Resource: The Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook

The Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook compiles what we’ve learned from four years of delivering digital services for government clients. Our playbook builds on and extends the Digital Services Playbook by the United States Digital Service. The USDS playbook is a valuable set of principles, questions, and checklists for government to consider when building digital services. If followed, the plays make it more likely a digital services project will succeed. Today, we’re publishing the opinions we developed and lessons we learned while implementing the original plays of the USDS playbook. We want to share our knowledge in hopes that other teams can continue to build on the progress we and many other organizations are making in improving government digital services.

In 2014, we founded Ad Hoc with the same catalyst that created the USDS: the failed launch of HealthCare.gov. Since then, we’ve been using these plays to help government reform the way it serves users, who have come to expect more from the digital products and services they use.

Building digital services for government means orienting and aligning around the user experience, for all audiences and abilities, and doing so securely, protecting users’ privacy and data. To the user of digital services, availability and usability are paramount. Slow, confusing interfaces drive them away and erode their trust. This essential user-centrism is at the core of government digital services. It distinguishes them from enterprise software, where users are expected to have substantial training and domain knowledge, or conform to confusing business-processes-as-software. While government had substantial experience building enterprise software systems prior to 2013, when HealthCare.gov launched, it didn’t have comparable experience delivering digital services, such as those users have become accustomed to in the commercial sector. The challenge of the past four years has been introducing to government the practices and processes that set human-centered services up for success. Our playbook contributes additional detail on how to accomplish this task.

Government is a unique client because it must serve everyone, is accountable to the public (versus the market), and is constrained by legislation and rule-making. Government digital service delivery blends the best practices of modern, consumer-facing software with the security, stability, and accountability that government services require. Ad Hoc’s experience delivering government digital services for HealthCare.gov, Vets.gov, and more, informs this approach. Together with the USDS playbook, the Ad Hoc playbook paints a picture of a robust, effective, and flexible digital services delivery environment.

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