Transformed: Digerati to Deluderati

This is the week that agile truly died in UK government. GDS has been stumbling along with very limited impact for many months, perhaps even as long as two or three years. That was triggered by a failure to manage the inevitable turnover of leadership, both in the executive and ministerial ranks. See my previous writing, not least the emperor’s new clothes.

It’s one thing to stumble, it’s another to fall and not be able to get up. And that’s where we’ve arrived. The interim head of GDS, Alison Pritchard, announced the new plan for digital government at the Sprint 19 event. I say sprint, but it’s increasingly clear that we’re moving at waddle speed, at best. She said, according to Mark Say at UK Authority:

“Government in 2030 will be joined up, trusted and responsive to user needs … This is the closest I have seen for quite a while to articulating the end goal for what we are trying to achieve”

Close but not actually the end goal? No different from the joined up, citizen focused government of 2000 some would say. Or of the goal set in many other iterations of e-government, transformation or digital government.

What this isn’t is clear thinking, iterative, ambitious, useful or, in any way, likely to succeed. What will we get next month? Or in 6 months? Or in a year? A tiny step closer perhaps. But seemingly we need 10 more years to get “close” to our “end goal”. As if there’s an end. Where did we lose agile and iterative? Where did the recognition that the goal shifts as you progress go?

What’s the single thing that we can predict about 2030 as I write in September 2019? It’s that none of the people currently in post in government, let alone in GDS, will be in post when that time rolls around.

The greek temple model makes an appearance, with 5 pillars. Legacy systems will, apparently, no longer be a barrier to transformation – notwithstanding that there will doubtless be new ones by 2030. Oh, and ubiquitous digital identity. Verify rises from Valhalla.

This isn’t Alison’s fault. She’s just arrived. She sees no way ahead in the short term. No sponsorship. Better to play the long game.

Oliver Dowden went on to say:

“It’s starting with key life events such as having a baby or setting up a business, or what do when a loved one has passed away. It enables government to deliver smarter public services by getting things right from the start.”

Forgive me for thinking it’s 1999 all over again. Somehow the digerati have become the deluderati.

Delivery and Performance Down Under

An interesting read, via @paulshetler, today, covers the setting up of a new piece of governance in New South Wales. the “Delivery and Performance Committee” (DaPCo).

The best quote from the release, by Victor Dominello, NSW Customer Minister, is easily:

This reform – is cultural and it is whole-of-government – it is the hard stuff, the messy and complex innards of government that nobody likes to talk about. It’s not shiny but it’s one of the biggest enablers for digital transformation and service delivery – which is why we’re committed to getting it right.

The committee plans to ask the hard questions on delivery, drive adoption of a Netflix-like approach (“test and tweak services in short delivery cycles based on customer feedback”), improve the “tell us once” functionality.

Importantly, they say that the model will be replicated at the Federal level, with “Services Australia”, previously known was the Department of Human Service.

and then this

With our counterparts in the federal government, we’re making big advances in designing services around complex life events – we’ve already launched a prototype to help people through the end–to–end journey at pivotal moments in life, like what to do when somebody dies, so you don’t have to go to 10 different government departments

For a moment I thought it was 2001 all again and UKonline had moved down under.

It all sounds good. Just a couple of thoughts

  1. A committee? That sounds like a challenging way to manage an agile, fleet of foot, iterative delivery cycle based on customer feedback
  2. What’s the first project or policy it will start with and is it policy focused, technology focused, solution focused, delivery methodology focused or all of the above?
  3. What’s the lever by which the work gets done once the committee pronounces? How will they tell everyone what the new guidance is so that people don’t waste time preparing the wrong solution that the committee then reject?

Interesting stuff. Would be good to compare before and after, if it can be asssessed transparently. Lots of effort has gone into making a similar switch in the UK, of course, but the translation into real improvement for transactional services is hard to see except in a few really strong cases.

Just What Is Digital Transformation?

Yesterday, building on a Tweet from @hondanhon I posed the question

“What is a successful digital transformation project, from the last decade, that everyone would recognise?”

