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Pegasystems Limited: Risky Business
Every few years GDS (Government Digital Service) or, now, CDDO (Central Digital & Data Office) launch a new ‘Digital Playbook’ or ‘Digital Strategy’, usually with ministerial speeches and great fanfare. This year is no exception. In the last few months we have seen the launch of both a new Digital Playbook and of the new DDAT strategy from CDDO; “Transforming for a digital future: 2022 to 2025 roadmap for digital and data”. Both documents set out revisions to the way things are currently done in government IT transformation alongside new approaches that promise to deliver dramatically better ways of working and improved outcomes. The DDAT strategy in particular is a useful insight into the future priorities for UK digital government. It is particularly encouraging to see that the government is focusing in on a number of key citizen services to target their digital transformation efforts on.
However, it is not enough to have clear objectives and encouraging statements about embracing new approaches and new technologies when, at least in part, what is actually needed is a fundamental shift in the way that government designs and builds technology solutions. At the heart of many of the challenges facing major government IT programmes is the fundamental disconnect between the bottom-up Agile approaches encouraged by GDS and followed by most IT programmes (and rightly re-committed to in the latest strategies) and the top-down nature of the project approval, funding and oversight mechanisms which frequently demand an agreed up-front design, a fully defined set of outcomes and benefits at the start of the project and a business case setting out in great detail the budget required for delivery. These are all fundamentally based on Waterfall-type project planning. At best they are simply slightly spurious formalities that projects must go through before they can start the Agile approach to delivery, but in many cases they undermine the delivery approach needed and distract the project team from the iterative, fast-paced and flexible approach that is needed for successful delivery. It’s ironic that the mechanisms that are put in place to reduce the risk of delivery failure and wasted money may in many cases be the very things that are significantly increasing the risk of that failure.
These playbooks and strategies are undoubtedly useful signals of the future direction of travel in government IT, but without broader changes to the government IT delivery landscape they may be whistling in the wind. Only time will tell if they have been able to meaningfully move the needle on delivery success and service delivery.
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This article was written by Alex Case, Senior Director, Public Sector Industry Principal at Pegasystems. He was previously a Senior Civil Servant at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, was a Programme Director at the Ministry of Justice and a policy advisor at HM Treasury. He has also held senior consultancy roles at Deloitte and PA Consulting.
On Tuesday 5 April, techUK was delighted to host the Cabinet Office and industry representatives for the launch event for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook which was published on 28 March 2022. The DDaT Sourcing Playbook sets out guidance – in one place – as to how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies and the wider public sector. Through the application of what is commercial best practice, the Playbook addresses 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities that will ensure government gets things right from the start when it comes to procurement.
You can watch the recording of the launch event in full here:
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