Shared Services says SOCITM Strategy

Filed under: Governance,Strategy — lenand @ 9:17 pm
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Top marks to SOCITM for developing an open consultation on an ICT strategy for local government.  “Routemap for Local Public Services reform – enabled by ICT“.  As the President of SOCITM confirmed “We have never actually had a strategy and action plan for IT-enabled local public services, let alone one conceived for a citizen-driven public sector.”  So it is long overdue and should help beleagured ICT Managers (aka CIOs) to squeeze out more from less.

The five year Vision is straightforward:

  • “pan-local/pan-public-sector” ICT provision , encompassing strategy, architecture and commissioning, to drive efficiency and reform of public services, according to the needs and preferences of people in the diverse places that make up the UK.
  • ICT footprint in terms of people, technology, process and costs to be reduced substantially from today’s level.

The way to achieve it is through sharing, re-design and innovation.  Note that Sharing must come first to achieve the economies of scale and buying power.  Sharing is dependent on partnerships and there’s already been a lot of investment in how to form, implement and sustain multi-agency, information sharing partnerships.  The research and test projects revealed nine dimensions that have to considered for successful partnerships.

  • Business Scope
  • Governance
  • Legal Issues
  • Information sharing
  • Identity Management
  • Federation
  • Transactions, Events, Messages
  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainability

The SOCITM Strategy covers most of the dimensions, but there’s one glaring omission; Identity Management.  All shared service systems WILL FAIL if identity management methods are not applied to both staff and citizens.  Both need federating across the public sector infrastructure. Identity Management cannot be tagged on at the end of a project – look how ContactPoint suffered.

Within the Governance dimension lies funding.  Believe it or not, the inability of partners to agree a funding structure is the primary reason for the failure of partnerships.  The funding formula for shared services should be agreed on Day 1.  This a CEO and CFO role, not the responsibility of the CIO.

The benefit of drafts for consultation is that improvements can be made, and there are over 400 local authorities that can contribute their knowledge and experience.




Standards Slump

Filed under: Governance,Innovation,Policy,Standards — lenand @ 10:09 am
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I posed this question in a debate yesterday – and similarly at the latest Government ICT conference.

“Would some nationally agreed data sharing frameworks or standards help in:

  • creating better outcomes from shared services
  • speeding up the implementation of shared services
  • improving efficiency of system design and development
  • more accurate matching of data common
  • understanding and mapping of similar words
  • developing a national source of standard reference (aka master data)
  • sharing data with central government
  • joining up data sources for analysis and business intelligence
  • reducing the need for sending data to central government
  • lots more you might think of?

If the answer to many of these is yes, then why doesn’t the Government CIO financially support the establishment derivation and communication of such standards?”

Answer 1:  Standards had been an industry and the Government is spending more on deprecating old standards than developing new ones.

Answer 2: “The risk with standards are that they would either be very superficial (to cover all circumstances) and this could make them vague. Or they would be very detailed (and therefore complex and expensive to draft) but perhaps not cover the needs of every situation.”

I was not surprised at either of these answers.  The UK standards culture in ICT is to ignore them. We are seeing the results of this culture in our inability to share data and adapt to reducing budgets.

How does this tally with Martha Lane Fox’s demand for standards? Perhaps even she cannot penetrate the cultural barriers.


PASC 1: Policy unco-ordinated

Filed under: Governance,Policy,Strategy — lenand @ 2:42 pm
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Let’s start at the beginning.  The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) asked for evidence with 12 questions, the first being:

1. How well is technology policy co-ordinated across Government?

It is not obvious that technology policy is coordinated. How much work done by various CIO and CTO Council working parties has been completed and published? One example is the “Enterprise Architecture for UK Government”, started in 2006, and already featured in a previous blog. It was a brave attempt to develop an Enterprise Architecture reference model, intended to:

identify opportunities that will underpin improvements in the areas focussed on in the strategy, in particular:

  • Services enabled by IT designed around citizens and businesses
  • Moving to a shared services approach
  • Broadening and deepening government’s professionalism”

Benefits looked very promising:

  • “Promoting the development of common infrastructure
  • Improved management of risk
  • Identifying and aggregating demand to promote efficient use of resources
  • Sustainable alignment of business and IT functions
  • Agreement of shared standards to promote better inter-working between agencies
  • A greater competition in the supply of IT services and products
  • Improved business agility and a reduction of total cost of ownership

So many questions could be asked:

  • Where are the results?
  • How much budget was consumed?
  • Who benefitted?
  • What was learnt?
  • Why was the effort stopped?

There was lots of good will from both local and central government ICT managers, but no programme leadership. It was not a failure of policy; it was a failure of governance. And, as Quarkside knows – Governance Matters.


Dithering in Cabinet Office? Who should lead ICT?

Bryan Glick seems to think that the Cabinet Office may not have decided on future of the government CIO role – will John Suffolk be the last central government CIO?

Forget the title.  Let’s see this as an opportunity for the humble sufferers of indecision and abrogation (aka abolishment, abolition, annihilation, annulment, cancellation, defeasance, invalidation, negation, nullification) of standards to get some leadership.  It can only be put right at this elevated level.  Martha Lane Fox knows it to be true.

Most importantly give us an ICT strategy that is fit for the country and fit for purpose.  The Cross Government Enterprise Architecture (XGEA), started in 2005, does not appear to have made any impact on anything.  Certainly nothing from what was expected on the way forward:

  • Work on a common infrastructure based on the open standards and proven interoperability implemented with commercial off the shelf products
  • Common standards to help facilitate reuse and sharing
  • Inclusion of Information Assurance into all aspects of design and build
  • Rationalising government data and voice networks
  • Adopting a consistent approach to identity management

Have these guys been earning fat salaries without delivering? Did Ian Watmore do any better when he was previously in the post?   Isn’t their primary purpose to take the Minister’s policy forward into some clear strategic priorities?  They should have all this sorted within three months, not five years. It looks like dithering to Quarkside.

We, that’s the public sector, seem to be wandering in the wilderness without a roadmap of where to go or what to take with us.  We need leaders that can show us a vision, lay down the law and lead us to the Promised Land.  Did somebody mention a recall for Moses?


For Standards, follow India

Filed under: Policy,Standards — lenand @ 3:03 am
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UK Public Sector Information Governance standards may as well not exist.  They do exist in pockets, such as the NHS and SIF, but not across government departments.  Compare this with India.  Their vision may sound strange:

“Make all Government services accessible to the Common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man

But at least they have a vision produced by their Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.  What is the equivalent in the UK?  Quarkside was unable to find one.  Yes there is a web site with a few random archived documents dating from way back.  For example, “The e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) mandates the adoption of XML and the development of XML schemas as the cornerstone of the government interoperability and integration strategy.”  has one document dated 15th May 2001.  Is this really still valid and part of the coalition policy?

This peek into standards was triggered by Bryan Glick who compared India’s approach to Open Standards with the EU and UK.  I could not even trace the EU documents.  How do we expect to compete with emerging economies with large numbers of educated systems developers?  They seem to be following best practice – which we developed a generation ago.   Some rightly argue that standards may stultify innovation, but when it comes to high volume information sharing applications they are critical to success.    The old, boring, approaches must get back on the Government CIO’s agenda.

It is all well and good for ministers to promote moving all transactions on-line, but their officials must tell them that our standards infrastructure is woefully inadequate and not fit for interoperability purposes.  We risk being demoted to the second division by teams that are investing in first class skills and competencies.

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