Driven by an increasing emphasis on efficiency and desire to improve mission effectiveness, federal organizations are looking to their information technology (IT) organizations to deliver greater value at lower investment levels. To accomplish this, many federal IT organizations are embracing cloud and other innovations in technology and delivery approaches which provide greater flexibility and scalability to a broader user base. This confluence of requirements and capabilities is accelerating the ability of federal IT organizations to extend solutions and services beyond the reach of their own agency.
The vast majority of funding and resource focus related to a system’s implementation is on what users consider the 'back-end' - which is, to a user, everything that is not the interface they stare at. Substantial time and money is poured into infrastructure, database design, platform implementation/customization/configuration, and integrating the new system with other systems for example. But frequently too little time and energy is spent designing, implementing, testing, and refining the most critical part of the system: the interface users use. I refer to this gap as the chasm of the last mile that many otherwise great systems fall into.
There’s an old comic strip that illustrates how different players in software development map stakeholder requirements to the ‘solution’. Fortunately, with increased use of agile development and significantly greater input and collaboration with users over the course of development and integration, this gap is narrowing. However, there are still some easy, low effort, high impact ways to improve requirements elicitation that can go a long way towards closing the gap. Here are five:
Working capital funds make it easier to compare public and private sector IT rates: Why such a big difference?
Public sector IT organizations that use a working capital fund (WCF) to drive funding based on usage metrics from customer organizations (typically other offices within the agency) have a leg up on other IT organizations across the government that use more traditional fixed cost budget approaches. By attempting to assign IT costs based on usage or demand using numbers of ‘seats’, storage used, web pages hosted, and other metrics, these organizations are often better positioned to provide agency leadership with the basic tools to make better decisions about controlling IT service demand and cost. The approach can simplify and clarify IT costs and more directly and explicitly link demand with the costs associated with supply.
The public sector’s continuing desire to minimize its investment in custom software is a laudable goal. There’s certainly no shortage of failed or failing software projects in government one could point to illustrate the inherent risks of ground-up development of software solutions. However, the pendulum in many organizations may have swung too far towards off-the-shelf solutions; straight past the real answer of platform standardization. The reality is government organizations have, in many cases, fairly unique requirements for which there really is no suitable off-the-shelf solution.