We will not describe established financial measures further in this guidance.
There is no one best method for defining and measuring success. One way of demonstrating this is to consider the different perspectives of measuring: outcomes, outputs, means and inputs. Below is a fictitious example of how a service can be defined and measured differently depending on perspective. This fictitious example is contextualised using a real-world data service (the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes inflation and price indices). Although the service is real, the example given in the table is not and is not from the ONS.
A definition of success
Measures of success
A definition of success
Measures of success
Stakeholders can use inflation and price data without complaint
Validate that it is easy for stakeholders to complain
Monitor the number of complaints received
Stakeholders are successfully collecting data products from the inflation and price data service
Number of views and downloads
Number and types of error(s)
Ratio of views compared to downloads
The inflation and price data service has been tested with stakeholders and it meets their needs
Positive User Experience (UX) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) results
Ongoing user research finds the inflation and price data products being is being used successfully by stakeholders
The inflation and price data service is designed upfront with stakeholders
The index calculation methodology and selected underlying data are agreed stakeholders (surveys and inclusive governing groups give approval)
All the above approaches have the same intention and in their own way they each help define success and offer methods for measurement, but there are shortcomings to each method too:
The outcome is comprehensive, but it might be hard to demonstrate regular improvement. There is a strong dependency on a complaints service being in place, but defining its performance may be challenging too. If the service were in early development it may not be realistic for a complaints service to have sufficient stakeholder engagement to have complaints raised or to establish the service.
the outputs provide a useful characterisation of stakeholders' usage of the service and this is easy to measure, but this may struggle to deliver in-depth insight about experiences and whether problems are being solved;
the measurement of the means will provide deep and reliable insight, but the effort to carry out this measure is comparatively time and costs intensive, it is not easily scalable and requires high engagement from stakeholders;
the inputs approach provides a strong and assured basis for stakeholders' understandings of their needs, but it does not test whether agreed theory is put into effective practice or whether reality diverges from theoretical expectations.
Measuring Digital Maturity
Dedicated data/digital maturity assessments and audits can play a role when benchmarking and measuring progress, including having independent third party opinions. There are also public resources available and useful examples that can aid an organisation’s assessment.
For higher education this not-for-profit organisation provides a suite of digital capability support information. They have a framework for describing organisational digital capability and their Discovery Tool is targeted at helping organisations reflect on and benchmark their current capability.
This is another higher-education resource supporting digital maturity. They provide a Data Capability Toolkit, this is a detailed 8-step publicly available resource with explanations, assessment structures and templates for organisations.
This resource has support for individuals as they measure their personal strengths and capability with respect to data and digital literacy and skills. SFIA is a not-for-profit global initiative that has worked in collaboration with the UK GDS. They provide wider useful support beyond only self-assessments.
DAMA is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a wealth of resources and practices that help with data management in general, while also being beneficial to organisations' ability to measure their own performance, and additionally it provides certification processes that help individuals understand and progress their own data capability.
Operational Product/Service Metrics
Digitally enabled services, particularly those that involve many autonomous transactions create plentiful data that can be used to calculate service metrics and gain insight. This data is particularly suited to the creation of personalised performance information, both for customers service providers to understand performance. Below are examples of these kinds of personalised and highly automated metrics applications.
ebay and transaction dashboards
In this case the performance metrics are not for ebay employees, but for buyers and sellers who transact using their services. The ebay digital platform provides personalised information to buyers and dashboard of service metrics for sellers, all with minimal effort on the part of those individuals.
This is transparent a exercise in expectation management. It both better informs customers of Uber’s service quality and ensures Uber employees share a common understanding of service quality requirements. As well as stating the measure that Uber use to define service quality, the exact algebraic definition of how metric scores are calculated is included.
YouTube metrics data model
Google have published their metrics data model, providing explanations and definitions about YouTube metric data. This supports user experiences of the YouTube Analytics API that provides access to the metrics in an automatable and machine-readable format. This method of making metrics available allows stakeholders greater optionality for how they integrate metric data into their wider work with data (such as an organisation’s business planning).
Performance on the theme of inclusive design can be measured through testing compliance with accessibility standards, for example with the WCAG 2.1 AA.
Green House Gas Protocol Product Standard
The Green House Gas Protocol has developed a standard for implementing carbon accounting as a metric in product design. Recognising this potential kind of role for measuring emissions and using standards such as this, companies can take a broader approach to assuring they are genuinely delivering to the full range of stakeholder needs through the full life cycle of products and services including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, storage, use and disposal.
Ofgem and Citizens Advice conduct a quarterly consumer survey on the current view of the Energy Market. Information from this research is used as a metric measure the performance of market participants and different market designs.
7. Coordinate with the wider ecosystem of products and services
Where products/services are provided by a single provider (ie with no marketplace of options for consumers), every reasonable step must be taken to deliver interoperability between other such products/services.
