The Tory take

July 5, 2009

Published by the Centre for Policy Studies is a view from a Conservative councillor on the present government’s IT policy, particularly in the arena of personal data – It’s ours. The report by Liam Maxwell is a useful read for anybody working in government IT since it may be the approach subsequent to the next election!

For me it has an awful lot of sense, as can be found in earlier posts, I was never quite happy with the ‘deep truth’  that central government wanted us to seek, I never treated it as personal imformation, just a lot of mumbo-jumbo that would never help anybody. It also identifies the limited use being made of electronic government ‘services’.

In fact in terms of evaluating IT projects, one of the issues raised, Cabinet Office has already got its own rottweiler investigating – Stephen Jenner – who I met at ECEG2009, and whose book I bought, which is largely common sense and to save you the fifteen  quid here’s an interview from the CIPFA PinPoint magazine – CipfapinpointJune09 – he’s also looking for people to do a survey for him –ABRMsurveyv1.0eceg

Importantly for this researcher Maxwell does state that “Putting the citizen, and not the government, at the centre of IT design can have startling results.” (P.14)

One place I would argue with the report is on P.16, where it states that ” information acquired for one purpose in the public sector may be used for another entirely different purpose”, if that had been the case the delivery of electronic government would have been much easier and I’d argued with a senior civil servant about that being a barrier some years ago, and nothing eased.

The same applies to Service Oriented Architecture and Cloud Computing, both praised in the book and both being promoted at Cabinet Office, unfortunately the governmental monolith moves slowly and acceptance of these concepts will take time.

Having said that, I welcome a fresh political take on the frequently ignored (by politicos) area of government IT and don’t disagree with any of the conclusions, however implementing them through Whitehall may be a different matter…

Researching local government, Web 2.0 and Service-oriented architecture

September 2, 2008

Adrian Barker of the IDeA posted the following on his blog on the 30th August 2008

“Practical, up-to-date research?

Read a fascinating article [1] today which uses a mixture of statistical techniques and semi-structured interviews to show that inspection on its own has no impact on performance, that a strategy of innovation does, and that supportive inspection can enhance an innovative strategy.

Good as this is, it was published in 2008, the article was submitted in May 2006, based on fieldwork in 2002-3.  I don’t blame the researchers: that’s the way the system works, but there must be innovative ways to combine current practitioner insights with academic rigour to produce practically useful research with rapid turnaround.  Sounds like a job for LARCI.

[1] Rhys Andrews, George Boyne, Jennifer Law and Richard Walker, ‘Organizational Strategy, External Regulation and Public Service Performance’, Public Administration, Vol. 86, No. 1, 2008 (185-203).

I actually got to it later at:

In response I posted the following on 1st September 2008:


Interesting post and I’ll read the paper once I’m at home – work system doesn’t like cookies and Interscience forces one!

As a current practioner/researcher (as you know) there are reasons for this that LARCI won’t influence:

My current research questionnaire (13 questions) has managed around 31 responses – hardly statistically significant but my supervisors consider that good for local government! In fact when I circulated the link to the questionnaire at a meeting the President of Socitm stated that he didn’t respond to academic research because ‘once they’d got you they never let you alone’. So researchers find getting feedback out of government like getting s**t out of a rocking horse! So not a popular topic.

Papers take some time to turn around with peer-review unless you are lucky! If a reviewer reccomends major changes it can take ages and then has to go through the process again! Luck has a lot to answer for. I submitted a paper at the start of this year April and the conference is in September – that’s pretty fast! I’m currently drafting abstracts for 12 months ahead – you also need to be psychic!

I know people get bothered by undergraduate or MBA researchers but the only way to train people is to let them loose! I am provisionally presenting work through ESD-toolkit and EIP to get it out to the practitioners along with the blog – any other suggestions? I’m not sure the CO, DCLG or AC want to know the truth otherwise they might assist but I’m always impressed by Audit Scotland and CIPFA who circulate some good stuff!”

Research was never easy but practical research in the government community is a cross only a few demented people seem to chose!

Dave Briggs circulated the following:

“Just a quick note to inform you all about an event I’m running with Peterborough City Council for local government types to find out about what’s going on in the sector with social media, web 2.0 and whatnot.

More info at with booking at

To which I reponded:

“Thanks Dave, I’ll circulate to colleagues – is it in competition with the Socitm event? 😉
By the way, I was reading up on the history of SOA (service oriented architecture), which was posited by a Gartner consultant (Yefim Natis in 1996) and there is a recent Gartner paper suggesting that Web 2.0 is distracting from SOA, which should be the real concern. Its one of those front versus back office dialogues. This is in the general business sector.

For the public sector, to confuse metters, I’m trying to develop a Citizen Oriented Architecture which is a mix of front office and performance tools that could then meet with the back-office SOA.

Any views on SOA versus Web 2.0?”

And I’ll ask here, too – any views on SOA versus Web 2.0 – is it the cart before the horse or what? Of course one does need to have done one’s system/process stuff before implementing SOA but scraping, blogging and mashups are very front-end tools!