I started the list off with Netflix. This company has achieved four impressive feats:

  1. Disrupted the video rental market with its postal model, no late fees, large back catalogue etc … putting Blockbuster out of business (there are a couple of good books that tell the whole story, and an even better podcast from Wondery, in its Business Wars series)
  2. Transformed its own business model into a fully digital model by moving, first, to an online streaming business, letting customers watch major films and TV shows (though not those currently showing)
  3. Made a further leap to become a content company – like Warner, Sony and others – producing and commissioning its own shows and films, not just in English but in several languages.
  4. In doing (3), Netflix disrupted TV (binge watching entire series) as well as bringing “watch what you want when you want” to their customers

This has all cost a lot of money – their content budget this year is rumoured to be some $15bn – and it’s not clear if there’s a path to profitability, but all of it together makes for an astonishing transformation

But if you look for other examples of transformation and, particularly, digital transformation, it’s hard to find them.

That, for me, is because it feels like we’ve linked two words that are largely nothing to do with each other.

Digital is about putting your previously offline services online and improving them to fit better into the online world. Transformation is about fundamentally re-engineering your business model (in a positive way).

In 2001, HMRC put Self Assessment online. It wasn’t called digital then, but e-government. It was clearly a move to digital services. From that year on, you could fill in your Self Assessment form online, at 2 minutes to midnight on deadline day, 31st January, and be confident that your tax return was accepted.

Later, PAYE forms could be sent, from pretty much any accounting software, via the Government Gateway, achieving the same result. Over a few years, paper returns were largely wiped out.

But was this transformational? The forms were the same – they weren’t on paper, but they were still forms, asking the same questions in the same way. You didn’t need to print PAYE forms from your Sage package (or buy their hugely marked up paper), but the data you needed was the same. Perhaps the biggest benefit was that various applications – whether HMRC’s own or those from third parties – validated the data you were entering and ensured that it would be accepted (it didn’t mean it was right of course – there were, and are, still plenty of ways to get the data acceptably wrong).

More recently, an example might be that of DVLA with their online tax disc transaction.

That’s clearly a digital service – no longer did you have to go to the Post Office with your MOT and Insurance documents to pick up a new paper disc. If I recall correctly it was a two stage change, with the more recent work getting rid of the tax disc.

But is it transformational? Those who don’t buy a tax disc are now slightly more difficult to catch because a passing Police Officer can’t look in the window and check the date. And, of course, you still need a “tax disc” albeit now it arrives via email.

Perhaps transformation would have meant that the tax disc was purchased along with your insurance, or was given to you when you passed your MOT, collapsing some transactions, moving the point of collection to industry and changing the relationship with the customer so that it was no longer with government,

Very recently the Home Office launched an app that would allow an Android phone user to scan their passport when applying for, say, settled status. In a couple of weeks that same capability should be available for the other 50% of the population – the iPhone users – as the new release of iOS will allow the Home Office access to the NFC chip.

This is definitely game changing – some 85% of transactions (and there have been roughly a million so far) have apparently come through the online channel – and when iOS launches, this should jump massively (and help cover the 2m who haven’t yet used it but who may need to). Is this transformation? It could be, but then, of course, it’s a new burden that we are imposing on people and we are giving them a faster way to remove that burden, we are not removing the burden altogether,

Eight Years On From GDS …

… and what have we accomplished?

I wrote about Martha Lane Fox’s report on the future of e-government (shortly thereafter to become digital government, though Martha referred to it all as “government online services”) in November 2010.  The recommendations were not particularly new but they were tightly focused and provided the impetus to set up GDS and give it a power that had previously not been available to either a Cabinet Office technology-led function or, I think, any other cross-government technology-led team.

Handily, the EU have published their “Digital Economy and Society Index 2019“, and there’s a specific report on the UK.  Perhaps the last one of these that we will see.  The upside of that is that we may be top of the table in the next one that we self-publish, if only because it will be a table of one.

