Tag Archives: innovation

G-Cloud and agile briefings

By Tony Collins

On 22 November the Government Digital Service is giving a briefing for potential G-Cloud suppliers. It’ll be streamed live.

Officials say the briefing will be particularly useful to suppliers whose employees have never participated in a government tender.

At the ApplyCamp, officials will explain G-Cloud, steps in the OJEU procurement process, what information potential G-Cloud suppliers need to give, and what happens next.

The event is particularly aimed at Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and other specialist cloud service suppliers. It will be held at Google, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9TQ – 3pm – 5pm.

Agile TeaCamp – 24 November

Between 4pm and 6pm at the Cafe Zest, House of Fraser, Victoria St, London, there will be talks on agile. Derrick Cameron, MD of software consultancy Eximium and COO of agile software house Procession will speak on “Becoming the Intelligent Buyer”.  Chris Parsons, a “freelance thinker, coder and trainer” will talk about the e-petitions project and the aims of the Agile Delivery Network.

Teacamps in November and December – Government Digital Service

UK GovIT often a barrier not enabler says Cabinet Office official

By Tony Collins

In an interview for UKauthority.com Chris Chant, Executive Director at the Cabinet Office and head of the G-Cloud programme,  debunks the claims of some that GovIT doing a great job and should remain largely untouched.

Chant says: “IT is supposed to be an enabler. Quite often in my experience in government IT it is actually a barrier to getting things done. That’s no way to use IT. It is supposed to support what we do.”

His criticism puts into context claims by some in the civil service that GovIT is an unpublicised success because of the ease and success of online re-taxing of vehicles, the payment of benefits to millions of people and the collection of taxes.

Chant has made clear his concern that some departments are locked into major IT suppliers through costly, inflexible long-term contracts that, in some cases, are being signed anew.

“In the main we are not delivering good quality IT to government and public sector workers. We are not delivering good IT solutions to the citizen …”

He calls for internal change and describes SMEs as “front and centre to what we need”.

“It is with SMEs that agility and innovation lie, and it is that market we are really encouraging… Good IT is not developed by spending a long time trying to work out a definitive answer, and then taking ages over delivering it only to discover it is not what we needed in the first place. It is about iteration. I have said all along that we do not have all the answers. We will develop as we go and take SMEs with us.”

Asked whether the public sector is ready for the cloud Chant replies: “No we are not. We are quite a way from that… We are very well positioned to operate in a world where our IT is delivered by multinationals but now it is a different world.”

He says that the cloud has security limitations. “It is difficult to see the cloud in the short term handling some of the higher security aspects of what we do but for a lot of what government does it’s about commodity products and we need to get people in who know how to handle that.”

The focus he says must always be on the citizen – assumptions should not start from a departmental or systems standpoint. “We will need to change the way we do things; we will need some new people and I suspect a lot of retraining. I think we will need a lot fewer people working on the client side of government IT…

“We are in really tough times and the idea that we can operate with [current] cost levels is wrong…”

Government clouds take shape – UKauthority.com.

The unavoidable truths about GovIT – Chris Chant.

Vested interests will try to stop GovIT changing.

What exactly is HM Revenue and Customs paying Capgemini billions for?

DWP signs new large contracts with HP, Accenture, IBM and Capgemini.

Where is the Government CIO?

By Tony Collins

Joe Harley, Government CIO

Joe Harley, the government CIO, is much respected inside and outside of government.

Amiable, straight-talking and influential, he could be the Government’s civil service ambassador for change.  Like his predecessor John Suffolk he could use conferences and public events to talk inspirationally about the dystopian costs of government IT and what to do about them. He could jolt the complacent into an awareness of their self-deceptions.

Why hasn’t he? If the Government CIO has much to say  is not for the public ear.  While there has been talk in recent weeks of how five corporations control GovIT, and how it can cost up to £50,000 to change a line of code, Harley has been silent.

Where does the Government CIO stand on the need for major reform of the machinery of government, on the sensible risks that could save billions?

Is the top man in Government IT inspiring his colleagues and officials in other departments to do things differently?

It’s true that Joe Harley has enough to do – perhaps too much – in his “other” day job as CIO and Director General of Corporate IT,  Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

He is a leader of the programme that is helping to deliver Universal Credit. He chairs the public sector-wide CIO Council; and his trying to do more with a smaller budget will require all the skill and the experience he acquired as global CIO for ICI Paints and before that as BP’s IT Vice President for global applications, hosting and consultancy.

These responsibilities give Harley a chance to point to a new way, to confront unequivocally the costs of GovIT, to lead by example: by replacing gradually the long-term contracts and monolithlic suppliers of old; by listening to SMEs and employing them directly, and in more than a token capacity.

What has happened is the opposite. HP, Accenture, IBM and CapGemini are safe in his hands.

The DWP has recently awarded those suppliers new and conventionally-large, long-term contracts. Headlines in the past two months hint at how the DWP will, for years to come, dance to the tune of its large IT suppliers:

“DWP signs fifth large deal with HP”

“DWP awards Accenture seven year application services deal”

“DWP awards IT deals to IBM and Capgemini”

These deals could be seen as a protest against all that Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, stands for.

In March Maude spoke of a need for big contracts to be broken down into “smaller, more flexible projects” which would “open up the market to SMEs and new providers”. Maude wants to end the oligopoly of big GovIT suppliers – but does he have an influence at the DWP?

Nobody is suggesting that Harley shows a hard fist at the negotiating table. But he should assert himself sufficiently in public to make us believe that his appointment as Government CIO was more than the filling of a vacuum.

He doesn’t need to lead by radiating charisma; but can you inspire from the shadows?  Billions is spent unnecessarily each year on not changing the government administration. So it’s time Harley advocated change.  He could be a standing reproach to the myth that senior civil servants do all in their power to obstruct change.

Deposing the muscular monoliths in the supplier community will require a consuming interest in innovation, courage (risk-taking) and a passion to cut costs. Harley has many strengths and qualities. Surely these are among them. But if they’re not manifest soon, some in government will wonder if the Government CIO has gone missing.

