Skip to main content

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?



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. 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.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Cargo Cult System Administration

Cargo Cult: …imitate the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance --Wikipedia During and after WWII, some native south pacific islanders erroneously associated the presence of war related technology with the delivery of highly desirable cargo. When the war ended and the cargo stopped showing up, they built crude facsimiles of runways, control towers, and airplanes in the belief that the presence of war technology caused the delivery of desirable cargo. From our point of view, it looks pretty amusing to see people build fake airplanes, runways and control towers  and wait for cargo to fall from the sky.
The question is, how amusing are we?We have cargo cult science[1], cargo cult management[2], cargo cult programming[3], how about cargo cult system management?Here’s some common system administration failures that might be ‘cargo cult’:
Failing to understand the difference between necessary and sufficient. A daily backup …

Ad-Hoc Versus Structured System Management

Structured system management is a concept that covers the fundamentals of building, securing, deploying, monitoring, logging, alerting, and documenting networks, servers and applications. Structured system management implies that you have those fundamentals in place, you execute them consistently, and you know all cases where you are inconsistent. The converse of structured system management is what I call ad hoc system management, where every system has it own plan, undocumented and inconsistent, and you don't know how inconsistent they are, because you've never looked.

In previous posts (here and here) I implied that structured system management was an integral part of improving system availability. Having inherited several platforms that had, at best, ad hoc system management, and having moved the platforms to something resembling structured system management, I've concluded that implementing basic structure around system management will be the best and fastest path to…

The Cloud – Provider Failure Modes

In The Cloud - Outsourcing Moved up the Stack[1] I compared the outsourcing that we do routinely (wide area networks) with the outsourcing of the higher layers of the application stack (processor, memory, storage). Conceptually they are similar:In both cases you’ve entrusted your bits to someone else, you’ve shared physical and logical resources with others, you’ve disassociated physical devices (circuits or servers) from logical devices (virtual circuits, virtual severs), and in exchange for what is hopefully better, faster, cheaper service, you give up visibility, manageability and control to a provider. There are differences though. In the case of networking, your cloud provider is only entrusted with your bits for the time it takes for those bits to cross the providers network, and the loss of a few bits is not catastrophic. For providers of higher layer services, the bits are entrusted to the provider for the life of the bits, and the loss of a few bits is a major problem. These …