NAO: Messages missed in painful prose.

There are lots of messages in the National Audit Office (NAO) “Information and Communications Technology in government. Landscape Review“.  Whereas it has been broadly welcomed, such as by Douglas Hayward, there are many finer points of detailed advice that are probably being ignored.  Long sentences and diplomatic prose obscure strong criticism and advice how to do things better.  Most ICT managers will only skim read such documents, if ever.

An illustration is how opportunities are missed for making use of vast stores of public data assets.

“2.9 It is surprising that there has not been greater emphasis across government on the application of these systems and the business analysis skills needed to apply them. Business intelligence capabilities are often built into government’s business or back office systems where they are used for measuring performance of particular services by specialist business analysts. However, it is extremely rare to find these types of systems meaningfully applied at the top level of government bodies where their potential to assist with strengthening financial management and making informed decisions about the future is greatest. This is especially the case in departments that have complex delivery mechanisms and accountability structures across many executive and arm’s length bodies, and where large quantities of information need to be assimilated accurately and often in real time.”

These three sentences mean “Start using Business Intelligence methods across the public sector to improve quality of decisions”.

As ever, such documents, downplay possible contribution from Local Government and other public service organisations; only Civil Service and Private Sector appear as People in their diagram of ICT Components:

NAO ICT Components

NAO ICT Components

If there is to be any cross-sector business intelligence for local shared services; local authorities, health, education, police, third sector and much more must be brought together – using standard interoperability processes.  At least, Governance is acknowledged as crossing boundaries.  The plea to use standards is hidden in the small print.

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