Links:

DWP awards 7-year deal worth up to £350m to Accenture

DWP signs fifth large deal with HP

DWP awards deals to IBM and Capgemini

DWP signs big contracts with IBM and Capgemini

Jobs on offer – Government in need of “digital” talent

By Tony Collins

Some parts of government may be shrinking but there’s jobs on offer in the Government Digital Service.

Mike Bracken, the Cabinet Office’s Executive Director for Digital, says the Government is “badly in need of the talent to engineer ourselves out of our torpor”.

“We are hiring”, he says. His team have jobs in development, product management, interaction design, web ops, technology architecture and digital engagement.  Salaries are between £59k and £90k.

Says Bracken: “Over the last 15 years or more, across Government we have engineered digital products and services using risk aversion and long-term programme management as our guiding principles.

“Now that it is clear that rapid, user-led development using open source technologies, agile approaches to delivery and cloud-based infrastructure is the order of the day, we find ourselves badly in need of the talent to engineer ourselves out of our torpor.

“In short, with long-term contracts giving programme managers and departments only one lever to pull in order to change or create digital services, it’s never been more important that there is a choice within Government.

“While there have been a few raised eyebrows at hiring in these straitened times, let me be clear that we need digital talent all across Government. In policy, legal, procurement and service delivery, deep digital experience in Government is scarce.

“So I would recommend that we see this drive not just a one-off recruitment campaign for GDS, but the start of the digital transformation of all Government services. As well as hiring, I spend large amounts of my time looking to help transform existing people and processes.

Bracken was appointed the Government’s new Executive Director for Digital on 5 July 2011.

Government Digital Service

Universal Credit internal report – now published

By Tony Collins

Below is the Universal Credit Starting Gate review report that the Department for Work and Pensions refused to publish under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Treasury defines the Starting Gate review as a report on the “deliverability of major new policy and/or business change initiatives prior to public commitment to a project”.

The Starting Gate report on Universal Credit was obtained from the House of Commons’ library by Conservative MP Richard Bacon. It appears that the Cabinet Office’s Chief Operating Officer Ian Watmore asked the DWP to release the report to the Public Accounts Committee after Bacon’s request.

This is the first time all the sections of the report have been published on a website. The report is dated March 2011. No later assessment of the IT aspects of Universal Credit is available. UC is the government’s biggest IT-based project based on agile principles.

Starting Gate review: Universal Credit
Version number: Final
Date of issue: 8 March 2011
Name of Sponsor
(Senior Responsible Owner)
Terry Moran, Director-General Universal Credit,DWP
 Department: Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
Review dates: 28 February 2011–4 March 2011

Introduction

1 The White Paper “Universal Credit: welfare that works”, published on 11 November 2010, sets out the Coalition Government’s plans to introduce legislation to reform the welfare system by creating a new Universal Credit (UC). The main policy intent is a radical simplification of the system to make work pay and to combat worklessness and poverty.

2  On16 February 2011the Welfare Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament. The Bill introduces a wide range of reforms to make the benefits and tax credits system fairer and simpler by:

  • creating the right incentives to get more people into work by ensuring work always pays;
  • protecting the most vulnerable in society;
  • delivering fairness to those claiming benefit and to the tax payer.

The aim is to introduce UC from October 2013.

3  The delivery of Universal Credit has a core dependency on HMRC’s Real Time Information (RTI) programme which will collect Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and other earnings information from employers dynamically as they run their payroll system.  To realise UC objectives, theRTItimetable has been designed to enable a controlled “go-live” from April 2012 and start a phased migration of employers.

Starting Gate review

4  This is a Starting Gate review report.  Starting Gate is an assurance tool of the Major Projects Authority in the Cabinet Office designed for Government Departments, their Agencies and NDPBs. Starting Gate reviews are intended to help Departments working on major high risk policy initiatives before these reach the stage of formal delivery projects or programmes. The aim is to provide an independent, constructive snapshot assessment of key issues and risks, and proposals or recommendations to enhance the prospects of successful implementation.

 Acknowledgements

5  The Review Team (RT) would like to thank the SRO and Programme team for the excellent logistical support and documentation which has helped us in our evaluation.

 Scope of review

6  The scope of this review is to assess the overall deliverablity of the Universal Credit programme with a specific focus on:

  • project structure and governance;
  • the dependency on HMRC’sRTIprogramme, and contingencies if that is delayed;
  • changing customer behaviour (ie increased use of on-line services):
  • testing the risks and benefits of applying the Agile methodology (eg the promise of completed products of lasting value at each stage; the fit with normal business cycle; and the rules on accountability).

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation Section Page
The programme, in conjunction with the wider business, develops a roadmap depicting how existing benefits will be managed in the future, specifically but not exclusively, Housing Benefit for Pensioners, Disability Living Allowance. Scope of programme 5
The programme reviews their project governance structures to ensure the optimal board structure is in place, providing a hierarchy of decision making bodies, from the Agile design workshops to the Programme Board.  Ensure each board has clear terms of reference, are aware of their decision making powers and the correct escalation route. Structure and governance 6
The programme should formally assess themselves against the NAO list of common causes of project failure to identify potential ‘danger zones’ that they can plan to mitigate.  Also use the expertise gained by HMRC andASDas a valuable insight to successful delivery and avoiding past mistakes. Communications strategy 6
The programme to establish a comprehensive communications strategy and supporting plan.  Although customers and staff were highlighted above the strategy should include all interested parties, and specifically those with a dependency on or to the programme. Communications strategy 6
The programme to work closely with other government departments to identify where there may be opportunities to link with their activity in order to enhance UC’s chances of success. Dependencies 7
The programme to set up a working group to look at the set of complex cases to see if there are alternative handling options for these cases but with the ultimate payment coming through Universal Credit. Changing customer behaviour 8
DWP, with guidance and assistance from the MPA, produces an Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan (IAAP) by the end of March 2011. Agile 9

DELIVERABILITY

7  The SRO requested the RT’s overall views.

8  The review team finds that the Programme has got off to an impressively strong start given the demanding timetable and complexity of the design and interdependency with other departments.  This involves liaison with HMRC in particular, but also with CLG and local government in respect of the replacement of Housing Benefit as part of the Universal Credit.  We found that the foundations for a delivery Programme are in place – clear policy objectives, a coherent strategy, Ministerial and top management support, financial and human resources – with no obvious gaps.  The strong working relationship with HMRC and the inclusive approach with other key stakeholders within and outsideDWPhave quickly established a high level of common understanding.  All this gives a high degree of confidence that, notwithstanding the inherent challenges, the programme can deliver Universal Credit.

