Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Have all big government internet projects

According to a UK ePetition by Harel Malka, we should:
Have all big government internet projects pass the approval of a technical panel made of professionals from the tech statup[sic] sector.
This is an interesting idea – and one that I could buy into (under the right conditions…)
I’m a government employee that manages systems and projects that run into the millions of dollars. Would advice from the private sector help me?

Maybe.

Caveats:

Private sector consultants are in it for the money. I can pay them for advice, but in all honesty, it’s not a sure thing that I’ll get advice that is worth more than what I paid. I’ve seen plenty of cases where ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t teachconsult.’

Free advice from the private sector IT might fall under a different umbrella though. Presumably one could find skilled private sector IT practitioners who have an altruistic motive rather than a profit motive, and presumably one could find skilled persons who can donate sufficient personal time to solving public sector problems, or who work for a corporation that is willing to release them to advise on public sector projects instead of performing miracle's for profit in their own corporation.

The ePetition is a bit off the mark though. It asserts that:
All proposals of high budget IT projects should pass through a panel of independent professionals from the private sector who are experienced in running large scale internet start-ups. [emphasis mine)
I’d suggest that there is no reason to think there is a relationship between large scale startups and large scale IT projects involving legacy business processes, government rules & laws, legacy systems, legacy processes, public sector budget cycles, etc. I’d rather see advice from those who are experienced in large scale IT projects, rather than successful startups. I don’t think that’s the same skill set.






1 comment:

  1. You're too kind to this idea. I'm having trouble envisioning a scenario in which this would help.

    First, you'd have to eliminate any vendors of product or services from the IT Project Death Panels. Perhaps some of them would altruistically avoid nixing a project because it uses a competitor, but that's not where I'd put my money.

    Second, you'd have to get people who understand that government is different from the private sector. Perhaps not fatally so, but enough that IT projects have to be seen with public-sector needs in mind.

    Third, what is the supposed upside of an IT Project Death Panel? To spot bloated projects to solve problems that could be solved more efficiently in other ways? Those projects exist, but I'm not sure that many of them recognizable before they start. Most projects look like good ideas at the proposal stage. It's when the project gets bogged down with implementation difficulties that the problems really emerge. Of course, that's not an absolute--someone who has already attempted to implement Security Application Foo could spot the problems coming ahead of time.

    But I think this is the biggest problem with that proposal: it claims "No ... project should ever have to reach" millions of dollars in cost. I say poppycock, sir. That's the sort of thing spouted by vehement anti-taxers and open-source zealots, and it's just not true at certain organizational sized and SLA requirements. That statement alone suggests that the person proposing the IT Project Death Panel is more interested in killing projects than making them efficient.

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