What, then, have we accomplished?  I’m afraid it doesn’t make for good reading.

We rank 11th overall in the EU.  The authors kindly say that this is “showing a somewhat above average performance.”  I take that to mean that given there are 27 member states, we are just above the mid-point.  If you were to measure performance by GDP, or by capital invested, or by expectation of position, I’m quite sure that this is a well below average performance.

It gets worse.  We are 18th for online service completion and a woeful 27th for pre-filled forms.  Put to one side the idea that “forms” are still the vernacular more than 20 years after we started down the online path.

Our best ranking, by far, is “digital public services for businesses” – I may be biased but I would put that down to the original work by HMRC as far back as 2001 followed up by good work by Companies House (which chose to do things their own way but nevertheless did a very good job – far above average one might say).  It is perhaps interesting to note that GDS has never paid much attention to business transactions – Verify ignores businesses (in the too hard box), the work with RPA around payments to farmers was abandoned after a disastrous launch etc.  And yet there we are in 2nd place.

Who’s first?

Estonia I hear you cry.

Would be a good guess.  They’re 2nd.  Finland is first.

Estonia is let down by open data (where they are 25th); Finland is let down by digital public services for businesses (16th) and open data (19th).

There are some lessons to learn here.  Trouble is we just never seem to learn them.

The Verify Delusion

Verify, the self-declared “new way for you to prove who you are online, so you can use government services safely”, seemingly crossed 4m users in April, and has since (as of 2/8/19) climbed to nearly 4.7m.

We know little, though, about who is using the “20” available services or what they are doing with them.
We do know, for instance, that Self Assessment returns are still filed, in the majority, by users with a Government Gateway ID.   The recent NAO report says that only 4% of HMRC’s users route through Verify.  Verify was supposed to work for everyone, including businesses … but that plan was abandoned, first accidentally and then on purpose.  Gradually then suddenly as I believe Hemingway first said.
We also know that some of the services claimed to be using Verify really aren’t – Defra’s RPA (payments to farmers through an EU scheme) tried to use it, but the experiment failed; stories of problems with Universal Credit’s failed attempts to make Verify work usefully are rife.  More than half of the services can be accessed through other routes, including the Gateway.
We also know – it’s up there in the top right hand corner of the image above – that the success rate is only 49%.  That means, in theory, that more than 9m people have tried to use Verify and as many have failed who have succeeded.  That doesn’t come for free … it’s £20 to sign someone up and £10, I hear, per login thereafter.
£10 per login.  The dashboard, where the graph above comes from, says that 42,000 users are creating IDs each week and 70,000 users are logging (again, we don’t know what they are doing.  Maybe they are seeing if they can do anything with their shiny “new” Verify ID.  One assumes that 42,000 create the ID and login to see if it works and perhaps the other 28,000 are coming back).  That’s £420k/week for new IDs and £700k/week for logins.  More than £1.1m/week.   £57m a year.  Plus costs of operation.
Even with revenues at those levels, it’s not clear if the diminishing number of Identity Providers (IDPs) will stick this out given the “planned” move to the private sector in March 2020.  Some may drop out before then.  Millions of users will have to create new identities, if they see Verify as useful.  Of course, those new IDs won’t be free either.
The same NAO report referenced earlier stated that costs were expected to be £212m (far, far away from the original “we can do this for £25m and save hundreds of millions”) with benefits of £873m; the latter has now been revised down to less than £300m (and that number is doubtless falling given the bulk of it is not direct benefits but a made up calculation of “spend avoidance”).  Some 38% of those costs went to the IDPs.  They haven’t, on the face of it, done badly, but we don’t know the investment they made, or the ongoing costs they incur, nor do we know what their original expectations were in terms of cost and return.

The clearest evidence of delusion is when if there’s nothing to say, you still feel the need to say something. This piece, on the GDS blog, this week, filled that gap in the evidence.

