No Overall Control – a Future State of ICT

With all the continual talk about how ICT connects more with the Business and how the Business needs to understand ICT more, I have started to think about where all of this will inevitably lead us, plus you hear people say “if we could only solve this problem we would start to get more from our investments in IT”

I’ve had some great conversations with my colleague Martin Howitt about this topic and i want to share some of our thinking here.

Lets start with some of the key drivers impacting and changing Corporate ICT in organisations and in particular the Public Sector:

  • The increasing pressure on budgets and the predicted heavy cost savings and budget reductions
  • The growing influence of knowledge workers and generation XY, the increasing influence of consumerisation, social media and web 2.0 tools
  • The impact of the Cloud and the “stuff” as a service approach
  • Higher levels of IT competence and awareness of technology in general
  • Lower barriers to development tools, eg WordPress, Yahoo Pipes, Drupal, Joomla etc
  • Mobile devices and smartphones have increased information and data exchange and is driving location based, real time requirements for knowledge.

From an organisational perspective however the above creates new risks to be managed and mitigated, new security approaches that meet security standards and frameworks that enable lower cost delivery and information assurance.

This however does not reflect the current state of most corporate ICT functions across the public sector – understandably so – there are huge pressures to simply maintain services and “keep the lights on” around ICT costs.

But this just continues and encourages the separation of skills, so that ICT manages and decides ICT investment and the Business states the requirements and writes the strategies to provide direction.

To really address the gap between people in ICT and people who work in the Business (people outside of ICT) you actually need to start moving the competencies that IT Professionals have into the Business. There has already been a lot of work on mapping and identifying skills and competencies in this area. SFIA (Skills for the Information Age) on its website states:

The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective Information Systems (IS) making use of Information Communications Technologies (ICT). It is a simple and logical two-dimensional framework consisting of areas of work on one axis and levels of responsibility on the other.

Via Skills for the Information Age SFIA

The SFIA framework defines 7 levels of skills: follow, assist, apply, enable, ensure/advise, initiate/influence, set strategy/inspire.

So if a whole load of ICT competencies actually sit outside the ICT department, what effect does that have on both the external departments and the internal ICT department?

The aim is to enable better exploitation of the technology now available to us in order to cut the costs of doing business, do business better, and all that good stuff.

The new Business User

  • understands their business (as now)
  • understands the IT they are currently using
  • is on the lookout for better ways of working
  • understands the value of what they are doing
  • understands how ICT helps increase that value

In terms of the SFIA framework this means skills up to and including level 3 (or maybe 4) of the SFIA framework with large elements of infrastructure and delivery either provided by business users themselves, outsourced to the cloud or provided by an in-house delivery section (this is what the old IT department looks like).

JP Rangaswami has posted on the Facebookisation of the Enterprise which sets out the core functions that a ICT Department would need to provide  an element of management /governance around.

  • Simple self-service signup – Access
  • Set of directories, and ways of adding to them, searching them, extracting from them.
  • Tools to classify the elements of the directory.
  • Communications tools.
  • Tools for scheduling events.
  • Provide a News Feed. And ways of managing the firehose
  • A developer platform with the appropriate controls and service wrap around it.
  • Via Confused of Calcutta – 3 Posts on Facebookisation of the Enterprise

So the new Business User needs a re-factored IT department to allow the business to generate value from this core solutions architecture. This Department:

  • Researches new trends and provides analysis of strengths, weaknesess, opportunities and threats to the whole business including IT
  • Provides analysis of performance across the business and where ICT Investments add value and deliver business outcomes
  • Provides consultancy ensuring that the exploitation of IT Investments are realised across the whole business
  • provides Portfolio Management of IT and all internal investments
  • Models the organisation – Ensuring the architecture of the enterprise is fit for purpose – Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Technology Architecture, Security Architecture, Solutions Architecture etc
  • Ensures standards for procurement and support – e.g security architecture for / cost benefit analysis
  • Provides or signposts relevant resources for learning and development around new technologies and solutions
  • Provides assurance that projects meet and contribute to corporate strategy and business plans

In local government, this can be a tall order. To some extent we rely on external bodies (such as SOCITM) to provide a level of analysis to underpin the work and we have to re-use existing models like the ESD toolkit to aid in the modelling. We get some security standards from bodies like CESG (via brokers such as Government Connect) but there is no overarching CIO body for local government in the same way that, for example, John Suffolk acts for central government departments. The Government ICT strategy should, in our view, be setting all this out to enable adoption of new cost-saving delivery models like the G-cloud – which should in term be providing the sort of infrastructure that forms our common solutions architecture.

However without any real central leadership for local government, we will only ever approach this challenge in isolation and miss the opportunity for fundamental and radical cost savings.

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About Carl Haggerty
All things digital - content, strategy, communications, innovation, engagement, participation, data and people.

4 Responses to No Overall Control – a Future State of ICT

  1. Gordon Rae says:

    My working life became a lot happier (although immensely stressful) the day I stepped out of the IT department and got a line report to the users. I’ve believed for many years that the challenge is less about getting IT skills into the business, more about getting users to think about process design, the value of information, communication paths, and the need to create persistent audit trails for accountability. None of which are remotely ‘techie’ but all of which end up being a business analyst’s job, on most projects.

    Love the title: ‘No Overall Control’. Reminds me of this, via Mark Earls: “All Control is Damage Control” http://bit.ly/c9HDGB

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