Sunday, August 17, 2003

It's not what you do, it's what it means

I changed the motto of the site today from "For every policy there's an equal and opposite practice" to "It's not what you do, it's what it means". The former was coined after some more work on .gov.uk domain names that found ones like "bettergovernmentforolderpeople.gov.uk". Just typing that last one would take years off your life, although the site is "in the process of redeveloping our site to provide and all new interactive website." All new and interactive? Was it not interactive before? The new motto is, well, it just is. Some of you will get it I guess, those who know me will stare blankly. I've spent my Sunday afternoon working on 3 papers, two of which I've been asked to write and have left for weeks and weeks (I've been researching them, honest, but I haven't actually put digit to key yet) and one which is something I've wanted to do for a while. The two commissioned ones are a paper on the "Enterprise Architecture" for government and a view on the next set of developments for the Government Gateway. First off, EntArch ... hard enough to do I guess in a single organisation (although there's no end of people that will sell you the services to do it in yours - if you're one of the former, be wary when you write to me, I have a way of dealing with people that write to me without thinking it through, but have a go if you must ... you might turn out to be right!) ... but doing it in an ueber-organisation (no umlauts available in this blog tool!) is something else. If any one department is a loose confederation of warring tribes, what on earth does that make dealing with the "whole"? Silos and castles be damned, there's a whole new game in town if we're going to piece together an enterprise architecture. But, I'm realistic to know that there won't be a "single architecture" ... what we must do is take the best from some, clone for others, develop a few things individually and relax in the knowledge that we're still going to have too many of some other things. That's life, but it's not unbearable. I've defined the mission of the EntArch to be: To speed the deployment of customer-focused online services, facilitating the joining up of otherwise discrete departmentally-managed services To provide for widespread service offerings through large varieties of intermediaries, each able to offer different and competing value-added enhancements to any service To ensure that lessons learnt in any one organisation in the implementation of any part of this or any other EntArch are passed to all other organisations through providing a collaborative learning environment To reduce the cost of delivery and maintenance of online services through reuse of systems, components and/or process changes and through rationalisation of the overall number of such systems, components and processes. To buy time (and provide funding) for the eventual and full rationalisation of departmental back end systems through constructing a flexible and capable integration layer covering the ├╝ber-organisation To facilitate a dramatic and non-linear change in the perception of government service by citizens and businesses. Ultimately, to deliver services that citizens want to use, that are consistent in their operation and are easy to use Nothing new in that list probably, but the tools to realise it are perhaps a bit different than the ones we might have envisioned three years ago when I started in all this. It's also a good time for a change in thinking. The other commissioned document was originally going to be a view on where to take the Gateway next, but after a bit of a spate of negative comments inside and outside of government on what it is and what it does, I thought I'd publish a "Facts, Myths and Fantasies" of the Gateway ... one that tries to put it in context of what goes on around it, what doesn't go on and what would go on if we could do what we wanted (the fantasy bit). I'm quite excited to be thinking through the fantasy part, I've been bogged down in day to day for such a long time it seems that I've barely raised my head to think of anything new. And the final document is one for me and my own team which is all about what's wrong with what we do and how we do it - a bit of introspection that will, I hope, give us some ideas on what to work on next, how to handle some people we deal with, how to handle ourselves and how to keep motivation up in the face of some difficult times. It's easy to look at the stuff we're not doing well of course and my style is always to focus on what we're not doing so well at. Rear view mirror driving never got me anywhere except when I was driving backwards. And although that's fun, I don't think it will get me where I want to be just now.

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