When a tax return is filed online through the Self Assessment service, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) need to confirm a user’s identity. One way users can prove they are who they say they are online is via the government’s identity assurance platform, GOV.UK Verify. The other route is through Government Gateway. 

This year, HMRC saw their highest online Self Assessment peak. This refers to the rush in tax returns that occurs as the deadline of midnight 31 January approaches, usually from the start of the month onwards. 

We prepared for this anticipated demand by working closely with HMRC, learning from previous years and keeping up regular contact. All this work allowed us to help HMRC with their busiest Self Assessment peak and highest number of tax returns made online.

Yes, that’s right.  It was the end of July and GDS were crowing about how they had helped HMRC deliver the highest ever volume of Self Assessment returns online.  That highest volume comes in January – it always has done (in the past there was a paper peak in September, but January is the crunch month).  I’ve been there – I used to stay up nights as the peak approached as we made sure everything worked, for both HMRC and the Gateway.  We worked very closely together.  But, of course, HMRC say that Verify accounts for less than 4% of customer usage.  That suggests that 96% is via the Gateway.  That’s some peak you’re managing with Verify.

(In other news, the Titantic hit an iceberg, people landed on the moon, DotCom stocks boomed and busted … you get it)

What happens now?  Does it go to the private sector?  If you ran a business, would you take on a service that fails to fulfil the user need of half of the people who use it?  If Facebook turned away 50% of its users, would people use it?  If you tried to connect to your bank and half the time they decided you weren’t who you said you were, would you switch banks?

Perhaps more importantly, if you were paying for this, ahem, service, would you?  It’s trite, but you are paying, in so many ways.

Failed project? Check.  Top 10 reasons for failure fulfilled? Check.  Sunk cost fallacy?  Check. Spin machine out of control?  Check. Deluded? Check.

I last wrote about a longish piece about Verify two years ago today

GDS Disaggregates Data

To judge from the Digerati’s comments, the recent move of Data (capital D) from GDS to DCMS is akin to the beginning of the end of GDS, that is, far beyond the end of the beginning that we were only celebrating a few weeks ago thanks to a brilliant talk by Janet Hughes.


For most in Government IT, disaggregation has been a hot topic and is a live goal for nearly all of them, even those busily extending their contracts with incumbents so that they can buy time to disaggregate properly, as I wrote in June 2013 for instance.


Concentrating power in big, slow moving central organisations has, traditionally, been a bad thing.  As an organisation grows, so does its bureaucracy.  Government has, then, repeatedly broken itself down (Departments and Ministries … agencies and NDPBs) in an effort to separate policy from delivery and get closer to the customer, with varying degrees of success.

Political fiefdoms have, at the same time, been created to satisfy egos (ODPM) or to pretend to the outside world that real change was happening (the story of dti on its journey to the current BEIS for instance).  Alongside that, functions have moved – Child Benefit between DWP and IR (now HMRC) – and Tax Credits, whilst benefits, were sited in HMRC rather than DWP, to the great consternation of HMRC staff on day one (and for many days thereafter).

GDS, perhaps accidentally, perhaps as a result of a flood of cash in the Spending Review, has become that big, slow moving central organisation.  I’m sure it wasn’t intentional – they saw gaps all around them and took on more people to fill those gaps. Before they knew it, they needed a bigger office to fit in the 900+ people in the organisation.  Along the way, they forgot what they were there for, as the NAO said.

On data, all we know for now is:

“Data policy and governance functions of the Government Digital Service (GDS) will transfer from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The transfer includes responsibility for data sharing (including coordination of Part 5 of the Digital Economy Act 2017), data ethics, open data and data governance.”

The real issue here is not that “Data”, whatever that is in this context, has moved from GDS to DCMS, but that we lack (still) an executable strategy.  We have a trite “transformation strategy” that is long on words and short on actions (see “No Vision, No Ambition” on this blog), but we have no real framework to evaluate this decision, to move “Data”, from one department to another.

