David Cameron Follow On

RT @ITprofligate http://ping.fm/PtxAy election UK politics conservative labour here is part two
In case you can't see it on conjoint here it is.

David Cameron Follow On
Published on Saturday, April 10th 2010. Edited by Lab Zipzipace. tag

I have made my points about what would need to precede a serious change in the manner of public sector IT procurement.
The necessary first steps are repeated below. Form a powerful, focused and independent team who are able to model in economic terms desired goals and chart a path in legal terms. This team, and perhaps a few other teams that devolve from it, should have a remit such as this:-

1. dismantling of reliance on large suppliers.
2. scrutinising contractual obligations and finding points of non-fulfilment.
3. in conjunction with 2. wholesale renegotiation of contracts that cannot be terminated.
4. concentrate on de-scoping large projects into far smaller cooperating units.
5. create a component database and monitor supply costs against key elements.
6. emphasise the technology for cooperation and reporting.

Notice that this presupposes the benefit of 1.
This point, and others such as the major point about the role of Open Source need to be independently established.
In what follows I take them as a given as the ideas I advocate would only be able to be built on from such a consensus.

I am going to avoid an analysis in minutia, but there are some useful observations that can be made here.

Varney has failed
Supply into the public sector that has aimed at replacing back office activities with on-line capability has been developed as a series of monolithic islands.
This is the basic thrust of the Varney report which recommendations the present government has tried, in its last round of IT procurement, to act on.
Not only has this failed, the situation has actually been made worse by further embedding managerial practices and software encoded procedures (or you might say lack of) into the broad system.
It is true, as previously discussed, that some large percentage of promised savings will be made, but the whole system remains at risk due to its extraordinary fragility, major possible points of failure include:-

i. not being able to communicate data cross department. ii. inflexibility with respect to new or evolved requirements. iii. its reliance on existing suppliers.

It is certain that Varney's vision has not been realised and cannot be realised given the current state of arrangements with major suppliers.

Varney's vision
On a high level Varney's vision has been an opportunity to deploy new data handling techniques and precise techniques in classification of assets and content to enable flexible information surfacing, depending on context.
What this means is that there are techniques, in which this country could have taken a lead, that would solve the problems presented by Varney.
In particular, these techniques could be used to mitigate against the risks of future changes in requirements.
The solution to unanticipated changes of context can and should be designed into a system.

Flexible data sharing
I have previously drawn on the metaphor of ships in the English Channel.
We may imagine that each ship is a government department.
Whereas in the case of ships they may only rarely need to communicate with each other (although it would have to be with 100% reliability) in the case of government departments it may be the norm.
What if a government department were to need to change the way or to which other department it needs to communicate? Perhaps like a ship having a different destination.
It can be seen that this would be highly desirable to be possible and was, in fact, part of the original intention of Varney that is not being fulfilled by suppliers.
It is crucial that this be instituted at the earliest possible opportunity, to avoid future disruption and costs.
This begs the question of how this might be achieved as IT spending is going to be radically cut.
Without the research of the independent team as I suggest, I can only offer an opinion which is that it is both important and feasible to do.
Contracts must be withdrawn and as they are some new contracts can be let. The focus of these new contracts would be precisely on small, manageable projects and the absolute necessity for them to share data with other projects.
By which I mean by the most appropriate means, given the project, with standard based protocols and practices the priority.

Why the GCloud is Totally Wrong
The design of process as embodied in software is the most important aspect of application development.
If existing ineffective and poorly communicative applications are redeployed into a central cloud the only benefit is the material one of housing and centralised maintenance. But there is a huge disbenefit in terms of increased inflexibility in the ability to identify failing to purpose applications and re-engineer them. This could introduce horrendous barriers to change and would also introduce huge barriers to the policy I am advocating which is split up and relet contracts to much smaller parties.
If there ever were to be a design of castle, moat and drawbridge to protect existing suppliers, this would be it.

The Oligopoly Fights On
Sensible application development takes place in small co-located teams that have the ability to work through large amounts of fine detail on a daily basis.
Large suppliers do not care about the basic facts of human interaction necessary for successful project development.
They spend their money on convincing the customer of the complexity of the tasks, and therefore its high risk and cost.
Then they spend their money on creating other layers of complexity that enable them to change the requirements to suit what they want to deliver, finally striping out their costs at the delivery stage.
They do every thing in reverse to how delivery should be made because they are not incentivised to get delivery right, while the customer buys services from those whose interest it is to shroud delivery in secrecy and complexity.
Small suppliers would not be able to behave like this so long as a sensible procurement process were to exist.
This would be along the normal lines of competitive tender, possibly with greater openness than in the private sector.

How this might be done in detail and other issues such as whether making Crown Copyright
RT @ITprofligate http://ping.fm/rwWIu election UK politics conservative labour here is part one
In case you can't see it on conjoint.bis here it is.

David Cameron
Published on Friday, April 9th 2010. Edited by Lab Zipzipace. tag

1. Reasons for this note.
2. Principal Issues, Savings and Leverage.
3. Remedies:Approaches to detoxification of the supply chain.
4. Ministerial Interference.
5. A Crack Team.
6. Pragmatic Remedies:A Team Remit.


