Monday, September 18, 2006

Public sector ITC

The Work Foundation (yes, odd name but it makes sense when you read their description of themselves) has released a report on public sector IT projects. 

Sometimes it seems hardly a week goes by in the UK without the media publicizing another failed Government IT project.  This report – and at 43 pages I haven’t read it all (yet) just executive summary and the conclusions – looks like a valuable and informed contribution to this debate.

The report is called How ICT? and is free.  (There is also a short summary in the FT – you might need a subscription.)  Interestingly this report has tried to look at technology projects from the point of view of the end-users, the workers on the front-line.  Its these people who use the system daily, these people who will see the immediate benefits or the immediate problems, and its the attempt to make these people more productive that the projects are all about.

(By the way, has anyone else noticed IT is no longer IT but ICT – Information and Communication Technology.  Thats another TLA to put next to IMS and IS and IM and …)

So what does the report say?

Well, ICT is about more than technology.  Its about changing the processes people use, its about the people involved in the processes and it is about the technology too.  Yes you have to manage the technology but its not the only problem, you need to carry the people with you and change the way they work to get the benefits.

The report also recommends: “Strong project management skills are vital” – it fills me full of thoughts of project managers with GANT charts – but then goes on to say “projects should be broken down into manageable chunks” which sound much more reasonable, then “a structure created for planning and monitoring progress” which seems entirely sensible.

Of course the report doesn’t say anything about how you should run your development effort but everything I’ve read so far suggests it is entirely possible to run it on Agile/Lean principles.

Although the report is about the public sector I think most private sector organizations could benefit from having a look at it.