It is more important to optimise across this whole system of monopolistic products/services than it is to optimise a single organisation’s monopolistic products/services in isolation. Achieving this requires delivery of interoperability-by-design between a particular product/service and its wider ecosystem of monopolistic digital products and services, this ecosystem crosses economic sectors for their consumers' mutual benefits.
It must be demonstrated by the DSAP that the products and services included within it already do or will achieve interoperability with other products and services throughout their life-cycle (development, operation and decommissioning).
Interoperability, additional context
Interoperability spans the people, practice and technology needs of two or more products/services, its primary focus is ensuring harmonious interactions between these products/services, for example the needs for data exchange or communication between them. This applies both in terms of their technology and their governance. Interoperability-by-design takes this concept into account throughout the entire lifecycle of a product or service and this is required to be included in all DSAP actions that invest in new or improved products and services.
The objective of this principle is to avoid a culture of single-provider products/services being optimised in isolation. This is particularly important where multiple single-providers operate at different stages of a supply chain. In cases where a supply chain features one or more single-provider organisations, the requirement for interoperability-by-design ensures their data/digital products and services are delivered effectively for the supply chain as a whole and with clear accountability for doing so.
Taking advantage of other DSAPs and compliance with the other DSAP principles
Achieving interoperability is by its nature a two-way street, following this DSAP guidance both enhances an organisation’s own ability to ensure interoperability of products/services and in return, this lowers barriers to other relevant organisations identifying opportunities for interoperability. The DSAP principles - and therefore effective adherence to them - help with this in a number of ways:
Visibility and availability of stakeholder engagement and research provide excellent opportunity for both parties to learn about common stakeholder needs and to identify products/service solutions that will benefit from coordination.
Research activities themselves can be enhanced by including enquiries with stakeholders, such as asking them about any other products/services they use/need/provide during their own life/work. This will help identify other products/services that might need to benefit from interoperability.
Iterative and incremental product/service improvements allow for small-scale investment decisions and therefore this approach can lower the cost of refactoring technology/governance as interoperability requirements are emergently learned throughout product/service lifecycles.
Other organisations will find it easier to identify coordination opportunities and deliver interoperability if a DSAP includes clear information on topics such as: understanding of who stakeholders are; a digitalisation vision and a discrete list of the collection of products/services an organisation does or will offer to stakeholders.
An organisation’s ability to deliver interoperability-by-design is improved through its taking the time to review other organisations' DSAPs to identify common stakeholder needs as well as overlapping themes/products/services.
Working with and learning from wider initiatives
Another avenue for ensuring interoperability is participation with and taking advantage of strategic initiatives. Self-regulated industry initiatives, research programmes and government interventions are types of activity that provide focal points and frameworks that allow for this and so for product/service decisions to be made with greater confidence that interoperability will be achieved. Working with these initiatives also helps with macro sector and cross-sector challenges, such as shared digital architecture needs and the identification of novel and shared product/service requirements for economic sectors.
Important to the actual delivery of the interoperability of products and services is to go further than simple engagement with strategic initiatives, but to actively promote and support them as an efficient method of assuring effective interoperability. The work of these strategic initiatives can influence and adapt the goals and objectives of the DSAP and demonstrating adherence to their work/guidance can provide a practical means of showing that interoperability of products and services has been achieved.
Below is a list of opportunities and initiatives that present avenues for enhancing coordination and interoperability-by-design for an organisation's DSAP and its products and services.
Energy network companies regulated by Ofgem’s RIIO price controls are required to publish a DSAP. These publications provide an exhaustive list of all the digital products and services these organisations offer and plan to offer in future. This information is therefore an excellent structured resource for identifying single-provider products/services from a significant economic sector.
Comparing their products, services and actions to your own organisation’s products, services and actions is a practical method and opportunity for determining coordination and interoperability needs.
The winners of the competition are a not-for-profit company called Icebreaker One. Their work is ensuring solutions are in place to ensure the interoperability of data services. Learning from their work, following technical practices they are devising and engaging with their community is a practical way for energy companies to improve their data product/service interoperability.
This is a project being led by the Geospatial Commission. It is delivering an integrated digital map of underground infrastructure (such as electricity, water, telecoms and gas pipes). It involves working with geospatial data across sectors and therefore is requiring organisations to learn how to more easily exchange data (both technically and in terms of governance). This initiative is therefore an excellent and important opportunity to learn how to achieve interoperability between data and digital products/services and is likely to provide learnings for interoperability more widely.
Its Digital Twin Hub (DTHub) is a community-based webservice with over 700 organisations represented (accurate as of February 2021). Through a simple and free registration process access can be gained to valuable information, such as the Digital Twin Toolkit.
Using tools such as this and ensuring products and services align to guidance like the IMF and Gemini Principles help assure interoperability and wider coordination by your organisation.
Independent Task Forces
Independent Task Forces are a common method used by government to convene and coordinate a wide breadth of stakeholders around a particularly important topic. These can provide valuable learning opportunities, help with stakeholder identification and often create solutions to shared challenges that have direct ramifications for an organisation’s products and services.
