The Cabinet Office recently had discussions with Unboxed Consulting as part of the Agile Delivery Network to use Agile development processes to transform Whitehall IT. This follows on from the report System Error: Fixing the flaws in government IT released earlier this year which highlighted that government IT is fundamentally flawed despite spending £16bn annually. The report recommends tackling two important aspects simultaneously:
- Agile - a development strategy that emphasises flexibility, responsiveness to change and innovation.
- Platform - this refers to a system-wide approach to standardising and simplifying shared elements of government IT.
The report conceded that an Agile strategy may be initially difficult due to a lack of skilled practitioners but as experienced Agile developers, Unboxed Consulting knows that there is a wealth of knowledge in the SME community. The challenge is rather how to get SMEs considered for new projects and how to team up with incumbent systems integrators who lack Agile experience.
Unboxed Consulting CEO Richard Stobart, together with Andy de Vale co-founded the Agile Delivery Network which is a group representing SMEs both developing in and consulting on Agile techniques. At the meeting with the Cabinet Office, they raised the issue of whether suppliers are being selected for their Agile credentials such as Accenture and HP, lead developers on the £2bn Universal Credit System. Another concern is that some ‘Agile’ projects, such as a large HMRC (Revenue & Customs) project, are being run by inexperienced Agile practitioners which could lead to ineffective Agile implementation and a potential misunderstanding of the value of Agile.
Fortunately Malcolm Whitehouse, the new DWP (Dept. for Work & Pensions) deputy CIO, is keen for SMEs to get involved in government IT as the move to Agile is unlikely to come from the large system integrators. He is planning on working with the Agile Delivery Network to move some of this activity forward.