9  There is a greater degree of uncertainty around the achievability of the intended economic outcomes because of factors which are not within DWP’s control e.g. the general state of the economy and availability of jobs.  There are other risks which derive from trying new approaches: the Agile methodology offers much promise but it is unproven on this scale and scope.  The actual response of different customer groups to UC may pose a risk to its transformational impact if, for example, factors other than net pay turned out to be a greater barrier to take up of work than expected.  The development of a range of approaches to contingency planning (which could be beyond changes to UC) could cover off unintended customer behaviour, whether “no change”, or “change for the worse”.

ASSESSMENT

Scope of programme

10  The Review Team (RT) recognises the challenges that delivering into an organisation already undergoing substantial change through restructuring presents.  In order to have the best chance of determining the most appropriate delivery model and developing credible and effective transition plans to deliver a ‘world class’ service, early decisions on the shape of the organisation would be immensely helpful.

11  There is a very real danger that due to a number of factors, including restructuring, headcount reductions, and uncertainty about the delivery model, the department may lose some of the expertise that it will need in order to deliver Universal Credit successfully.  There is also the challenge of maintaining staff morale during a period of uncertainty, to ensure the quality of service for the existing service is not impacted.  The review team felt that this was sufficiently visible to the Programme and that the risk was being managed at this stage.  Once the delivery model is known and the Programme moves nearer to transition, this risk will need more focus.

12  During the review, a number of interviewees raised the topic of the scope of both the Universal Credit and the Universal Credit IT platform and associated systems.  What was not obvious was whether there was a consensus on whether the Universal Credit platform was being designed as a strategic platform with potential for re-use across a number of other DWP payments, or whether it was solely a platform to pay Universal Credit.

13  Given the Coalition Government’s desire to see re-use built into IT systems from the outset, it would be prudent to consider opportunities for this now.  The review team felt that a roadmap, identifying what was definitely within the Universal Credit boundary, what could be paid by the Universal Credit platform at a future date, and what was definitely out of scope, would be beneficial.  The roadmap should also indicate how the ‘out of scope’ payments are to be handled and assign ownership.  This would be a useful departmental tool to provide clarity to stakeholders both within the Department and those that are impacted outside of DWP.

Recommendation:

The Programme, in conjunction with the wider business, develops a roadmap depicting how existing benefits will be managed in the future, specifically but not exclusively, Housing Benefit for Pensioners, Disability Living Allowance.

Project Structure and Governance

14  The importance of the programme is evidenced by the amount of commitment and support it received during the review.  The appointment of dedicated, experienced and well respected personnel into the key programme roles is seen as very positive and welcome.

15  In terms of structure the proposal to keep the programme’s core team to a minimum whilst commissioning involvement and support from key areas as necessary was generally well supported, However, the impact of any organisational redesign to meet the SR challenges was raised as a key risk to delivery.  As mentioned above, this is an issue the programme is aware of within their risk log.

16  It is recognised in order for the programme to get to their current position is has been necessary to establish a Programme Board which allows all interested parties a voice.  The review team found the time was now right to review the membership and frequency of the Programme Board and supporting structures to allow empowered decisions to be taken at the right level.

17  In reviewing the programme structure it is important that stakeholders retain a voice although not a decision making responsibility.  There was evidence that the programme board had recognised this and consideration was being given to a stakeholder forum.

Recommendation:

The programme reviews their project governance structures to ensure the optimal board structure is in place, providing a hierarchy of decision making bodies, from the Agile design workshops to the Programme Board.  Ensure each board has clear terms of reference, are aware of their decision making powers and the correct escalation route.

 Communications Strategy

18  Communications are key to the successful delivery of the programme on many levels, the review highlighted concerns in three specific areas:

a)      Lessons Learned – The scale and complexity of the programme is recognised as a key risk, however there are many sources of information which could help minimise this risk.  These include the recent NAO review “Assurance of High Risk Projects” which produced a list of the top reasons for project failure; the lessons learned by HMRC with the introduction of Tax Credits and more recently the PAYE modernisation programme; and the very recentASDexperience of using Agile as a development tool.

Recommendation:

The programme should formally assess themselves against the NAO list of common causes of project failure to identify potential ‘danger zones’ that they can plan to mitigate.  Also use the expertise gained by HMRC and ASD as a valuable insight to successful delivery and avoiding past mistakes. 

b)      Customers and Customer Groups – The valuable work already undertaken by the Customer Insights team was greatly applauded and there was a recognition that this should definitely continue and grow.  Concerns were raised about the need to ensure communications with customers and those groups representing customer interests were started early, dispelling myths and unfounded concerns whilst providing the foundations for the cultural and behavioural changes that will be needed.

c)      Internal Staff – The uncertainly of the operational delivery model and the known efficiency challenge highlighted concerns about the need to engage with staff, providing up to date, clear information about what decisions had been taken, what were planned and the timescales.

Recommendation:

The programme to establish a comprehensive communications strategy and supporting plan.  Although customers and staff were highlighted above the strategy should include all interested parties, and specifically those with a dependency on or to the programme.

Dependencies

19  Successful delivery also involves the active management of key relationships and dependencies.  It is recognised by all parties that there is a need for the programme to work with colleagues in DWP, HMRC and Local Authorities. The foundations for these relations are established and embedded in the membership of the key stakeholder and governance boards.

20  Whilst the review highlighted a number of inter-dependencies between Universal Credit and the existing DWP change portfolio, specifically Automated Service Delivery, Transforming Labour Market Services, IB Reassessment and the Work Programme, it is recognised that work has already been commissioned to provide an impact analysis assessment for the Investment Committee.

