Government Cathedrals, Government Bazaars

I am sure that you are all avid readers of Public Finance magazine.

You’ll be fascinated to hear that this week’s cover feature is my article calling for the establishment of a service-oriented architecture for IT systems across the public sector.  Here is an extract to titillate your tastebuds:

The priority for government should be an IT strategy that organises the individual functions in government applications into interoperable, standards-based services that can be shared, combined and reused quickly to meet business needs. For example, once the government has developed a procurement system or a payroll module, these should be used and adapted by other business units.

This would catalyse significant changes:

  • Public services would organise services to correspond to citizen experiences, such as starting a business or moving house, rather than the functions of government
  • The frontline service, not the IT department, would design and create applications directly
  • Organisations would not bet their future on a single, long-term IT development – instead they would implement change in smaller steps using small, reusable, interlinked modules
  • Systems would be designed to change to meet future needs rather than being tightly coupled to today’s processes, and
  • Instead of settling on a single, homogenous technology, the government would adopt a variety of different technologies appropriate to the needs of the services.

A common, government-wide structure, based on components, applications and data that could be reused and shared, would reduce development time, cost and risk. Frontline services would control their own processes, which would allow them to respond flexibly to changing needs and develop increasingly customer-centric services.

The article is a shortened version of my chapter in a new IBM publication, Capability, Capacity and Reform, Insights from government leaders on delivering transformational government.

3 thoughts on “Government Cathedrals, Government Bazaars”

  1. "I am sure that you are all avid readers of Public Finance magazine."

    Believe it or not, I actually am – not a bad read if you’re a policy nerd. It’s a good article, too. Sometimes in my madder moments I like to imagine software engineers from local and central government all developing and sharing bottom-up modular systems of the kind you’re talking about, sort of like public sector open source. But there is a hell of a lot of inertia to get over first.

  2. My Grandfather is a subscriber and whenever I’m at my parents there’s always a big pile of them that he’s sent me – I’m down there next weekend and look forward to reading the latest edition!

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