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Reporting back on cross-government StackTech2

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Chat, Transformation

StackTech2 post-it notes about the different sessionson a wallIn November 2016, roughly 2 years after the original StackTech unconference, we held StackTech2 in London, open to all cross-government technologists.


Around 100 people signed up, and given that people were free to come and go, we had a pretty good turnout. A rough headcount showed that 60 to 70 people were present during each of the sessions.

We had a lot of people come from the Government Digital Service and the Ministry of Justice but we also had representatives from HMRC, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Student Loans Company, the Environment Agency, the Met Office, the Office of National Statistics and even local government in Wales and England.

I personally found it hugely inspiring to meet so many people from across government who care deeply about the quality of government services. All those attending wanted to improve the relationship between government and citizens. While our conversations on the day were about technology, our shared overarching aim was to provide a more modern, responsive and cost-effective government, and a place to work that is a fair and enjoyable.


There were 16 sessions on the day. A number of the session topics will be familiar to anyone working in technology such as:

  • the difficulties of hiring and retaining staff
  • how to organise the funding of service and improve service management
  • protecting against bit rot or changes in software/service usage patterns
  • avoiding a new generation of legacy code so that government codebases are more maintainable and easier to change

Some of the other topics were more specific to the UK government and the way it’s structured. The Civil Service is federated with a huge range of big and small organisations and there was a lot of discussion about common interests. These interests include areas like security, identity and authentication of civil servants, as well as operating cloud and on-premise infrastructure.

Attendees sitting in a discussion circle
A breakout session

We also discussed how we communicate across organisations that vary from public-facing, relatively low-risk agencies, to those that deal with national security and therefore have very restrictive policies on what will be allowed on their networks.

Moving forward

This topic has lingered with me. It’s vital that we continue these types of conversations. While there’s tremendous value in getting together in one place and discussing common issues, the real value is building relationships and working together to solve problems.

GDS will help to make that happen. The session notes have been circulated to all attendees in case they missed a session on the day. We’re also looking at whether we can distill some of the session notes into future blog posts.

Meanwhile we’ll try and host or facilitate events to follow up on some of the most popular topics over the next few months.

We’re also going to try and organise another StackEvent event in the spring of 2017. We don’t want to leave it another two years this time! If you are interested in attending we have created a StackTech announcements email list that you can subscribe to.

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If this sounds like a good place to work, take a look at Working for GDS - we're usually in search of talented people to come and join the team.

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