21 The review did however highlight areas where the programme could potentially utilise (or extend existing engagement with) the expertise and activities of other Government departments:

  • Cabinet Office: continue the engagement on cyber security to ensure security features are built in from the start. The RT noted the involvement of the appropriate agencies.
  • HMT: work to understand the Labour Market forecasts/trends which will provide information on the wider environment.
  • BIS: work to provide information on skills sought by employers.

Recommendation:

The programme to work closely with other government departments to identify where there may be opportunities to link with their activity in order to enhance UC’s chances of success.

HMRC’s Real Time Information (RTI) programme

22  The RT finds that bothDWPand HMRC are clear that timely delivery of RTI is a hard dependency for UC.   The joint framework established between the two departments at strategic, policy and operational levels has worked well to date to achieve rapid progress on areas of shared concern. There is a Universal Credit high level programme delivery plan including RTI;  a common change control mechanism is under discussion; the Welfare Reform Bill team has contact details for key HMRC officials and should be encouraged to engage them wherever needed during the passage of the Bill.  This is a strong foundation for the further detailed work that is needed such as a clear and agreed critical path showing key decision points.

23  The RT notes a strong commitment by Ministers and top management engagement in and support for this framework – a known critical success factor for major programmes in both the public and private sector.  Such support will be ever more important as the challenges of delivery increase in a timetable which, all acknowledge, is tight and poses a significant risk.  A restructured Programme Board (see section on governance), overseen by the Ministerial and top management Group, will be essential to maintaining collaborative management.

24  Detailed work is underway to develop a model for scaling up the non PAYE-RTI solution – a self-reporting system for the self-employed – as a contingency for delay of the required RTI service. (This will need to include the impact of the delivery model for UC, on which a decision is expected before Easter.)  The customer journey work will enable the identification of categories of customer claims which could, in principle, offer early “success stories” from a policy perspective and be processed under a non RTI-dependent system.   These options are work in progress and will need to be costed.

25  Contingency has been provided for in respect of other anticipated risks.  For example, the RTI testing period, envisaged to start in April 2012, has some “stretch” to allow for changes to the RTIBuild specification which could arise from the completion of the RTIDesign phase which runs beyond the letting of the Build contracts in May, or in response to late amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Changing customer behaviour

26  The review team felt that the work that has been undertaken through the Customer Insights Team and the User Centre Design activity was a positive indicator that the customer feedback was being taken seriously from the outset, and was helping to shape both the policy and the system with which to deliver the policy.  It was seen by the review team as essential that this engagement with the customer base continues throughout the process.  The department however, should not underestimate the challenge to its staff in taking on a new customer base (i.e. working customers) and every effort should be made to transfer the learning and experience of those already dealing with these customers into the new delivery model.

27   Although the desire is to encourage customers to change their behaviour and to make the transition into work easier, this cannot be done through the implementation of Universal Credit in isolation.  A sustained programme of education and support through wider welfare reform activities will be needed to achieve this and the Programme should maintain links with those other areas of activity throughout.  One risk with any programme of work designed to change behaviour is that in an attempt to encourage people to make the move one way, there is an unintended consequence and behaviour is driven in the wrong direction.  The Programme should use the Customer Insights Team and the user centre design activity to provide an early warning of the likelihood of this happening.

28  One of the key principles of the new Universal Credit is simplicity and the importance of this was reiterated to the review team on a number of occasions.  One of the biggest challenges for the Programme is to maintain that simplicity but to still make provision within the system to deal with the most difficult and complex cases.  It is not feasible to have a system which does not cater for the customer base in its entirety but the Programme may wish to consider whether there are alternative ways of handling the minority group of customers with the most extreme complex cases in order not to compromise the integrity of the system and the over-arching simplicity of Universal Credits.

Recommendation:

The programme to set up a working group to look at the set of complex cases to see if there are alternative handling options for these cases but with the ultimate payment coming through Universal Credit.

29  Another challenge for the programme is the desire to move the majority of customers to on-line services.  This will present some difficulties and it may be beneficial to engage other organisations that have achieved this to understand the methodologies or tools they have used.

Agile

30  The challenging timetable for delivery of UC meant that DWP elected to use an Agile approach to the delivery. There is no evidence of such a methodology being used on a public sector programme of such scale and during the course of the review it was evident that there had been some initial scepticism to the use of such a methodology with a programme of this scale. However, during the review there was overwhelming evidence of buy-in to the methodology at all levels up to and including the highest levels. DWP have set about thoroughly educating all involved on what can be expected from them and there was clear evidence within the interviews that this is being taken up enthusiastically.

31  There was a view that policy decisions being made later in the programme would pose a problem for delivery. This was countered by the view that the methodology should allow decisions to be made when they need to be made, which is in contrast to fixing requirements early in more traditional (‘waterfall’) methodologies. On balance, the review team found that the use of the chosen methodology here was judged by interviewees to provide greater assurance of delivery in such an environment. The review team agrees with this finding.

32  In terms of the use of Agile within Government,DWPalso have the best current experience via their Automated Service Delivery (ASD) Programme, which used a slightly less ‘lean’ version of the methodology based on an Accenture interpretation. However, there are still valuable lessons that can be transferred from this programme and there exists experience that is being directly deployed on UC. The review team felt that whilst effectively piloting this methodology on a programme such as UC did pose a risk, this was acceptable in view of the risk of delivery out of line with expectations, for example in terms of timing or quality of service to the public.

33  Accenture remain involved in UC, although DWP have brought in consultants (Emergn) to provide an independent methodology not based on any ‘out of the box’ methodologies, but rather one that Emergn have tailored. New contracts supporting this development are due to be awarded in June 2011 and DWP state that their use of this independent methodology will serve to remove any supplier advantage.

34  There was evidence that DWP have understood the need for decision-making delegated to the level at which the expertise exists, with the appropriate empowerment supported within the planned governance re-design. There was also an acknowledgement that the right domain/business knowledge needs to be made available at the workshops that will drive the detailed design processes. It was also accepted that there is a continuing need for this knowledge to be made available and also that it will need to keep pace with the changing policy.