Reasons for this note
Cuts are being measured in billions, perhaps an additional £12bn to the already project £15bn in the first year of a Conservative government. £2bn is forecast to come out of the Civil Service in the first year.
£3bn in renegotiated contracts of supply and a similar figure on discretionary spending, that is on consultants.
The remaining tranche is largely in IT spending, the figure given as between £2bn and £4bn.
I can only write about what I have view of and what I can extrapolate from that view.
The project I have view of, like any sizeable public sector IT project, should have been a flag ship project to the highest of standards.
I can affirm that it was actually shamefully lacking in standards and of very poor quality.
However, before entering into any of that detail or possible remedies it is necessary to understand the context, that of ensuing severe cuts.
These represent both an opportunity and a danger from the point of view of wanting to ensure standards.

Principal Issues, Savings and Leverage

There are two principle issues.

2.1. The amount of savings I can predict.
2.2. Whether those savings can be meaningfully leveraged.

2.1. I have said that savings could be in the order of 90% - 95% of what is being charged in software development. Let us assume that the project of which I had view was atypical. Nevertheless I realistically anticipate the possibility of 50% reductions. This means that for, effectively the same outcome, the cost would be 50%.
2.2. Leverage is more complex. It is necessary to inspect the reasons for the huge and wasteful overspending as at the moment. Unfortunately space does not allow.
One of the reasons for overspend has been that what can be saved on projects compared to the savings the project is making does not warrant the perceived risk of tightening the spend.
I do not agree with that calculation, but I do agree that the ratio of saving in one area is not commensurate with that in the other, unless it can be leveraged.

The whole of what I propose rests, therefore, on this possibility of leverage.
Discussions abound about the appalling failings in public sector IT procurement and what, reasonably, might be done about it.

3. Remedies:Approaches to detoxification of the supply chain.

A firm commitment must be made to the answer to this issue: _Is centralised control effective and if not would decentralised control be a remedy?_

The following illustrates common public exchanges in this area.

The Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP) stated that the public sector could trim around 20 percent of its current £16 billion annual spend on IT by 2014.

As well as making commitments to energy efficiency and cloud technology, the government also reiterated plans to champion open source software and open standards and avoid proprietary lock-in.

However Mark Taylor founder of the Open Source Consortium is quoted as saying:-

“I was very closely involved with Birmingham at the start (I resigned from the ‘Open Source Academy‘ when I saw what was happening) and it was a shameful project [sic]”.

from eweekeurope

Here we have a representative of a market segment pointing out that aside from buzzwords, the current government is doing little substantial to make good their commitments to his segment (Open Source).

4. Ministerial Interference. This story also illustrates another extremely important feature:Ministerial interference. It is an extraordinary fact that Ministers can interfere in processes that end up costing the exchequer billions and that the only redress the tax payer has is in the election ballot. .....
Opportunity one
This is one of the opportunities that cuts in spending represents. Once a clear process is arrived at Ministers will not be greatly interested in further interference.

5. A Crack Team. Others recommend gathering a team of experts to assess claims from competing sectors for their potential savings and steer through changes.
While this is the approach I favour, using a team that comprises more legal experts and economists able to assess impact than IT experts partisan to a particular approach, any such team must come up against fundamental obstacles both in their ability to make objective assessment and their ability to deliver changes.

6. Pragmatic Remedies:A Team Remit. A more pragmatic solution might be to have a succession of teams set up that would report back to central.
Each team should have a very clear remit.

I outline the remit below.

1. dismantling of reliance on large suppliers.
2. scrutinising contractual obligations and finding points of non-fulfilment.
3. in conjunction with 2. wholesale renegotiation of contracts that cannot be terminated.
4. concentrate on de-scoping large projects into far smaller cooperating units.
5. create a component database and monitor supply costs against key elements.
6. emphasise the technology for cooperation and reporting.

Further Discussion It is only with the last two points that I can make a contribution on the basis of my own expertise. With regard point 5. I have been told that, because of the way the Government has formed its contract with its suppliers, a simple but necessary operation needed in the intercommunication space, a few hours work, can be charged out at £100,000.
This area needs an urgent and very vigorous review. It is certain that contracts have to be substantially renegotiated or broken here.
Opportunity two
If the technology deployed in the IT engine of businesslink supplied by Serco PLC is anything to go by, not only has money been wasted but opportunity to embrace new technologies that can truly be leveraged has been squandered.
Good things have general benefits that include cost savings, but also the pulling up of skills, a benefit in an entirely different area.

I believe this has been a deliberate policy on the part of the large suppliers to make their systems closed and, therefore very expensive to interact with the systems of others.
Technology can be designed to facilitate systems intercommunication and the general thrust in Software Engineering is to embrace the smaller, separately steerable model.
Thinking of each project as a boat on the English Channel is a good metaphor. There couldn't be just a few big boats on the channel, as each has its own purpose and separate destination. But they do communicate with each other and with central. Just as these ships could open up greater channels of communication with one another so should each IT module have this ability. At the moment this is not the case.

