From the top

From the top



Image by art_ikon via Flickr
I realise that I am never going to fit into my work environment.
I don't think that I can blog about this impartially. But, perhaps, usefully?
Before the work, specific lets set the scene.
We have a government that wants to grow and promote the intellectual capital of this country.
How are we doing?
The answer is probably surprisingly well despite, not because of, the government.
This applies particularly to my field of IT.
Translating requirements into an application is one thing, but translating efficiently, creatively and offering true value for money is something entirely different.
It is quite clear that government has no criteria for the later, and therefore, no depth of understanding of the subtle consequences of decisions that ensue from contractual arrangements downwards.
Largely the government in their many IT endeavours are ensnared by large IT companies who make it their business to justify the highest possible costs over the short and medium term.
Because those companies cannot show net profits above around 5% in the public sector they find other ways to make money: the most common pattern is that of over complicating requirements gathering and elongating the length of time it takes to fulfil an item of work. Attendant patterns are non-cooperation with IT partners and back loading costs to non-IT ancillary services.
All of this comes about because the Civil Service is inattentive to contractual detail. They are undermanned and under skilled in their oversite roles. They also consistently chose large suppliers rather than a series of small suppliers, which means that they delegate structural organisation in a way that discourages competitive innovation.
Let's look at the consequences of this.
The government could be promoting exemplary projects, and it would be important if they did so.
Three truths:
IT is a fluid field with much to learn, new ways of doing things on every level of the project. Experimentation coupled with uncertainty is the norm. This is so much the case that it cannot be said that further experimentation necessarily increases risk (within some parameters). Experimentation, trying things where results are uncertain, can reduce risk.
This truth is fundamental to understanding good IT governance.
The second truth is that top-down governance is intrinsically flawed. The larger the pyramid the larger the mass of detail that is essentially unknown and, hence, contains hidden risk.
The third truth is that large pyramids are intrinsically unstable and dangerous when one needs to interact with another, at whatever level up or down the pyramid.

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