35  One key risk identified by DWP is how an Agile methodology will interact successfully with the various approvals processes that will come into play across the programme – most especially the ICT Spend Approval process (formally known as the ICT Moratorium Exception process). Engagement has begun already with the Major Projects Authority (MPA) on designing the Integrated Assurance and Approval Plan (IAAP) that will ensure the correct internal and external assurance is brought to bear for the identified approval points. The production of this plan is seen by the review team as a key mitigating factor for the risk identified and it is recommended that this is produced, with MPA guidance, by the end of March 2011 at the latest. This may need fine-tuning as approval points are finally agreed.

Recommendation:

DWP, with guidance and assistance from the MPA, produces an Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan (IAAP) by the end of March 2011.

36  As noted earlier, there are contracts that are relevant to this development that are being re-competed at this time, with a wish to award in June 2011. There was some evidence that the design of contracts to deliver in an Agile environment will require a different design in order to draw out supplier behaviour in line with an accelerated delivery environment.

37  There is a always the risk that any development methodology will fail to deliver and whilst this methodology itself provides early warning of failure, there is recognition that in such a circumstance the prioritisation of customer journeys with high-value returns would be needed.

38  There was much evidence of the reliance of UC on successful delivery of the HMRC PAYE Real-Time Information (RTI) programme. There was also recognition that whilst ‘just-in-time’ decisions as a consequence of policy development could be made within UC, the RTI requirement would need to be more rigidly fixed as the traditional ‘waterfall’ development methodology in use cannot so easily absorb such changes without consequence.

39  There was some concern that fraud would remain a major issue for UC and appropriate Information Assurance should be built into the requirement from the outset – rather than being a ‘bolt-on’. Also, as UC and its interface with PAYERTI will become part of the UK Critical National Infrastructure, appropriate discussions should be maintained. There was evidence that DWP have gripped these requirements.

40  Overall, the use of an Agile methodology remains unproven at this scale and within UK Government; however, the challenging timescale does present DWP with few choices for delivery of such a radical programme. That said, there has been evidence of strong support at all levels and DWP do have some expertise within their own organisation that they can call upon from the outset. The review team not only felt that an Agile development is an appropriate choice given the constraints, they also believe that DWP are well placed with their level of support, knowledge and enthusiasm to act as a pilot for its use at such a scale.

 

Compound failure

41 DWP has made a strong start in identifying risks to delivery.   This could be developed further by thinking through the likelihood and impact of a number of risks being realised simultaneously (eg lack of synchronisation between reduced income and UC top-up, plus wrong employer data plus labour market downturn).and what the responses might be.  The programme could extend its preparedness by drawing on a wider range of experience the elements of recovery and their prioritisation; and test their robustness in advance, including an early warning system for Ministers.

Next independent external assurance

To be identified in the Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan (IAAP) to be presented to the Programme Board w/b 21 March.

The Programme is scheduled for formal internal DWP “Gate zero” acceptance at an Investment Committee (IC) meeting on 21 April.

**

Thank you to Richard Bacon for obtaining a copy of the Starting Gate review. Bacon had requested a copy from Joe Harley, Government CIO and CIO at the DWP. Ian Watmore, Chief Operating Officer at the Efficiency and Reform Group, Cabinet Office agreed to supply Bacon with a copy as per the following exchange at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on 16 May 2011:

Bacon: “You sounded quite confident about universal credit. Will you send us the initial gateway review for universal credit?”

Harley: “The starting gate review?”

Watmore:  “The starting gate review. I don’t have a problem with that.”

After the hearing when the DWP refused our FOI request for a copy of the UC Starting Gate review report, it said that publication was not in the public interest. We can see nothing in the report that justifies the DWP’s claim. That said accountability and transparency are not the DWP’s defining characteristics.

Links:

Open Government? – Up to a point Lord Copper.

DWP FOI team hides already released report.

Agile and Universal Credit

Agile for Universal Credit – a good choice says report

By Tony Collins

Universal Credit is one of  the government’s biggest IT-based projects and the biggest test for agile in the public sector. It is due to start rolling out in April 2013.

The choice of agile for the scheme is supported by a “Starting Gate” review which was carried out for the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority, and for Terry Moran, the Director-General, Universal Credit at the Department for Work and Pensions. The review was carried out between 28 February 2011 and 4 March 2011.

This is what the Starting Gate report says on agile aspects of the project.

Agile

The challenging timetable for delivery of UC meant that DWP elected to use an Agile approach to the delivery. There is no evidence of such a methodology being used on a public sector programme of such scale and during the course of the review it was evident that there had been some initial scepticism to the use of such a methodology with a programme of this scale.

However, during the review there was overwhelming evidence of buy-in to the methodology at all levels up to and including the highest levels. DWP have set about thoroughly educating all involved on what can be expected from them and there was clear evidence within the interviews that this is being taken up enthusiastically.

There was a view that policy decisions being made later in the programme would pose a problem for delivery. This was countered by the view that the methodology should allow decisions to be made when they need to be made, which is in contrast to fixing requirements early in more traditional (‘waterfall’) methodologies.

On balance, the review team found that the use of the chosen methodology here was judged by interviewees to provide greater assurance of delivery in such an environment. The review team agrees with this finding.

In terms of the use of Agile within Government, DWP also have the best current experience via their Automated Service Delivery (ASD) Programme, which used a slightly less ‘lean’ version of the methodology based on an Accenture interpretation.

However, there are still valuable lessons that can be transferred from this programme and there exists experience that is being directly deployed on UC. The review team felt that whilst effectively piloting this methodology on a programme such as UC did pose a risk, this was acceptable in view of the risk of delivery out of line with expectations, for example in terms of timing or quality of service to the public.

Accenture remain involved in UC, although DWP have brought in consultants (Emergn) to provide an independent methodology not based on any ‘out of the box’ methodologies, but rather one that Emergn have tailored.

New contracts supporting this development are due to be awarded in June 2011 and DWP state that their use of this independent methodology will serve to remove any supplier advantage.

There was evidence that DWP have understood the need for decision-making delegated to the level at which the expertise exists, with the appropriate empowerment supported within the planned governance re-design.