An executable strategy would lay out not just the what, but the why, the how and the when.  We would be able to see how changes were planned to unfold, whether incremental, revolutionary or transformational … and when a decision such as this was taken, understand the impact on the that strategy and whether it was good or bad (and sometimes, decisions with known bad impacts are taken for good reasons).

Mike Bracken, writing in the New Statesman, is emphatic that this is a bad idea – one that runs against what everyone else in the world is doing.  His closing take is that:

“the UK seems to have made government a little bit slower, more siloed, harder to reform and more complex.”

GDS is hardly the rapidly responding, iterative, agile organisation that it set out to be (and that it certainly was in its early days as I’ve said before) … so maybe this little bit of disaggregation will free up the remaining (and still large) part to get moving again.

Over the last two decades we’ve had several goes at this – OeE, eGU, OCIO and then GDS.  Each worked for a while and then got bogged down in themselves.  New leadership came in, threw out some of what was done, took on some different things and did the things that new leaders generally do when they come in (say how rubbish everything was until they came along and then proceed to do much the same as had been done before only a little differently).

I suspect, though, that this isn’t enough of a change.  We need a more fundamental reform of GDS, taking it back to its roots and to what its good at.  So maybe it is the beginning of the end and maybe that’s no bad thing.

G-Cloud – A Whole Lot of "G", Not Much "Cloud"

It’s been nearly two years since I last looked at G-Cloud expenditure – when the total spend crossed £1bn at the end of 2015.  Well, as of July 2017, spend reached a little under £2.5bn, so I figured it was time to look again.  I am, as always, indebted to Dan Harrison for his data analysis – his Tableau work is second to none and it, really, should be taken up by GDS and used as their default reporting tool (obviously they should hire Dan to do this for them).

As an aside, the raw data has been persistently poor and is not improving.  Date formats are mixed up, fields are missing, the recent change to combine lots means that there are some mixed up numbers and, interestingly, the project field has been removed – I’d looked at this before and queried whether many projects were actually cloud related (along with the fact that something like 20% of projects were listed as “null” – I can understand that it’s embarrassing having empty data, but removing the field doesn’t make the data qualitatively better, it just makes me think something is being hidden).

Recall this, from June 2014, for instance:

Scanning through the sales by line item, there are far too many descriptions that say simply “project manager”, “tester”, “IT project manager” etc.  There are even line items (not in Lot 4) that say “expenses – 4gb memory stick” – a whole new meaning to the phrase “cloud storage” perhaps.

Here’s the graph of spend over the 5 1/2 years that G-Cloud has been around:

The main conclusions I reach are much the same as before:

– 77% of spend continues to be in “Cloud Support” (previously known as “Specialist Services”).  It’s actually a little higher than that – now that PaaS and SaaS have been merged (to create a category of “Cloud Software”, Lot 4 has become Lot 3 but both categories are reported in the data.  It’s early days for Cloud Software – it would be good if GDS cleaned up the data so that historic lots reflected current lots.

– 2017 spend looks like it will be slightly higher than 2016, but not by much.  If the idea was to move work from “People As a Service”, i.e. Cloud Support, to other frameworks, it’s not obvious that it’s happened in a meaningful way, but it may be damping spend a little.

– IaaS spend, now known as Cloud Hosting, has reached £205m. I seem to remember from the early days of the Crown Hosting Service business case that there were estimates that government spent some £400m annually on addressable hosting charges (i.e. systems that could be moved to the cloud).  At the moment Cloud Hosting is a reasonably flat £6m/month, or £70m/year. It’s very possible that there’s a 1:10 saving in cloud versus legacy, but everything in me says that much of this cloud hosting is new spend, not reduced spend following migration to the cloud.  That’s good in that it avoids a much higher old-style asset rich infrastructure, but I don’t think it shows much of a true migration to the cloud.

28% of spend by the top 5 customers.  


