Good Governance – effective use of IT

Written evidence submitted by David Chassels (IT 55)

One comment I think it came from Sir Ian when he stated "It’s not the underlying technology that’s the problem".  Actually it is.  IT covers all aspects from hardware, delivery security and the application.  It is the latter which remains in the relative dark ages. The others have evolved to be highly competitive and thus mature set of products that have reached commodity stages so it is relatively easy for the buyer to get "good deals". Yes there will be management and organisational skills to ensure a good deployment but the technology will be well proven and do the job.

We all know it is the application that adds value to both users and sellers but it is where most problems lie.  If you think about it business logic never changes so why are we still custom coding in the geek language that creates interpretation gaps? "Agile" is an industry mind set/methodology that attempts to bring end users closer to the technical developer.  The trouble is this developer environment is hugely complex as I described in my submission and the underlying technology is now dominated by a handful of global players who have no interest in the required step change that would remove such complexity - and in the process crater their business!  That step change is what our founder set out to create and what we have now does just that.  You will see in my letter to Sir Ian the quote from Bill Gates and this indeed will change software development; we know - we have it! The good news we are no longer alone which helps credibility.

Trouble is in Government those in charge are not asking this small group of suppliers the right questions as indicated in my submission on how to become the "informed buyer" – asking the right questions is a skill we had to learn quickly in our earlier days! 

On open source needs to be carefully thought through - it may not be the cheapest way – we actually use open source but to allow "geeks" (it’s a term used in "hack days" that was mentioned) to build from scratch business applications could end up very expensive. They are a breed apart– many verging on genius – we have one they are difficult to manage and all do it slightly differently so could be a difficult job to manage such applications in the future. But using open source plug and play modules like browsers operating systems etc is definitely the right thing.  What users need to avoid is the "lock in" that all these big vendors and their ecosystems "love". Related to this there are two important aspects that need to be clarified first the "upgrade" policy which can be expensive perhaps more importantly you must make sure that future change is readily supported to make any new investment "future proof".

I believe the skunk works will be important in many respects.  For us with "disruptive" but proven innovation a chance to be adopted by government to aid commercial exploitation and that includes selling globally. But also a point came up at the hearing re policy v implementation. I would suggest that before policy is finalised the skunk works could have an

important role where using our technology working prototypes can be quickly created that seek out the real problems or even opportunities not thought of. It will also allow informed views of likely cost of the final system - no more "blue sky" thinking without solid foundations? The return from the proposed skunk works could be quite significant.

March 2011