There was also an acknowledgement that the right domain/business knowledge needs to be made available at the workshops that will drive the detailed design processes. It was also accepted that there is a continuing need for this knowledge to be made available and also that it will need to keep pace with the changing policy.

One key risk identified by DWP is how an Agile methodology will interact successfully with the various approvals processes that will come into play across the programme – most especially the ICT Spend Approval process (formally known as the ICT Moratorium Exception process).

Engagement has begun already with the Major Projects Authority (MPA) on designing the Integrated Assurance and Approval Plan (IAAP) that will ensure the correct internal and external assurance is brought to bear for the identified approval points. The production of this plan is seen by the review team as a key mitigating factor for the risk identified and it is recommended that this is produced, with MPA guidance, by the end of March 2011 at the latest. This may need fine-tuning as approval points are finally agreed.

Recommendation:

DWP, with guidance and assistance from the MPA, produces an Integrated Assurance and Approvals Plan (IAAP) by the end of March 2011.

As noted earlier, there are contracts that are relevant to this development that are being re-competed at this time, with a wish to award in June 2011. There was some evidence that the design of contracts to deliver in an Agile environment will require a different design in order to draw out supplier behaviour in line with an accelerated delivery environment.

There is a always the risk that any development methodology will fail to deliver and whilst this methodology itself provides early warning of failure, there is recognition that in such a circumstance the prioritisation of customer journeys with high-value returns would be needed.

There was much evidence of the reliance of UC on successful delivery of the HMRC PAYE Real-Time Information (RTI) programme. There was also recognition that whilst ‘just-in-time’ decisions as a consequence of policy development could be made within UC, the RTI requirement would need to be more rigidly fixed as the traditional ‘waterfall’ development methodology in use cannot so easily absorb such changes without consequence.

There was some concern that fraud would remain a major issue for UC and appropriate Information Assurance should be built into the requirement from the outset – rather than being a ‘bolt-on’. Also, as UC and its interface with PAYERTI [PAYE RTI] will become part of the UK Critical National Infrastructure, appropriate discussions should be maintained. There was evidence that DWP have gripped these requirements.

Overall, the use of an Agile methodology remains unproven at this scale and within UK Government; however, the challenging timescale does present DWP with few choices for delivery of such a radical programme.

That said, there has been evidence of strong support at all levels and DWP do have some expertise within their own organisation that they can call upon from the outset. The review team not only felt that an Agile development is an appropriate choice given the constraints, they also believe that DWP are well placed with their level of support, knowledge and enthusiasm to act as a pilot for its use at such a scale.

Compound failure

DWP has made a strong start in identifying risks to delivery.   This could be developed further by thinking through the likelihood and impact of a number of risks being realised simultaneously (eg lack of synchronisation between reduced income and UC top-up, plus wrong employer data plus labour market downturn).and what the responses might be.

The programme could extend its preparedness by drawing on a wider range of experience the elements of recovery and their prioritisation; and test their robustness in advance, including an early warning system for Ministers.

Agile and Universal Credit – Secret report.

Agile can fix failed GovIT says lawyer.

Agile and Universal Credit – secret report

By Tony Collins

Below are excerpts  from the supposedly confidential “Starting Gate” report by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority on Universal Credit.

The main finding is that, despite inherent challenges, “the programme can deliver Universal Credit”.

Media reports on Universal Credit have depicted the scheme as an impending disaster that may blight the coalition in the run-up to the next general election, but the Authority’s report says the programme has got off to an impressively strong start.

This will encourage advocates of agile in government as Universal Credit is the Government’s biggest agile development.

We requested the Starting Gate report on Universal Credit under the Freedom of Information Act but the Department for Work and Pensions refused to release it; and turned down our appeal.

We obtained the report outside the FOI Act, via the House of Commons Library. It appears that one part of the DWP was trying to keep the report secret while another part had released it to two Parliamentary committees [the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Administration Select Committee].

It may be that the DWP, when it comes to FOI, doesn’t know clearly what it’s doing – or is all but indifferent to the FOI Act and chooses secrecy to keep things simple. The DWP’s FOI reply to us was, at best, in  perfunctory compliance with the FOI Act. It made no attempt to set out the arguments for its decision not to disclose the report, other than to say disclosure was not in the public interest.

The Starting Gate  report was dated March 2011 and was largely positive about the start of the Universal Credit . These were some of the findings.

Deliverability

“The review team finds that the Programme has got off to an impressively strong start given the demanding timetable and complexity of the design and interdependency with other departments.

“This involves liaison with HMRC in particular, but also with CLG and local government in respect of the replacement of Housing Benefit as part of the Universal Credit.

“We found that the foundations for a delivery Programme are in place – clear policy objectives, a coherent strategy, Ministerial and top management support, financial and human resources – with no obvious gaps.

“The strong working relationship with HMRC and the inclusive approach with other key stakeholders within and outside DWP have quickly established a high level of common understanding.  All this gives a high degree of confidence that, notwithstanding the inherent challenges, the programme can deliver Universal Credit.

“There is a greater degree of uncertainty around the achievability of the intended economic outcomes because of factors which are not within DWP’s control e.g. the general state of the economy and availability of jobs.

“There are other risks which derive from trying new approaches: the Agile methodology offers much promise but it is unproven on this scale and scope.  The actual response of different customer groups to UC may pose a risk to its transformational impact if, for example, factors other than net pay turned out to be a greater barrier to take up of work than expected.

“The development of a range of approaches to contingency planning (which could be beyond changes to UC) could cover off unintended customer behaviour, whether ‘no change’, or ‘change for the worse’.”

Campaign4Change will publish more excepts next week.

Links:

Agile can fix failed Gov’t IT says lawyer

DWP FOI team hides Universal Credit report

Universal Credit – guaranteed to fail?

DWP gives IBM and Capgemini 60 application maintenance and development apps

DWP partners with IBM to help deliver Universal Credit

Civil Service too risk averse at a micro level

 Faced with big challenges, the Civil Service thought small thoughts.  [Tony Blair, memoirs]

A report by the House of Commons Public Administration Committee has warned that the Coalition Government needs a more transparent and flexible Civil Service when it comes to commissioning public services from charities, social enterprises, mutuals and private companies.

