Public Services > Central Government

GDS thinks about ‘legacy systems’ in Technology Code of Practice update

David Bicknell Published 23 April 2017

Digital service to refresh guidelines for best way government organisations design, build and buy technology; new guidance will support main legacy challenges teams face


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has said it plans to update and improve the  Technology Code of Practice (TCoP), the guidelines for the way government organisations adopt technology.

Anyone who is designing, building or buying technology for a government organisation, must follow the guidelines.

According to GDS, technology is always changing. So its guidance and standards must keep pace to stay relevant and useful for Whitehall departments.

“The Technology Code or Practice plays an important part in helping government organisations buy and build technology, and is the benchmark for Spend Controls for departmental spending on digital and IT services,” according to a GDS blog .

The TCoP was last updated in 2016, has the approval of the Technology Leaders Network, and has been mandated by The Treasury as part of Spend Controls. It is also part of the Government Transformation Strategy.

14 points under the code are mandatory, and government organisations must follow the standards to get approval to spend. They include defining user needs, aims and capabilities;  keeping programmes, focused and productive; making things open, improving transparency and accountability by making data and new source code open by default; adopting a cloud first policy; using common government solutions; and meeting the Digital Service Standard for digital services; and entering into sensible contracts.

But GDS says, “The current version of the TCoP was never meant to be the final version. Our aim is to keep iterating, based on feedback and insight from our users.”

It went on, “So far, we’ve learned that teams across government would like clearer information on what is classed as a ‘standard’, and what we mean by best practice advice. They’d also like more specific examples about implementing the principles.”

The next iteration of the TCoP is also likely to have a focus on legacy systems. According to GDS, “One important lesson is to consider legacy systems. We often have to buy and build technology in the context of these legacy systems, so while solving each unique issue isn’t practical the guidance will aim to support the main challenges teams face.

“We don’t have a monopoly on good practice, so we’ll be working with departments and organisations to look for good implementations of technology that follow our principles.”

GDS reiterated that the basis of the principles won’t be changing, and it is still committed to standards that help government buy and build technology.

“What we expect will change is the structure of the document as we work on providing greater clarity and more guidance and support for departments. We’ll also be working with Spend Controls to make the principles’ support their work as clearly as possible.

“We’re taking our proposals to the next Technology Leader’s Network meeting. As government’s senior technology decision-making body, they’ll play an important role in helping us realise our vision. We aim to have the next iteration out later this summer,” the blog concluded.

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