Continuing this thread, here are some more “rules” about IT we need to rethink.
“Rule” #5: Cathedral
This rule states that, assuming it is managed properly, IT is orderly. If you have the right processes and methodologies in place, everything runs smoothly; conversely if things are not orderly, you must not be following the right processes and methodologies. Proponents of this rule use it to discredit IT shops that seem not to do things consistently.
The Reality: Bazaar
IT is chaotic. Building or implementing a technology solution on its own can be a very complex task; it’s made more difficult by the fact that business requirements often change, and in government the political cycle can throw the best-laid plans into turmoil. The trick is to architect the IT function so that it uses change strategically rather than trying to work against it. One way to do this is to plan projects with short deliverables, so that you provide business value quickly, rather than try to design “the right thing” for a year before you start creating it. If we treat IT as a cathedral, it will never be built.
The truth is, there are no “right” processes and methodologies for managing IT. There are a lot of good practices, lessons learned, and some basic principles (such as those in this blog thread) that can be followed. However, there is a tradeoff: the more time you spend refining your processes, the less time you are spending providing real value to the business.
The constantly shifting nature of the technology marketplace can and should be viewed as a good thing, not something that you have to overcome. If you see chaos as an opportunity to provide even better service to your customers, you will be better positioned to ride the wave rather than have it swallow you.
“Rule” #6: Disparity with the Private Sector
This rule states that government is behind the technology curve relative to the private sector. Proponents of this rule argue that the private sector is more innovative and can attract better IT talent than government. This rule is sometimes pointed to when discussing government IT project failures.
The Reality: Parity with the Private Sector
The reality is, government is implementing some of the more innovative technology solutions. When you look at some of the work being done to make more data available to citizens, VA’s “Blue Button” project, new websites like healthcare.gov as well as hundreds of cutting-edge projects at the state and local government level, it’s clear that government is catching up.
We’re also catching up in the workplace: a recent Robert Half poll showed that 52% of businesses block social media sites in their offices, despite the perception that the private sector is at the forefront of such technologies. Here at OPM we have opened up access to many of these sites, and our adoption of wifi and consumer client devices demonstrate our commitment to helping employees be productive and keeping government at the leading edge of technology. Government IT salaries are also getting closer to what’s available at private companies, and more and more young people are becoming interested in government service as a way to make a difference.
We need to stop thinking of government as behind the times, and actively work to show off the good work that we do. President Obama’s desire to “make government cool again” is a big step in the right direction.
The six “rules” of IT discussed in this blog thread are hopefully a call to action. Here at OPM’s CIO office, we’re thinking differently than in the past about what it means to provide technology services to the agency. Our goal is to be more forward-looking, more customer-focused and more open; not to be gatekeepers or naysayers or in general prevent OPM from being the best agency in government.
What rules would you add to the chopping block? Post your comments on this blog!
Read Part One
Read Part Two