The change of US presidency brings a focus on the agility of government IT systems. A rule of thumb is that you have 60 days to implement large mandates – 30 days for smaller ones – in US state and federal governments. These expectations place a strain on aging government systems that may not be able to effectively respond.
I wanted to take a look at whether the “Government-as-a-Platform” approach of the UK government may offer a model that other Public Sector organizations could follow to build agility into their IT infrastructure – and provide a solid foundation for increased Digital Transformation.
Let’s face it. No government on the planet has a spotless record on IT project delivery. Examples of high profile IT failures are easy to find. Bob Charette, Contributing Editor of IEEE Spectrum provided one (slightly tongue-in-cheek) reason for this: “A lot of times the systems are politically mandated in the sense that you have somebody on the Hill or Congress who will mandate a system and they’ll mandate a particular period of time and they’ll mandate the amount of money to spend and they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.”
It’s not just the Public Sector. The history of large-scale IT projects shows a large number of programs where the costs rose exponentially and the expected benefits weren’t achieved. An incremental, evolutionary approach is always more likely to deliver than a big bang. This is especially true for Digital Transformation and that’s why, in my opinion, a ‘Government-as-a-Platform’-type approach has so much potential.
The concept behind Government-as-a-Platform is simple: To create a technology infrastructure based on common, reusable components – systems, services, process, analytics, etc – that can be adopted across all levels of government to build systems, work collaboratively and share information. Kit Collingwood-Richardson, Deputy Director at the UK’s Department of Work & Pensions said: “We are going to have to start bleeding between organisational boundaries and say, we’re not this department or that department, but here is the service that we offer as a collaboration between departments.”
The UK government believes Government-as-a-Platform will contribute £10 billion of efficiency savings between 2017 and 2018. Government-as-a-Platform could be seen as a response to to the EU eGovernment Action Plan for 2016-2020. The main principles includes digital-by-default, the once-only principle and the modernization of Public Administration using ‘key enablers’ such as Electronic Identification (eID), Electronic Documents (eDocuments) and authentic data sources.
The key advantage, for me, is that encourages Public Sector organizations to focus as much – or more – time and effort on transforming their middle and back-office systems as they have on multi-channel digital service delivery. There is a very good reason why this is important.
A recent survey into the status of eGovernment in Europe found that 81% of public services are now available online – that figure falls to only 3% when looking at fully automated services. Although governments have made major strides to provide services digitally, the speed and ease of use have advanced poorly according to system users within the research. In effect, the digital channels are in place but the actual services still need to be properly transformed.
This is where the Government-as-a-Platform concept wins. It provides the building blocks for systems and data to only be created once and then shared on a cross-government basis. The ability for all government agencies to have one single view of the citizen allows for much more cost-efficient and effective service delivery. It allows the agility for new systems to be created to meet the deadlines set within political mandates. It also gives a basis for innovation and a new joined-up approach to what new services are needed and how they’re delivered. For the citizen, it means the trust and confidence that their engagement with public sector bodies – whatever they are – will be based on the proper and correct data.
In essence, what Government-as-a-Platform describes is a comprehensive Enterprise Information Management (EIM) infrastructure. It’s built on the ability to bring structured and unstructured data together and allow people to collaborate using all the content and information within the organization.
This centralized control allows for the use of analytics to define the insight into data needed for new service provision. It’s interesting to note that the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) recently found that Big Data came third out of the 50 forces leading change for the Public Sector globally.
As importantly, selecting an EIM platform allows government organizations to introduce an evolutionary approach to Digital Transformation. The legacy systems that still reside within every level of Public Sector don’t need to be ripped out. Instead, they can be integrated into the central EIM system so that the benefits of Digital Transformation are realized and a longer term migration plan can be established for those systems that can’t support the delivery of modern digital services.