The Committee’s report says the Civil Service needs to transfer power out of Whitehall and into communities and as a result fundamentally change the way it works.

It says the challenge of this new role will be compounded by the need to meet sizeable reductions in administrative budgets set out in the 2010 Spending Review.

Its conclusions are that while the Government seeks to embrace change, it has failed to recognise the scale of reform required or to set out the change programme required to achieve this reform. It says there is a reluctance to produce what they see as the latest in a long line of reform initiatives in Whitehall. This antipathy to a plan for reform fails to take note of the critical factors for success in Civil Service reform initiatives and wider corporate change programmes: coordination from the centre and strong political leadership. As a result, it warns, key policies like the ‘Big Society’ agenda and decentralisation will fail.

The Committee says: “We have recommended that the Government should produce a comprehensive change programme articulating clearly what it believes the Civil Service is for, how it must change and with a timetable of clear milestones. Such a change programme would enable real change in Whitehall and avoid the fate of previous unsuccessful reform initiatives.

“Such a change programme must also include proposals for the Civil Service to retain and to develop the new skill sets required to meet the demands of the Big Society policy agenda, and to address long-running concerns about the decline in specialist expertise in Whitehall, the failure to innovate and to take risks, and the failure to work across departmental silos. Such a plan is required to combat inertia and deliver government policies where Ministers and departments may otherwise be unwilling or unable to drive change.

“To reflect the changing role of the Civil Service, we have also recommended that the Government should consider the development of a new Haldane model of accountability which can sustain localism and decentralisation; or they must explain how the existing model remains relevant. The new realities of devolving power out of Whitehall to local government and elsewhere should be codified in the Civil Service governance structures.

“Ministers seem to believe that change will just happen. It is essential that the Cabinet Office take leadership of the reforms and coordinate the efforts in individual departments and across Whitehall as a whole. The scale of the challenges faced by the Civil Service calls for the establishment of a world class centre of Government, headed by someone with the authority to insist on delivery across Whitehall.”

In particular, the report says the main change of task, which will affect many but not all departments, will be an increase in commissioning and contracting. More onerous and time-consuming, however, will be monitoring the contracting process and dealing with problems and complaints arising.

The report says Whitehall has traditionally performed three core roles: policy advice, the management of public services, and the supervision of public bodies. If the Civil Service is to connect with Ministers’ ambitions for public service reform a fourth capability will need to be added to this trio: the ability to engage with groups from the voluntary and private sectors through the contracting and commissioning process. Every government department must focus on developing this fourth capability, and the Cabinet Office must ensure that this is embedded in the Civil Service change programme across government.

The report explains why SMEs have made so few inroads into government work. 

It goes so far as to depict ministers as not understanding Civil Service inertia, which means they cannot come up with a plan to do anything about it. Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, described a paradoxical situation where Government took huge risks at a macro level, but at a micro level tended to be very risk averse and hostile to innovation.

He added, “You do not often hear of someone’s career suffering because they preside over an inefficient status quo, but try something new that does not work and that can blot your copybook bigtime.”

 An example of one SME’s innovative ideas

Why Activity Streams and Social Analytics promise to be the future of enterprise collaboration

By David Bicknell

One of the most eagerly anticipated reports each year is Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which assesses more than 1,900 technologies on their maturity, business benefit and future direction.

It provides a cross-industry perspective on the trends that IT managers should consider adopting within their ‘must-watch this technology’ portfolios.

Throughout 2011, two of the most-watched technologies have been ‘Social Analytics’ and ‘Activity Streams’ which are in Gartner’s “Peak of Inflated Expectations” where typically a frenzy of publicity generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations of the technology, and which often means that although there may be some successful applications of a technology, there are likely to be more failures than fanfares.

These two, however, may be different. Activity Streams has been described as the future of enterprise collaboration, uniting people, data, and applications in real-time in a central, accessible, virtual interface. Take the idea of a company social network where every employee, system, and business process exchanges up-to-the-minute information about their activities and outcomes. Now, instead of pockets of knowledge, the company will have one central nervous system that unifies every piece of corporate information.

Activity Streams can fundamentally change how companies do business, unlocking and releasing the vast amount of information generated by everyday operations and making it instantly available, humanising every business process inside a company, while adding a social layer to data and opening up real-time collaboration.

As the Cisco Communities blog pointed out earlier this year, the overall concept of Activity Streams is compelling because streams allow applications to publish events that are captured by aggregators that serialise the items into a sequence of posts. Often items include options for people to “like”, comment, or react to the item in some manner through a rating. Aggregating events into a common stream also enables people to easily subscribe (“follow”) a collective set of events from one or more publishers.

Cisco Communities suggests potential benefits are not just accrued by people-centric activity streams. Indeed, applications of all types can also generate activities into a stream to keep people aware of system events (e.g., a new sales win, an urgent alert of some sort). As the enterprise considers how Activity Streams can be leveraged, interest in role-based and process-related streams is also likely to emerge. The idea is that both productivity and collaboration needs can be improved by making events more visible and allowing people to take action more effectively (sometimes collectively) based on that level of event transparency (especially when compared to how people rely on their e-mail inbox for much of this type of group notification and work coordination).

There are some riders, however. As more people and applications create events published into a common stream, the resulting volume and velocity by which events “stream by” can cause people to miss something relevant, which means they end up spending time scrolling up and down searching for things they might have missed. Depending on the way activities are aggregated, there may be limits as to how much information is actually kept around to enable historical review. The risk is that Activity Streams can become just as messy and burdensome as an email inbox. Better filtering may help – but this is still a developing area.

Where does Social Analytics come in, you might ask?  Social Analytics is closely related to Activity Streams because from the vast amount of real-time and dynamic information available, actionable insights need to be extracted so that the organisation can efficiently and effectively focus itself.

