Feeds

Government should extend agile development for IT

State could cut cost and provide better services, says govt 'think tank'

Top three mobile application threats

A report from the Institute for Government calls for a new approach to the way the government spends £16bn each year on technology.

In its report, titled "System Error: Fixing the Flaws in Government IT", the cross-party think tank says that ending the "big business IT contracts" that lock government in will require a new dual approach.

The Institute for Government describes this approach as dividing government computing between "agile" and "platform" work. The report says that by implementing both of these elements, the state sector could achieve cost and time savings while delivering more effective and flexible services.

"Agile" refers to a software development methodology, but says that the principles can be applied to all IT projects where development is modular and based on user involvement and feedback.

According to the IfG, the benefits of this more flexible approach is that components are broken down into manageable parts that can be revised or cancelled without major cost.

"Such an approach would make it easier for civil servants to respond to ministers' priorities and feedback on usability," it says.

The "platform" approach refers to a shared government-wide approach to simplifying elements of IT. The aim of this approach is to reduce costs, duplication and create shared standards. The IfG says this means focusing on the coordinated delivery of common ICT systems and setting common standards to support interoperability.

However, the report says there are tensions between these two approaches and the possible drawbacks need to be carefully managed. For example, treating items as commodities reduces cost but can limit flexibility, and coordinating elements of IT across departments frees up resources but may move them further from frontline users.

To overcomes these problems IfG recommends:

  • The government CIO should be responsible for which elements of government IT fall within the platform and which should remain outside for agile development.
  • The platform should focus on three areas: commoditisation, rationalising the management of common elements of government IT and setting common standards.
  • Delivery of elements in the platform should be undertaken by lead departments on behalf of the government as a whole.
  • Clear governance and escalation structures are required to resolve disputes between lead departments and other departments.
  • During 2011-12 all government departments should run several new projects using agile development principles.
  • Future IT and project management training for government employees should include a significant component of agile methods training and departments should also develop agile "centres of excellence" to provide support and training.
  • All departments should review governance, project approval processes and legal arrangements to ensure that they can be made to work with agile projects.
  • Government departments should ensure that all future supply contracts can be made to work with a more flexible and iterative approach to development. This review should be led by the centre in order to avoid duplication at the departmental level.

The IfG recognises that the government has already adopted an agile approach to delivering IT for the forthcoming Universal Credit, and that a prototype will be delivered in June. Otherwise it blames government for often failing to get the basics of IT right and falling behind the latest technology developments which many UK citizens use in their daily lives.

It points to numerous reports which have listed problems with government ICT, such as chronic project delays, suppliers failing to meet their contractual obligations and a failure to reuse existing technology.

"Most attempts to solve the problems with government IT have treated the symptoms rather than resolved the underlying system-wide problems. This has simply led to doing the wrong things 'better'," the report says.

Andrew Adonis, director of the IfG, said: "If a new approach to IT in government is not now put into practice, this will risk further haemorrhaging of public money. This report shows there is a better way that is more flexible and allows for the fact that government priorities continuously shift."

The document is based on observations of live IT projects, interviews with more than 70 IT experts and evidence from international and private sector case studies.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.