Frustration Francais

Kablenet picks up on a memo sent by J-P Raffarin in France covering his dissatisfaction with progress on delivering e-government.

J-P notes that he wants the administration to progress more rapidly, or risk being left behind. He also realises that things must change …

En effet, l’interopérabilité des solutions est la condition nécessaire pour la mise en place de véritables services innovants qui facilitent les échanges entre administrations et épargnent à l’usager les effets des cloisonnements administratifs.

Par ailleurs, d’un point de vue budgétaire, la mutualisation des coûts, la réutilisation de solutions déjà expérimentées par d’autres administrations et le développement d’outils communs peuvent être source d’importantes économies.

Par ailleurs, l’agence prendra en charge la réalisation d’un certain nombre de services à caractère interministériel, qu’il s’agisse de prestations offertes aux usagers (par exemple, un système en ligne permettant de réaliser facilement les démarches nécessaires en cas de changement d’adresse)

That is that joined up solutions are fundamental for innovation, that reuse of what’s already been done and collaborative development is essential and that some example projects will help get it kicked off – although, most worryingly, he’s dwelling on the perennial and staggeringly hard change of address as his main example.

So, what to do?

– mise en oeuvre en priorité des projets et téléprocédures susceptibles d’une réalisation rapide ainsi que des mesures permettant de premières avancées sur la voie de la mutualisation ;

– lancement en parallèle des travaux destinés à réduire l’hétérogénéité actuelle des systèmes d’information et à permettre la création de services communs à plusieurs administrations ;

– convergence, à partir de 2006, des systèmes d’information vers des référentiels communs, afin d’assurer la capacité d’évolution de l’ensemble et d’enrichir la teneur des prestations offertes

Kick off some fast moving projects that will demonstrate joined up-ness, figure out how to reduce the “heterogenous” nature of IT systems so that “building blocks” (my words, not his) can be used across agencies and, from 2006, common databases (or maybe just reference numbers) to give a way to present significantly richer services.

What Raffarin is describing is the underpinnings of an Enterprise Architecture of course, but he’s focused on the technology which may be a big weakness of his plan; perhaps elsewhere there are memos to the business heads saying that they’ll have to align their processes or he’ll start banging some heads together (hard). I do like the fact that the memo is public – it’s a direct call to action where he recognises things aren’t happening and sets out what he’d like to see done. Not bad at all, and certainly embracing the principles of online government.

Fascinating to see how this will evolve. And even more fascinating to see a variety of countries aligning at the start line for the next stage of online government. Most have been through the “websites at any cost” stage, journeyed through “quick, get me some interactivity” and many are seeing relatively high volume usage and now they’re lining up for the big jump: joined up services, harmonisation of IT strategies, realignment of business processes and delivery of real value to the citizen. Great.

Mobile data … not "mobile" data, but "mobile data"

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Felix, asked me the other day what I wanted from my mobile phone. In true rant fashion, I replied (and this is just cut and paste from email so those of you who mail me occasionally will see that it’s true to form).

I want all my data all over.

When I change phones, I want the phone to sort life out for me. Not just the numbers and the tasks and stuff, but my speed dials, my ring tones, my preferences.

There’s a big incentive here for, say, nokia to sort this out – to keep people using their phones they could just say “if you use one of ours, when you get a new one, just tap this numebr in and we’ll send all your data into space and then tap the same number into your new phone and we’ll bring it all back” – bingo, lockin for that vendor. Why change phones if it’s hard. Doesn’thave to be an open standard.

But I also want simultaneous updates to all things everywhere. New task in phone is new task on pc. Not inside the corporate firewall with complicated servers all the time, but for everyone. New phone number on phone is in pda, new phone number in pda is in phone. Just like that. They’re all connected in some way, some through a cradle, some via bluetooth, some via gprs, some via wireless. Just when is this always on society going to get its act together and stop making us sit down and put everything in its place so that we can sort out which bit of data is where.

