Public sector buyers should insist on interoperability from Vendors

Great effort has been made in the technology industry, particularly during the internet era, to improve the interaction and integration of different IT services. Almost all the major app developers and IT service providers offer APIs to pull data in and/or share data with others. The booming app economy that we have become so accustomed to simply would not have happened without these APIs and other common standards. There is a general sense among the IT industry that “integration is good for everyone,” since it encourages competition, innovation and reduces waste, duplication and complication for the end user. 

Yet when you peer into the public sector, you would be forgiven for thinking that this “interoperability epiphany,” had never happened. The lack of momentum on interoperability between public sector IT services remains a major barrier to the public sector’s plans for digital transformation. For suppliers like us it is also incredibly frustrating. Despite the government’s aims to democratise the procurement process and give SMEs a fairer crack of the whip, the lack of interoperability is yet another barrier which enables the incumbents to retain and build on their dominant positions. What’s more, the necessity for Vendor/Customer “sponsorship” for new suppliers only serves to perpetuate the chicken & egg scenario even further.  

The lack of interoperability between police (and related agency) systems has been a challenge for police forces in particular for too long. To break this deadlock, we continue to urge public sector buyers to insist on interoperability in every solution they purchase. Police forces should do the same. We are already working with techUK and a number of others to address this, having established the Interoperability for Policing Initiative Working Group. Only with collective action can significant progress be made to unlock the creative potential of digital transformation in the public sector. 

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