“Better for Less” – could do better

Filed under: Governance,Local Government,Policy — lenand @ 9:16 am

“Better for Less” provided an opportunity for a complete re-think of public sector ICT strategy that covers all aspects of a CIO role. Unfortunately, risk-averse officials in bureaucratic organisations could easily identify issues that they could use as an excuse for delaying any or all of the workstreams.

Three things jump out:

• Incomplete ICT life-cycle model

• Incomplete set of supporting concepts and processes

• Overcomplicated governance structure

The first two can be identified by questioning whether the proposals are MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive). Firstly, the Pervasive ILC (Innovate, Leverage, Commoditise) Model does not cover a CIO’s full span of control. It misses the continued operation and phasing out of non-performing processes. In addition to many legacy systems and contracts, this work currently employs the majority of ICT resources. A CIO cannot ignore such constraints and must embed them into a local strategy.

Secondly, each of the three lifecycle stages in the ILC model has five concepts to be applied: scope, process, delivery mechanisms, commercial focus and technical strategy. In themselves they are acceptable, but is not a MECE list. This may not register at a political level, but a recalcitrant CIO could use this defect to attack the credibility of other proposals. This risks delaying progress towards the goal of lower cost technology delivery.

Finally, governance structure; perhaps as a result of the above, governance is both incomplete and too complicated. Governance of legacy systems is still necessary in managing portfolios of work. Six additional new governance bodies is worthy of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic operetta. One may be acceptable – but SIX? Surely, the additional layers of bureaucracy conflict with the Post Bureaucratic Age vision.

None of the issues are insurmountable. A bit more careful thought and wider debate could create national consensus on a policy that meets the guiding principles and can deliver in each of the four workstreams.


  1. At last I have found the academic evidence for a four part strategic grid. http://bit.ly/cvshDZ . It indicates the missing element to the ILC model. Cranfield maps them to High Potential, Strategic, Key Operation and Support. The last phase is missed by ILC. My favourite names that map to “Better For Less” principles are currently Innovative, Partnership, Operational and Administrative projects (IPOA). The existing systems are doing a job and have to be retired gracefully.

    Grids are an important part of maintaining a balanced portfolio of projects and commoditised services.

    Comment by lenand — 27/09/2010 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

  2. […] group.  Innovation cannot take place without Chief Executives ring fencing of funds in a managed portfolio of projects and continuing […]

    Pingback by SOCk It To ‘eM, SOCITM « Quarkside — 25/10/2010 @ 7:14 am | Reply

  3. The commodity stage of lifecycle covers the phasing out of non-performing processes.

    What’s important with the lifecycle model is a realisation that the techniques / methods / structures applied to one stage of lifecycle are not the same as those applied to other stages. The model places emphasis on focusing how activities change and adapting to that change appropriately.

    It signals a need to end the “one size fits all” mentality within portfolio, project management and other techniques which by ignoring the very nature of what is being managed have created significant waste and inefficiencies. For example, the blanket use of highly structured techniques in situations where deviation, uncertainty and rapid change are the order of the day.

    The ILC model presumes a willingness to accept IT as what it is, a mass of activities all at different and evolving stages for which there are different and appropriate techniques for management & operations.

    Hope that helps.

    Simon Wardley

    Comment by swardley — 03/11/2010 @ 11:40 am | Reply

    • Yes, it does. For example, if we start looking at the changes inherent in the new electoral registration requirements, some big changes are afoot. Apparently the annual canvass costs £47 million per year. That can’t be phased out unless it is part of some strategic development cycle. We have to replace costly old systems with lower cost modern systems. The ILC route (including deprecation) is appropriate.

      Comment by lenand — 04/11/2010 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

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