All opinions expressed in in these episodes are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the organizations for which our guests work.
James Duncan is no stranger to disruption. At 15, racking up long distance bills to dial into Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) in the US, he decided to launch his own Internet Service Provider in Hawkesbury, Ontario. His dad helped—a bit.
After a career in tech startups, he headed to the UK to serve as CTO of the Public Sector Network and a Senior Technical Advisor in the Government Digital Service, part of the UK Cabinet Office. Today, James is a founding partner of Stance.global, helping governments around the world tackle digital transformation.
I’ve known James for years, but hadn’t chatted with him until recently. When I saw him tweeting about software in government, I knew we were long overdue to catch up.
James describes his work today as “helping you cope with the 21st century.” In the first FWDThinking talk of 2021, we touch on restoring public trust; the need to consider not just launch but also maintenance and end of live in projects; the resistance to nationalized tech infrastructure; and why battleships need to be self-sufficient.
James doesn’t mince words: “Anything with a build and run phase is bound to stagnate,” he points out, suggesting that government hierarchies need to resemble the services they deliver. In the end, much of his work isn’t tech—it’s basic executive strategy: Know your mission; know where value is made; scale your ability to listen; and distinguish commoditized utility from strategic differentiation.