Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fixing the flaws in Government IT

I recently had a look at the report here and got to thinking - what about Information & who guards the guards?
It's interesting when looking at what’s wrong with Government IT, the 6 authors are:
…. a Research Analyst at the Institute for Government.
….. a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government.
…..a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government …. previously worked in the Canadian civil service.
….. an Intern at the Institute for Government up until February 2011,
……..a Fellow at the Institute for Government;
…….a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government

So naturally if we think there’s something wrong with Government IT (surely the whole premise behind commissioning the report) then a good place to start would be with exemplar organisations & practices that are “not wrong”.
So having got that rant over & actually believing that the authors are not best placed to provide objective criticism, here’s my 2p worth.
The focus is predominantly on technology.
The CIO in the vast majority of organisations is actually not an “Information” officer, but a “Technology” officer.  The few corporates that have successfully got to grips with how “ICT” can effectively serve the business are those who understand that whilst organisation / functional units change, personnel change, and data volumes increase, that the fundamental definitions / concepts of business data (ie the conceptual / logical models) are relatively stable.
I say relatively because of course with wholesale mergers / acquisitions / divestments etc there can be larger change. 
Fundamentally, the information (and business process) models provide a good foundation upon which detailed technical processes (ie programs, packages, XML messages or whatever) can be built / implemented.  The unholy focus upon the “T” of IT witnessed especially in Government is analogous to spending lots of time & energy picking out the carpets, curtains & wallpaper because all that foundations & plumbing stuff is boring.
It’s about time government sat up & realised that Information across Government business areas / departments needs to be managed:  I was going to say … managed as well as within Government departments, but evidence shows that the discipline of true “Information Management” in most departments is woefully misunderstood, and the special competencies required are not present.  Not only that, the critical importance of information management as a professional discipline is not well understood - just how many “information management” professionals in Government IT have the Industry Data Management Qualifications?  Now compare that with say HR or Accounting professionals!
So why do we need a cross Government Information view?
Anti Money laundering
Illegal immigration
Homeland security
Counter terrorism
Organised crime
Benefit fraud
…… I could go on
So what’s’ to be done:?
Create a Government “Information Management” officer & executive.
Establish cross government Information Management, Governance, Quality and Ownership responsibilities.
Think global – act local; ie establish the need / types / quality etc for shared information but devolve the responsibility to a “lead” department.  After all in the real world. Corporate data governance programs establish data owners in the business to be responsible for the cross organisation stewardship of that type of data for the good of the whole company.
Key game changer is that Information must be thought of as a corporate (vs departmental) asset and its management must be for the good of the entire organisation – not just the silo I live in.
Until that happens, we’ll continue to have CIO’s focusing on T who don’t give an D about I

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