Improved thinking

March 8, 2011

The new report from the Institute for Government entitled System error: fixing the flaws in government IT is a welcome approach to a long known issue, that of government IT project management. What is also welcome is that the report points to Canada and Australia, rather than the USA for best practice. I’ve frequently promoted the Canadian model on this blog, along with the occasional Australian example, but for far too long we have been taking our guide from the USA, the Canadian model has also had the benefit of being formed in an ‘age of austerity’.

Ian Watmore, Chief Operating Officer at the Cabinet Officer is one of those involved in this production, along with former Government CIO John Suffolk. Ian was reported by Computer Weekly welcoming the report at the launch event.

The word that reverberates through the report is ‘agile’, but also we are finally being expected to consult the user. The nature of agile is that it encourages ‘commoditisation’ of applications, and if the government were to follow the suggested Australian route of ‘opt-out’, there is more chance of not re-inventing wheels.

There appears to be a lot of buy-in across central government to the report, so perhaps we should wait and see what happens. However, I gather the ‘skunkworks‘ is in operation, so the fruits of their labours may soon be evident!

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Governing IT

December 8, 2009

On the same day, 7th December 2009, that Gordon Brown launched “Putting the frontline first: smarter government“, another report discretely appeared “Installing new drivers: How to improve government’s use of IT” from the Institute for Government, where the Prime minister was launching the first-named report. It is written by Michael Hallsworth, Gareth Nellis and Mike Brass.

My own academic research has had to delve into the history of government department and ministry responsibilities for IT, but this report looks at it from a slightly different angle, as to how the resulting collegiate control of government IT has resulted in a lack of overall control and the resulting high cost.

It’s probably no coincidence that this has appeared just before the probable launch of the Government IT Strategy which is available in an “early” draft courtesy of the Conservative Party on their make it better website.

It appears to argue, not for direct centralisation of government IT but to give the centre greater control and at least some power to prevent some of the abuse of gateway reviews evidenced by recent disasters.

One interesting fact (p.19) – the Cabinet Office is only directly responsible for only 0.068 per cent of total government spending on IT, which they’ve pulled in from John Suffolk’s blog!

One interesting statement (p.21) “Ministers frequently do not pay sufficient attention to the IT dimensions of policy announcements” – a bit like councillors!