Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Whitehall Effect

Not a single solitary soul on the whole editorial board of DMossEsq had heard of John Seddon before he published The Whitehall Effect on 5 November 2014. They all have now:
Agile is an example of the IT industry re-inventing itself ... if the way work is done is central to the problem (as is the thesis of this book), Agile can only amount to doing the wrong thing faster. (pp.48-9)
IT innovation is truly faddish: plausible but fuzzy ideas pushed by large marketing budgets on unwary lemmings who follow the herd ... Take, for example, the 'cloud' ... (p.152)
In any event, 'digital-by-default' is guaranteed to fail (see later). (p.153)
Mr Seddon believes that back offices, targets and IT systems are all very well for industrial systems but they can be downright unhelpful in the health sector, for example, or for state benefits. What you need there is ... people.

Where up to 80% of transactions can arise because the system doesn't work (failure demand), you don't need to get the unit costs down – you need to re-design the system.

And the good news is, according to him, that high quality public services can be cheaper than the poorly-designed and mismanaged systems that Whitehall currently wastes our money on.


Anonymous said...

I see the latest 'agile' application that GDS are touting as an exemplar for digital transformation has just gone live after over two years of development is Carer's Allowance.

Then you find out that once a user submits their claim using the new online service, it is converted into a pdf file and emailed to a DWP mailbox. On arrival at the mailbox, someone prints it off and the resulting form is then re-entered onto another system.

So, well done GDS and DWP - another triumph for Agile (LOL),

David Moss said...

Thank you for that comment, Anonymous @ 2 December 2014 21:01.

GDS always say that they're not just tarting up the front end of public service systems. They're re-designing them from scratch. They're transforming government.

According to your comment, apparently not.

"Show, don't tell", GDS always say, but what they're doing is "tell, can't show".

Maybe they don't know what "show, don't tell" means?

While we're on the subject, what does "be consistent, not uniform" mean? Anything? Nothing?

What does "putting the user first" mean to GDS?

And can anyone help with "don't procure, commission"?

We don't expect GDS to know anything about carer's allowance, for example. Or tax. They have nothing to offer, they bring nothing to the table and it's baffling that DWP, HMRC, DVLA, DEFRA, et al let GDS interfere.

But we might hope that GDS have a handle on "agile" and that they don't just use the word to mean whatever they want to do at the time. But there, it seems, we are doomed to disappointment.

How are serious companies supposed to deal with GDS when it comes to IDA/GOV.UK Verify? How do you do business with an organisation to whom words mean nothing? You'd have to be certified to try.

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