And what’s all that stuff about duplicates? Last one changed must be the right one, or the one changed by me versus the one changed by someone who is not me – after all, I’m more important than they are, even if I give them access.

Intel may be somewhere with the personal server stuff, just like an oqo but maybe intel will actually deliver it soon. You will love oqo. Once I have that, I don’t need a laptop I think.

And what on earth does a sim card store things for? What a dumb idea. Is it still 500kb or less? I have 16mb in my phone plus 16mb on the memory card. What would I need a sim card for except to identify me … And if it’s going to identify me, then why can’t I use it as the login token on websites so that I don’t have to remember 5000 passwords.

And, while we’re at it, where on earth are roaming bookmarks? I stil have to sync up all my devices to make sure that they’re all current

ID plan

Marvellous piece by John Lettice on how ID cards might work and what the issues will be. Probably the best and shortest bit of 3rd party analysis I’ve seen so far – lots of people have written a lot more, but this is very succinct (and not nearly as one sided as John can occasionally be).

Takes all sorts

Louise Ferguson dropped me a line this week both to let me know that her blog existed and to point at a piece where she’d mentioned me. I’m not sure she likes my style of writing – “empty rhetoric” – but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, perusing the rest of her site, it’s clear that she knows a thing or two about creating great online user experiences and that’s one of my pet themes, so no harm in you having a look.

On the speculation point, which was what I was really getting at (someone, in this case the e-envoy himself, makes a speech and then everyone moves to swingometer mode), who knows where all this stuff will go. A CIO makes a lot of sense – it worked pretty well for the US with Mark Forman – but so would devolving some of the organisation. Delivering a pan-government IT programme is hard to say the least and it would be harder still without central leadership, but the centre is not always the best place. So, my point is that there needs to be some solid thinking around what next to ensure that we build on the successes, manage down the failures and create some real value in the government IT world. Oh, and of course, IT by and of itself is next to useless which I think I’ve said before. It’s the business, stupid.

It’s a funny world. "One" is a round number for some and not for others.

First there was this and now there’s this. One piece takes the position that narrowing down a vendor field in a procurement to a single supplier is a bad idea, the other thinks that it’s the only way to get the best deal. Both are right I guess, depending on the circumstances. But neither article acknowledges the need to think about why you are where you are and then take the right action.

A lasting legacy?

I’ve been worried for a while now that all of our efforts in the world of e-government (and here I mean pretty much everywhere), where we have strived to find ways to get around or outright remove legacy systems (the ones that work, or the ones that have been there 20 years – whichever your view) might just result in us creating another legacy problem.

The kind of things that are explicit in an enterprise architecture – a truly componentised, citizen-led, product as servant information technology base that is fully aligned to the (revamped and reworked) business processes – are not yet prevalent as I look around at who is doing what. Sure, there are pockets of creativity and sometimes whole swathes where people are doing the right thing. But, in big picture terms, the legacy we look like leaving is not much different from the one our predecessors struggled to keep going – albeit this one is doubtless in C++/Java/VisualStudio and what not instead of Cobol.

We can’t afford for our legacy to be “another legacy” so what do we do about it? How do we find the buttons to push that make the decision makers eyes’ light up as they see what could be achieved with the right technology? How do we gethe business thinkers to realign their processes so that we can create some common components that support more than one business unit? How do we do that in an environment where, rightly, the money is tight and the bankers want to be sure that what we spend now is justified and will deliver real saves? The promise of online government is great, but the experience so far has been lacklustre.

This is the main thread of the work I’m doing on my EntArch – with a direct focus on what do we have to do this time that’s different from before so that we don’t fall into the same trap.

I’m pretty keen on a legacy that fully supports “unplug and replace v1.0” allowing all of the components or even sub-components (fragments?) to be ripped out, upgraded and replaced when new things become available, without having to poke into the monolithic remains of prior applications.