A relevant example is the Energy Data Taskforce. Its recommendation for improving the visibility of data has highlighted needs for energy organisations to improve their management and publishing of metadata, but of particular relevance to this principle, it has shown the need for that metadata management to be coordinated for the overall benefit of energy data stakeholders who typically seek data from among numerous single-providers in supply chains and therefore desire consistent approaches to metadata management.
Examples of other Task Forces that include learning about data and digital services include:
Information such as found in this strategy is beneficial to coordination as it helps highlight common and shared challenges across organisations and people in the economy and the culmination of thought on solutions to these challenges. This information helps guide priorities for DSAPs and ensures coordination.
A related piece of work is by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), a devolved organisation from DCMS. The CDEI’s 2020 report, the AI Barometer, highlights common AI challenges that span economic sectors.
This initiative is an example of organisations who represent consumers' interests who work to conduct research and policy development. In this case two charities, Sustainability First and the Centre for Sustainable Energy. Their work has learned needs many of which are shared in nature and therefore require coordination to be resolved. PIAG have made a number of recommendations about how smart meter data can be used to improve consumer outcomes. Work like this can have important implications for operators in a marketplace.
Specific Engineering Matter (SEM) 5 of the Electrical Engineering: Standards Independent Review is both a valuable focal point for coordination in general, but it also draws out the importance of interoperability for smart system flexibility in the energy sector to minimise the costs to the energy system whilst maintaining system resilience. SEM 5a similarly identifies full coordination in the development of all interoperability standards to simplify the landscape for existing market participants and new market entrants.
By engaging with this work, the BSI and BEIS energy companies can ensure coordination with the wider energy system and other sectors affected by this work such as transport and telecoms.
Open Banking is a secure way for consumers to give permission for their financial information to be shared in a way that they want, often with merchants or service providers who can authorize a payment directly from their bank account.
This has been achieved through coordination of data sharing agreements and standards across financial service providers and the Financial Conduct Authority. Through this coordination the financial sector has delivered interoperability of swathes of data and created faster, more joined up services for consumers and businesses.
European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) maintains a vast range of freely available, open access data resources. These have allowed scientists to upload, access, and analyse a broad variety of biological datasets. Coordinating data in this way has increased the visibility of research and given scientists the ability to build on and react to new research quickly. This has accelerated COVID-19 research and helped further understanding of the biology, transmission, and spread of that virus.
Estonia’s e-Governance has coordinated data sharing across government bodies
Estonia are creating coordinated digital capabilities for their state, 99% of Government services have been digitalised as part of their e-Governance initiative. They have developed an interoperable data exchange service enabling Estonia’s public and private information services to function as an integrated whole.
Other digitalised Estonian services include, electronic voting, digital ID enable access to numerous e-services, mobile parking and a blockchain enabled secure healthcare services.
The Danish DataHub brings together data across their electricity market
DataHub houses all Danish electricity consumption data and handles businesses processes such as switching energy suppliers. It is brining uniformity to information exchanges associated with this consumption. The DataHub is optimise market conditions while also making data sets available for use more widely.
This is an initiative helping coordination of infrastructure initiatives for Local Authorities in Greater London. Driven by their wide-ranging interests across sectors, Local Authorities and groups that represent them are often an important stakeholder for digitalisation of infrastructure, particularly with respect to ensuring coordination of work, products and services.
Open source software lends itself to enhancing product/service interoperability as information about the software is readily accessible by all stakeholders. Integrating plans to use open-source software as part of a DSAP can enable a robust approach to ensuring interoperability is achieved.
A part of the European Data Strategy, the EOSC is an excellent example of multiple organisations agreeing to follow practices and standards with data to ensure it is interoperable and that data is open to its stakeholders. Of more general interest is the EOSC data portal, which provides a coherent digital product and service catalogue and gateway for stakeholders.
Communications networks are the vehicle for collection and data exchanges, this is a significant focal point for coordination. Ofcom, the regulator of communications networks has a programme of work ensuring the UK has an effective strategy for data collection and exchange. Work like this is valuable for the consideration of DSAP work, particularly in utilities sectors.
Open UK is one example of a a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the use of open-source technology. Open-source technology typically presents opportunities for ensuring the interoperability of data and digital products/services, owing to the ready access stakeholders have to the methods and standards used by the technology. Organisations like Open UK can provide practical opportunities to grow networks and to share practices and approaches to getting the most out of open-source technology.
SNOMED CT is a clinical vocabulary readable by computers
SNOMED CT is a single shared language used across clinical IT systems that allows the sharing of data more easily, securely and safely. It is used by the NHS and other healthcare services across the globe. SNOMED CT ensures data is recorded consistently and accurately improving its quality and usability. For example, clinical information entered from a hospital visit can imported directly into a GP record so it no longer needs to be entered by hand. This reduces errors and increases efficiency.
This is another example of the benefits of joined up systems helping to optimise processes, reducing time and increasing data quality. In this instance, these benefits have been taken up by multiple institutions globally. There is the potential for the benefits of this data to be utilised more widely based on the greater uptake of these standards.