Update to Digital First Service Standard

February 15, 2021 by 4 Comments | Category Digital Scotland, Digital Scotland Service Standard, Service design

Find out what’s changed and what it means for teams delivering public services.

We’ve updated the Digital First Service Standard.

The updated standard is now called the Digital Scotland Service Standard, with a new, risk-based approach to assessment being developed by the Digital Assurance Office to be confirmed in April.

The Digital First Service Standard helped organisations think differently about how they approach products and services, putting people at the heart of delivery, and adopting tools and processes to promote flexibility, sustainability and continuous improvement.

But it’s important that we review the standard and make sure it keeps up with the pace of change. The Digital First Service Standard was introduced in 2017, the same year as the national digital strategy Realising Scotland’s Potential in a Digital World.

With a new digital strategy for Scotland on the way, which will help us transform our public services and respond to the challenges and opportunities of new and emerging technologies, it’s also important we can support organisations to be responsive and resilient in a time of crisis and to benefit from a shared digital ecosystem.

What’s changed

The updated standard is now called the Digital Scotland Service Standard.

The focus is still on making sure services are based on the needs of users, are sustainable and continuously improving, secure and resilient, and that good technology choices are being made, but we’ve simplified and reduced the number of criteria to help us understand this from 22 to 14.

New guidance will help organisations understand what each criteria means at each stage of delivery. This aims to support teams to plan and get ready to deliver projects, as well as prepare for assessments.

By building on the GDS Service Standard using the Scottish context, we think the new standard will help us move closer to our goal of inclusive, accessible and joined-up public services.

Services not websites

People and businesses expect services that are accessible and simple to use. They want them to be inclusive and designed around their needs, rather than the organisational structures or traditions of the organisations that provide them.

One of the important elements is to help organisations frame or scope what they are delivering as a ‘whole service’. By that we mean the end-to-end experience from a user’s perspective, not one part of their journey. That includes the citizen-facing experience, internal systems, people and processes, and will likely need to take account of supporting policy or legislation.

A service is not simply a digital platform or online application, and will include the different channels it takes to apply for or communicate about the service. It’s important that we help organisations consider how they can join up service journeys wherever possible, though collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Collaboration across the public sector is essential if we are to re-imagine and re-design how services are delivered. The standard will help us create an environment where citizens are engaged and empowered to participate in design, supporting our aim of making services more democratic and accountable to the needs of the local community.

We’re also asking organisations to show how services contribute to national outcomes within the national performance framework, which every public sector organisation is expected to work towards.

When the new standard will apply

The new Digital Scotland Service Standard has replaced the existing standard and we’re asking all organisations to work towards the criteria to promote service transformation and digital ways of working.

Digital Scotland Service Standard Assessment

Assessment for compliance with the Standard will continue to apply to organisations that are already subject to the Technology Assurance Framework. A new, risk-based approach to assessment is under development and the Digital Assurance Office will write to organisations in April to set out arrangements.

Services that have already been assessed under the Digital First Service Standard will continue to be assessed under the Digital First Service Standard for the remainder of the service delivery. For large, multi-year programmes which are delivering a range of services, the Digital Assurance Office will discuss the approach on an individual basis to agree a suitable approach.

Contact the Digital Assurance Office at if you want to discuss the arrangements for new or existing projects

Next steps

While the standard has been updated, there’s still some work to do to make sure we are consistent in what we apply the standard to and how we apply the standard. We’ll be working with organisations over the coming months to make sure this process goes smoothly.

Contact if you want to know more about the Digital Scotland Service Standard, or sign up to the introductory course offered by the Scottish Digital Academy.

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  • Mr Manson says:

    ScotGov digital produce more paper filled with waffle than any Government department before it. Never ending strategy revisions with no actions, never ending restructures, little to no real delivery.

  • J Lewis says:

    Any chance you will acknowledge the giants who’s shoulders you’re standing on with this?

    NHS, 18F, US Digital Service and others all have recognised the hard work of GDS.

  • M says:

    That’s good news. Thank you. Please update in due course.

    • Stewart Hamilton says:

      Thanks for your comment. The previous version of the standard will remain available for the transition period for those currently being assessed, but we’re in the process of updating our web pages to make this clearer.

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