Two final points.

1. Size. My estimate is that the optimum size of these modules by value would be between £500,000 and £5 million.
Very much smaller than current thinking.
2. Retrofitting.
The final issue is whether the necessary intercommunication between module elements can be retro-fitted. In other words is it possible to break down existing projects?
The answer to this is that it is and it would also be necessary to realise the benefits.
One major area this touches on the complex issue of open source in relation to Crown work.
The ultimate aim is to invigorate the supply chain and promote a very vigorous ecosystem.
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I have just contacted the Conservative party with this message:-
I have specific details of an HMRC led IT project where the contractor seems to deliberately provides excessively expensive and sub standard functionality in the service. I would like the opportunity to gather my thoughts on paper about this in the knowledge that it will be considered and lessons shall be learned. To catch your attention my broader surmise is that savings down to from one tenth to one twentieth of current costs could be made in many areas, amounting to many billions of pounds every year. Can you provide me with a contact in this matter? Please note I have read your proposals on technology, I am offering far more detailed and actual practice based analysis than the high level offerings I have read so far.
Should my Mac be used as a communication hub?
The obvious answer is yes.
What do I have?
Direct to twitter
1. Seesmic Desktop & account
2. TweetDeck & account - but not really for online
3. Skype - can post from - this is a contact link to twitter
Direct to all services
1. Add this - can control to where this gets published and nature of the tweet if you are careful. It works in conjunction with ping.fm. It is a firefox extension.
2. and ping.fm - which is perhaps the most useful because a controlled post can be made to all assets - well not nanoki of course! And I haven't set up another of my blog assets, perhaps I should, but too much work to get it into shape really.
And maybe it should be private from this?
I have already opened up nanoki.

Re:nanoki it does seem so long as it is contactable it suffices at the moment. It can be faster or slower, but not too terrible until it blocks. Then it needs a restart. I have no tool for this unfortunately, maybe a cron job? Wouldn't do any harm.

Services not covered
1. I have never made full use of delicious
I use it a lot, but not fully. Need to explore more, and how to link up with twitter, etc.
2. Remember aim is to gain readership. To that end this blog seems better suited.
But it is in conjunction with nanoki wiki, which has longer posts on the subject. Really this is supposed to be a tech blog, somehow. This post falls within remit. Politics and campaigning as such, does not. But nanoki has a load problem and an organisational problem.
3. labels and tags. twitter posts by any medium to this blog will use a filter and make it into a label. #filter #label ---> filter, label.
Things are more complicated taking into account delicious, firefox bookmarks, my own other blog asset and nanoki.
Ignoring the other blog asset as not involved here, just to mention its conventions are different, nanoki has no labels and no way of making them. But it does have a link back to internal referring pages. So all I need is a page for each label I want to create and a lists of links on it to the pages where the label should appear with the url of this page on the page being labelled. Bit of work but simple really.
4. Nanoki causes other problems in its rss feed. Items may not retain date, may not be updated and may duplicate. Feedburner doesn't seem to cure completely.
bloglines is helpful, though not quite happy with the html it produces, so that needs hand editing. From blog lines I can post here.

My bloging policy
1. I must decide how much of a campaign should find its way onto this blog.
2. Different issues, style of blog, readership is one, but growing a readership is another. There is a conflict between coherent focus and broad fishing.
3. I don't want to go too broad, I will never be able to make any points if I do.
4. nanoki wiki is a notepad, and quite personal, likely to jump from topic to topic. Without the label system it can never be read, though, so I need to set up those labels, in case I have visitors apart from robots.
5. I have no idea what would happen if I need to host externally. Would I have time to back it over into a shared host with root to my share? I guess that in that environment I could setup lua, with a lot of difficulty? That would become conjoint.biz and the server here would have to become another of my domains, if I can find what I own, something like tag.u.like? I have so much else to do.
6. Oh, and by the way, what is this campaign about? I think a succinct description of that belongs on this blog. More latter.

Side note - growl informs me of new tweets and unfortunately it seems some of those I follow are interested in Microsoft. I can bear Republicans, I can bear Conservatives, at a pinch, but this is awful. Keep on giving it away Bill!

With regard balance, well I'm interested in a wide audience hence motive for balance'. Here's the link for Labour. I haven't really been through it yet for technology. What little I have seen seems like nonsense and hot air from my point of view.
Labour party

Three points -
1. Perhaps they are too much in the thick of things to be able to put out anything else but statements weighed down by intractable detail.
2. Can an incumbent with so many years history in power really listen, isn't a party hungry for power more in a listening mode?
3. I am never sure what role the Cabinet Office have in this. They seem to be an extended arm of the Labour Party, one of the reasons a party fights to stay in power!
Government It Solutions - I have a sales pitch 'from one tenth to one twentieth of current costs'. http://ping.fm/NfhgM
It is awfully difficult to get any attention for this sort of thing. Perhaps I just sound like a nutter?
Of course, ...
or maybe nanoki needs restart - tomorrow lua - tomorrow