The Mvine platform has already developed this capability so that customers can create reports of what their users are doing with the site in real-time. Information created, detailing data such as age, gender, frequency to the site, downloads, location, job function, can then be used to produce reports and help target marketing campaigns and generate sales leads; providing a bespoke service to customers and an intelligent approach to understanding your user base.

It is important to be aware that when it comes to Social Analytics, one size never fits all. That is why there is a need for ‘Adaptive’ Social Analytics because the analytics will always depend on the context in which they’re being used, on which explicit application you’re using, and on the people and content you’re interested in.

For example, if you’re using an Mvine portal to communicate with a consumer-based client base, then you’ll want to know more about them as individuals, in particular their demographics. Are they ABC1, for example? However, if you’re using it to manage the content and communications in your supply chain, then the analytics required will need to cover roles and relevance i.e. Is the right department receiving and acting on your communications? Who there is receiving it? Is it the right information for their role? If your alerts are targeting Finance Directors, but your event attendees seem to be from HR, why is that? Are your alerts going to the right people, with the right demographics in terms of gender, age, responsibility and location? For example, why are you targeting an event at geographically-spread project managers in the South who never have time to meet, when better targets would be those in closer-knit locations in the North? And are your user group chapter and product discussion groups full of a silent majority of followers, or voluble – and valuable – opinion formers?  

If the company is a business-to-business organisation where regulation is critical, then the analytics information delivered will necessarily be concerned with proof that processes have been appropriately followed and that required review and sign-off complies with the organisation’s designated policies and procedures. Your analytics information will therefore comprise time-stamping information that details who did what, where and when.

Why is this important? Well, it’s all about people, context and content.  Just because we are talking about the Internet does not change the requirement for the basics to be right when it comes to the delivery of effective and usable information. We need the right information to be delivered to the right people, with the right context, in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way. Anything less, then we’re dealing with ineffective information, which is likely to herald an equally ineffective, or worse, a wrong business decision.

Are civil servants giving more work to SMEs – or less?

By Tony Collins

David Cameron, in a speech to a Government procurement conference on 11 February 2011, gave a pledge to ensure that  “25% of all government contracts are awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises”.

He said: “If we meet this goal it will mean billions of pounds worth of new business opportunities for SMEs”.

The Government has since dropped its pledge to give SMEs 25% of public sector contracts, though it remains an “aspiration”. To back this up, departments are under pressure to show they have awarded more work to small and medium-sized businesses.

As part of David Cameron’s Transparency commitments, all departments are required to publish each new contract let over £10,000 and state whether this contract has been let to a SME.

This information is available on the new Contracts Finder website alongside tender documents and opportunities. As part of the business plan process each department is also required to measure and publish the percentage of their third party spend that goes directly to SMEs.

The Government says it is investigating how best to collect data on spend with SMEs as sub-contractors.

That said, the firm target of 25% has been dropped because European tendering rules do not allow officials to give contracts specifically to smaller businesses.

The Cabinet Office says its official position now is:

“We will promote small business procurement, in particular by introducing an aspiration that 25% of government contracts should be awarded to small and medium-sized businesses.”

The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has been more cautious. He said at the time of Cameron’s talk that “as much as” 25% of public service contracts will be awarded to the private and voluntary sector in a bid to break up existing public service monopolies.

Have plans for more SME work gone into reverse? 

eWeek Europe now reports the concerns of SMEs that the 25% aspiration may give way to plans to consolidate government administrative work which could end up with major suppliers being given even more work.

eWeek Europe says that at the first meeting of the ‘New Suppliers to Government’ working group, which was put together by the Cabinet Office, members said the government’s aspiration to place 25% of its business with SMEs is in direct conflict with projects such as Sir Philip Green’s ‘Efficiency Review’,  which pushes for consolidation within the supply chain.

“There are two competing tensions inside the government,” said Mark Taylor, CEO of Sirius and lead for the New Suppliers to Government working group. “One of them is the Cabinet Office’s stated commitment to getting more SME involvement. However, the other drive within government is pushing things the other way…

 “The implication of that programme is they will reduce the number of people they buy from to a very small amount of very large suppliers,” said Taylor. While this can be an effective way to cut costs through economies of scale, it is not appropriate to every sector, added Taylor.

In the case of IT innovative ideas are coming from smaller companies, which can help reduce government spending through agile processes and open source.

Taylor cited the Ministry of Justice’s Cipher project as an example of how SMEs are being elbowed out of contracts as a result of these conflicting objectives. In March 2011, the MoJ cancelled freelance IT contractors supplied through SMEs and transferred their work to outsourcing company Capita and its £123m Cipher contract.

“The solution that we are proposing is very simple,” said Taylor. “In the private sector, companies of whatever size will purchase from whichever entity makes the most sense. If it’s a commoditised service, buy it from a huge supermarket at commodity prices. If it’s a specialised service that is appropriate for the business, buy it from an SME.”

Stephen Allott, the Cabinet Office’s crown representative for SMEs, has said it will take up to two years for Whitehall to stop excluding small businesses from work they could do more effectively than larger rivals.

Allott was quoted in the Telegraph as saying that meaningful reforms were being rolled out, but that they would take time to be implemented. “There are a lot of things that need to be fixed,” he said.

Comment:

There is a real risk that the coalition’s laudable aspirations to change the way government works will fall victim to a combination of strong lobbying by the big suppliers and overwhelming forces within the civil service to keep things much as they are, which usually means playing safe – or that is how it is perceived – by continuing to rely on the large suppliers, the so-called systems integrators.   

For decades the big companies have had their way and have been paid very well for services of mixed quality. One result of the domination of big suppliers is that inefficiency is endemic. The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude wants government to change and we support him. He’ll need to do more to make change happen, though. Meanwhile the civil service is doing what it does best: keeping the hands of ministers off the steering wheel. Maude is being given so much work that, in his words, it’s difficult to “keep all the plates spinning”.

Many in the Cabinet Office want to support Maude and effect reform. But can they do it when Maude is distracted by having too much work, the big suppliers are doing all they can to keep and expand their existing contracts, and departmental civil servants are confortable in their existing SI relationships?

eWeek Europe

An example of one SME’s innovative ideas