Design Authority Pros and Cons

Table of Contents



A design authority is a body put in place to manage, track, and fulfill project progress more holistically. The design authority evaluates all elements of a project—cost, skill and resource requirements, potential security concerns, feasibility, and more—from every angle.


Within Jersey’s Government States of Jersey, the Design Authority is a team within the Chief Minister’s Department, created to help the different parts of the States of Jersey work in complementary ways. The Design Authority uses enterprise architecture to define the overall structure and operations for the States of Jersey in the same way a town’s planning authority sets out the vision for the evolution of a town or city. For example, town planners set out the building codes that must be adhered to and the common services such as roads, water and electricity supplies. The Design Authority defines the ‘building codes’ (principles, guidelines and standards) for the technology and ensures that common services (infrastructure, systems, data, applications) are reused across the States of Jersey.

Why do States of Jersey need a Design Authority

Historically, the States of Jersey has operated as a set of independent organisations, each focused on their specialist area of service delivery (in health, education, social security, tax to name a few). Savings and efficiencies have also focused at the department level. Over time, this has led to a situation where many identical, or very similar, functions are regularly being performed across the States of Jersey in slightly different ways, supported by different technology solutions from different suppliers. This is expensive and inefficient. For example, a large number of departments hold information about their citizens – each in a different database, with no ability to check the quality and consistency between databases. This means when a function like means-testing (or eligibility) is undertaken, not only is it likely that each department will perform this function in a different way, but based on different information. For a citizen, this means an eligibility test they undertake in one department can provide a different result to one taken in another.

Benefits of having a Design Authority?

The Design Authority provide design assurance and advice on projects to ensure they:

• are delivered in line with the States of Jersey’s Digital Design Principles and support the eGovernment vision for the States of Jersey
• use existing systems and solutions where possible to increase quality and efficiency, and to reduce costs
• are delivered in a consistent way that facilitates technology and data reuse in the future


When deploying a business solution in a multi-jurisdiction organisation a Design Authority can be useful to review and make recommendations to the Project Board for any config or set-up that has a global impact affecting the various offices. The Design Authority comprising key functional stakeholders (IT, HR, Compliance, etc,), and representatives from the various offices or business units (Jersey, IoM, Gibraltar, Cayman), to make decisions on process, config, operation of the business solution.

The Design Authority can help simplify and standardise processes across the business, and also take account of local needs in various offices. The Design Authority is therefore a forum for debate and a focal point for design and decisions.

In theory the process is as follows..

Step1 the supplier-vendor advises the default & recommended settings, the options and the implications

Step2 the project team (in-house implementation team) select their recommended option

Step3 the recommended option (and alternatives) are presented to the Design Authority for endorsement.

Step4 the Design Authority make their decision / recommendation, which is ratified by the Project Board (notably authorising any impact on time, scope, quality or cost)

It can become confused whether the Design Authority is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Particularly if the Design Authority are very senior and effectively providing oversight rather than direction, with the in-house implementation team making all the grass-roots decisions at the practical coal-face.

Accountable = because they are a focal point for design and decisions
Responsible = because they are a forum for debate to represent local and global interests.
Consulted = because the supplier-vendor and/or project team will seek their direction and decision
Informed = because they are being recommended the software settings, config or set-up with limited choice but to follow the advice and experience of supplier-vendor and/or project team.

The ambiguity arises from the role / responsibility of other forums. Do you really need a Design Authority if you already have an in-house implementation team (for action) and a Project Board (for oversight)? I would argue yes, because the Design Authority are generally Senior Management responsible for policy, process and procedure and there are risks if these are out-of-sync with the software settings, config or set-up.

The in-house implementation team are the doers rather than the designers, and their experience and advice is important, but is generally functional rather than strategic. Design decisions often have operational and strategic implications and need to be agreed with the Senior Management.

The Project Board is generally a much smaller group responsible for time, scope, quality or cost and without the broad representation of IT, HR, Compliance, etc, and representation from all the various offices or business units.


I have always found it useful to consult key stakeholders and ensure good communication to support coordination, collaboration and focus resource capacity. The use of a Design Authority can reduce risk (of error, omission, in design and delivery) and improve engagement, understanding and support (by participation).

I accept that having between 4 and 10 very senior people in a 1 to 2 hour meeting at key milestones is expensive, but I regard this as an investment in success. It might be easier “to ask for forgiveness rather than permission” (and simply rely upon the coal-face decisions) but generally issues addressed at the beginning are faster, cheaper and better than the impact of consequential change or the estrangement of key champions.

The Design Authority is generally made-up of the gatekeepers (IT, HR, Compliance, etc,) and owner-operators (representation from all the various offices or business units) and so their involvement also helps when it comes to testing, training, acceptance and eventual adoption.


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