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CHIPS Articles: U.S. Digital Service Launched

U.S. Digital Service Launched
Smarter IT delivery for federal websites
By Sharon Anderson - August 13, 2014
Federal websites may be poised to become more user-friendly through the launch of a new initiative called the U.S. Digital Service.

Office of Management and Budget’s Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert, federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel and federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park explained the new initiative on the White House blog Aug. 11.

The Digital Service will be a small team made up of America’s brightest digital talent that will work with agencies to remove barriers to exceptional service delivery and help remake the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government, they wrote.

Mikey Dickerson will serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service and Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer.

The Digital Service will work to find solutions to management challenges that can prevent progress in IT delivery. The Digital Service team will take private and public-sector best practices and help scale them across agencies — always with a focus on the customer experience in mind.

The Digital Service will also collaborate closely with 18F, a new unit of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). GSA’s 18F houses a growing group of developers and digital professionals who are designing and building the actual digital platforms and providing services across the government.

With the announcement, the Administration is also releasing for public comment two crucial components that will help enable agencies to do their best work – the Digital Services Playbook and the TechFAR Handbook.

The Digital Services Playbook lays out best practices for building effective digital services like web and mobile applications and will serve as a guide for agencies across government. The playbook outlines 13 key “plays” drawn from private and public-sector best practices that, if followed together, will help federal agencies deliver services that work well for users and require less time and money to develop and operate, according to the blog post.

The Playbook is designed to encourage the government to adopt the best of advanced technologies in digital IT. To further strengthen this tool, folks across the public and private sectors are encouraged to provide feedback on the Playbook.

To ensure government has the right tech tools to do its job, the Administration also launched the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that explains how agencies can execute key plays in the Playbook in ways consistent with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which governs how the government must buy services from the private sector.

The document is intended to guide agencies in how to procure development services in new ways that more closely match the modern software development techniques used in the private sector.

The TechFAR explicitly encourages the use of “agile” development — an incremental, fast-paced style of software development that reduces the risk of failure by getting working software into users’ hands quickly, and by providing frequent opportunities for delivery team members to adjust requirements and development plans based on watching people use prototypes and real software. Following this methodology is a proven best practice for building digital services, and it is intended that it will increase the government’s ability to build services that effectively meet user needs, according to the blog post.

Together, the U.S. Digital Service, 18F, the Digital Services Playbook, and TechFAR Handbook will help advance the smarter IT delivery agenda in major ways — helping government deliver continually better services at lower cost.

For the latest news about the U.S. Digital Service, sign up at .

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