Government of Yukon digital service manual and standards
In the web industry, if someone labels themselves a "designer" what they often mean is that they are a user interface designer. They design pages, forms, navigation, messages, buttons and other things that people use and interact with on a screen. However, in relation to digital service delivery, design means much more. In my work at Government of Yukon, I applied design thinking and process to the development of an extensive service manual and digital standards that teach and empower others.
Re-designing services in government is difficult. With all of the history and complexity, both for good and bad reasons that make government what it is, creating improvements inside the organization requires a lot of hard work. People seek tools, advice and guidance, but aren't sure in their role how to do things in a different, better way. They also need to feel supported and inspired to make changes themselves, and have the backing of someone else in case they need a helping hand.
This is where the authority and clear direction of a service manual and standards play an important part. When I arrived at Government of Yukon, there was no simple, understandable and accessible documentation that explained how to build and deliver digital services in a modern, sustainable and repeatable way. After eServices established its authority through policy, results and relationships, I took what other smart people had developed for their service standard and crafted a version of our own, then published it in public view. This was quite literally a few pages on a website. I even used the word "beta", which was an intimidating and uncomfortable label at the time.
Growing and changing
As the responsibilities and reach of eServices expanded, so had to the digital standard. I opened up content creation and publishing access to other people in the organization with skills I didn't have but knew I needed to continue scaling and improving what we'd made. Together we evolved the website into much more of a playbook or what we ended up calling a "service manual". This is a how-to guide for agile process, code management and deployment, content design and strategy, technology standards, service assessments, design patterns and more. Today, the website has over 150 pages in it; pages that are continue to be refined by government staff.
As my time at Government of Yukon is over, I am unsure of the direction and role that the service manual and digital standards will have moving forward. I do know that what we started and made was a major enabler of coordinated improvement within the organization. The goal was always the same: simpler, clearer and faster government services for everyone, no matter if you’re the one building the service or using it.