APOSTLE – Analysing Context


As well as user needs, the public sector change needs to consider the impacts on several aspects. This ensures that the case for change is suitable, acceptable and feasible. It’s too easy to get sucked into the technology and methods, forgetting that people make change happen. There’s also a money aspect to everything we do in government. I’ve developed the mnemonic APOSTLE from the more familiar PESTLE to help with this.

APOSTLE – Affordability, Politics, Organisational, Social, Technical, Legal and Economic. These are the sort of things that you need to check when analysing the context in which you are making change happen. If you forget any of these then you may fail. 


Budgets need to be available to deliver any change necessary to realise benefits.


This covers acceptability both in a party political and internal relations perspective. If a solution is not acceptable to all those involved it will not be successfully implemented and benefits will not be realised.


There needs to be a clear understanding of the impact on both client and customer organisations and the changes needed to ensure that the behaviours around the service delivery are understood and included in the change. Accountabilities of people and their targets are what drives behaviours, and this is crucial to the delivery of benefits. Equally organisational interests can impede the buy-in and the deliverability of change.


There are public expectations of what good looks like, especially for public service where they are aware that they are the customers. Additionally we need to ensure that public services meet the needs of everyone in society and that there are appropriate solutions for the needs of all customer groups, including those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged in any way.


There’s a drive to make the most of technology, and to use it to improve the delivery of service both from a customer interface and in automating routine back-office functions to empower public servants to provide better services for customers. While the expectation is that all services should have end to end digital processes at their heart there need to be solutions appropriate to a wide range of people, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.


All public services are delivered within a legal framework. Sometimes that framework mandates a duty to provide, sometimes it enables through a discretionary power. In all cases the legal framework needs to be understood and, where appropriate, updated to ensure that public services live within the powers granted by parliament to deliver them.


There is a wider economic impact of how government delivers services, whether local or national. The overall cost should be minimised, including costs to individuals and organisations. Remember that not all costs are monetary. For example minimising the burden on people, making it faster and easier to comply, reducing travel distances, etc. should all lower the economic impact of a public service. This is tied to user needs. If we address these properly then we will be reducing the economic impact.


APOSTLE doesn’t cover everything. It does cover the main things you need to worry about when building a case for change. It also helps with evaluating potential solutions to a problem. Everything you do needs to be user centred.  Remember that there are multiple users of any system. APOSTLE will help you balance the needs of all users, secure decision maker approval and write a good case for change that will persuade most people. It won’t persuade everyone, because sometimes you need a good story more than facts. The original Apostles knew that…

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