Two-pronged platform and agile approach needed, according to Institute for Government...
The government's approach to IT projects is fundamentally flawed - locked in a "vicious cycle" of inefficiency and underdelivery, an independent report compiled with the help of public and private sector CIOs has warned.
The public sector needs a new modus operandi combining the power of a standardised platform for IT procurement and the responsiveness of agile software development methods to fix the "underlying system-wide problems" that have led to a £16bn-per-year function foundering on such a regular basis. It would also enable the public sector to tap into the benefits offered by new technologies.
The report, written by independent thinktank the Institute for Government and entitled System Error: Fixing the flaws in government IT, urges the government to take a more adaptable and flexible approach to IT projects to keep pace with technology shifts and ensure project goals do not become outdated.
"There is a well-documented history of too many high-profile and costly [IT] failures," the report states. "This is rarely the fault of the underpinning technology: policy complexity; late additions to already long lists of requirements; inadequate change-management processes; and a failure to bring users fully into the picture, all play their part."
Locking in IT project requirements upfront and then proceeding at "a glacial pace" has resulted in "repeated system-wide failure", according to the report. At the same time, it says the government has failed to standardise effectively in areas where a common platform would help, such as IT procurement.
"Traditional linear IT project approaches, like the V-model and Waterfall, assume that the world works in a rational and predictable fashion. Specifications are drawn up in advance, 'solutions' are procured, and then delivery is managed against a pre-determined timetable. In reality, priorities change rapidly and technological development is increasingly unpredictable and non-linear," the report notes.
"Ironically, in areas where it may make sense to lock down choices, such as the procurement of commodity items or the implementation of common standards, government struggles. The strong departmental lines of accountability mean that while many government IT professionals recognise these issues, no one has the mandate to tackle them."
The report suggests the government adopt a two-pronged approach to IT - describing this strategy as both "platform and agile". In other words, looking to tap up the simplicity and cost benefits of having a shared platform for commodity procurement and co-ordinating the delivery of common IT facilities, but also...