/>
X
Government

BIG is butt ugly

There's something to be said for the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen — an idea of continually improving business via small changes — something that unfortunately doesn't seem to glean many votes or impress punters.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

There's something to be said for the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen — an idea of continually improving business via small changes — something that unfortunately doesn't seem to glean many votes or impress punters.

If there'd been a focused project of a smaller scope, it would have been like the brief pick of many tiny needles instead of the invasive prod of the Gershon colonoscopy

Second to being the reviews government, I'd say the Rudd Government could be classified as the government of BIG. Broad sweeping changes that are all going to change our lives for the better. "Don't you worry, Howard's gone now. Everything's going to be all right. We're going to DO THINGS."

So the government has industriously gone about doing things. We have the BIG National Broadband Network. The BIG stimulus package. The BIG hospital reform agenda. The BIG Gershon review.

In our BIG, hire a Brit to fix us, Gershon review there were many changes suggested including governance, skilling, contractors versus in-house employees — a BIG broad master plan. This made for a complex map of a timetable of things to do.

I had a peek at that timetable recently. Did you know that September 2009 was the due date for the government to optimise the number of ICT panel arrangements? Or that this month was the date to have the datacentre strategy handed in?

We've had some update on those two initiatives within the last month. Finance Minister Lindsey Tanner said with a flourish last week that the government was going to have whole-of-government telecommunications and desktop panels.

Got that? It announced it was going to have them. By the end of 2009/2010 financial year. Panels for some services even as late as the 2010/2011 financial year. Until then there was a stopgap panel for desktop services. I wouldn't exactly call that the completion of "optimis[ing] the number of ICT panel arrangements established". (Although according to Intermedium, the number of contracts for the government has reduced, which would suggest some progress is being made.)

Then the datacentre strategy. According to the Gershon report, September 2009 was the deadline to "develop a whole-of-government datacentre strategy". The end of September saw Tanner announce an interim panel to breach the gap until the datacentre strategy could be implemented.

So far there has been a great industry consultation love-fest, but the strategy itself hasn't been developed. A report detailing options for the strategy will be finished by the end of the year according to AGIMO, after which it will be put to a secretary's ICT governance board which will put recommendations forward to the government. We're probably looking at another six months until we see a strategy.

The great thing about BIG for governments in power is that everyone gets so lost in the multitude of goals and deadlines that the amount of slippage and cost climb while benefits slip under the radar until some auditor general's report surfaces like the one last week on the NSW Government project that was $23 million over budget and nine years late. Hopefully by that time it's not that government's problem anymore.

The Queensland Government's into BIG too. It's been doing identity management programs, datacentre consolidation programs, transformation programs, consolidating all agencies onto one version of payroll and financials. It works about as well for the state as it does in the federal arena. After spending millions, Queensland recently admitted defeat on the payroll and financials consolidation, saying that there would be four or five versions of payroll and two to three versions of financials.

Quite apart from the well-known rule that states the bigger a project is, the greater the possibility it will go really pear-shaped, the BIG bang way also often alienates people. For instance, as the Gershon report came out in the middle of the financial crisis, the Australian Information Industry Association got itself into a huff about saving $400 million when the IT industry needed the money. I think if there'd been a focused project of a smaller scope, it would have been like the brief pick of many tiny needles instead of the invasive prod of the Gershon colonoscopy.

BIG also makes everyone in the industry dither while they wait for what's going to happen. It happened with infrastructure decisions while everyone waited on the National Broadband Network and it happened with government spending in the lead up to the Gershon review.

BIG does mean sexy PR. BIG does mean fanfare at the announcement. BIG does mean everyone staring at the headlights of change like stunned rabbits. But while you're looking at the headlights of BIG, you never know what's going to happen.

And after all, what's wrong with having a smaller scope but making stronger more closely watched priorities? We'll fix these now, then see how we go, so we can fix the next thing? Things that will maybe not make a sweeping difference, but that might actually get done on time, on budget and deliver what they promise?

Small steps. Kaizen. Think about it.

Editorial standards

Related

The 21 best Black Friday deals under $30 ahead of Cyber Monday
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The 21 best Black Friday deals under $30 ahead of Cyber Monday

The 62 best Black Friday deals you can still shop at Costco right now
LG 65" Class - QNED80 Series

The 62 best Black Friday deals you can still shop at Costco right now

The 52 best Black Friday deals on Amazon ahead of Cyber Monday
Image of Amazon Echo Show 8 on a wooden table in front of a person cooking and folding pastry dough.

The 52 best Black Friday deals on Amazon ahead of Cyber Monday