In the past I’ve looked at the top spending customers and top earning suppliers, specifically in Lot 4 (now a combination of Lot 4 and the new Lot 3).  There are a couple of changes here:

– Back then, for customers … Home Office, MoJ, DVLA, DSA and HMRC were the highest spending departments with around £150m between them.  Today … Home Office, MoJ, HMRC, Cabinet Office and DSA (DVLA dropped to 7th place) have spent nearly £800m (total spend across all lots by the top 5 customers is only £100m higher at £925m which shows the true dominance of support services at the top end).  £925m out of £2.5bn in just 5 customers.  £1.25bn (51%) is from the top 10 customers.

– And for suppliers, Mastek, Deloitte, Cap Gemini, ValTech and Methods were the top 5 with a combined revenue (again in Lot 4) of £67m.  Today it’s Equal Experts, Deloitte, Cap Gemini, BJSS and PA Consulting with revenue of £335m (total spend across all lots for the top 5 suppliers is £348m – that makes sense given few of the top suppliers are active across multiple lots – maybe Cap Gemini is the odd one out, getting some revenue for hosting or SaaS).  It takes the top 10 suppliers to make for 25% of the spend.  I don’t think that was the intention of G-Cloud – that it would be dominated by a small number of suppliers, though, at the same time, some of those companies – UKCloud (£64m) for instance – are still small companies and, without G-Cloud, might not exist or have reached such revenues if they did exist.

A couple of years ago I offered the observation that

“once a customer starts spending money with G-Cloud, they are more likely to continue than not.  And one a supplier starts seeing revenue, they are more likely to continue to see it than not.”

That seems to be exactly the case, here’s a picture showing the departments who have contracts that have run for more than 24 months (and up to 50 months – nearly as long as G-Cloud has been around):

If anything, this is busier than might be expected given the preponderance of Lot 4 – it might be reasonable to expect that support services would be short term and focused on a specific project, such as migrating locally hosted email to Office 365 or to Gmail, or setting up the capability to manage cloud infrastructure.  What we see, instead, is many long term resource contracts.
What should we really conclude?  And what can we do?
In 2012, with G-Cloud not even a year old, I asked whether it could ever be more than a hobby for government.   I wondered about some interim targets (at the time the plan was for a “cloud first” approach with “50% of spend in the cloud” – that should all have happened by now).  There is absence of strategy or overall plan for further cloud realisation – with GDS neutered and spend controls licking their wounds from the NAO’s criticism that they spent far more time than they should have done looking at projects spending less than £1m, it’s not clear who will grasp the mantle of driving the change away from long term contracts towards shorter, more cash intensive (as opposed to capital driven) contracts (be they with big or small suppliers).  Perhaps it’s time for Chris Chant and Denise Mcdonagh to come back?
  • Should there be spend control review of “Cloud Support” contracts to determine what they’re aiming to achieve and then assess whether there really has been a reduction in costs, a migration to the cloud, a change in the contracting model for the service?  If we were to do a show of hands across departmental CIOs now and ask how many were running their email in the cloud (the true cloud, not one they’ve made up and badged as cloud that morning), what would the response be?  If we were to make it harder and ask about directory services (such as Active Directory), what would the answer be?  If we were to look at historic Lot 4 and test how much had been spent in pursuit of such migrations, what would the answer be?  
  • What incentives could we put in place to encourage departments to make the move to cloud?  Departments have control over their budgets, of course, and lots of other things to spend the money on, but could we create a true central capability (key people drawn from departments and suppliers with a brief to build a cloud transition plan) that was architecture agnostic and delivery focused that would support departments in the transition – and that would be accountable (and quite literally held to account) for delivering on the promise of cloud transition?  If that was in place, could departments focus on their legacy systems and how to move those to more flexible platforms, in readiness for future cloud moves (or future enhancements to cope with Brexit)?
  • What more could we do to encourage UK based cloud companies (as opposed to overseas companies with UK bases) to excel?  Plainly they have to compete in a global market – and I were a UK hosting company, I would be watching Amazon very closely and wondering whether I will have a business in a few months – but that doesn’t mean to say we don’t want to encourage a local capability across all lots?  What would they need to know to encourage them to invest in the services that will be needed in the future? How could that information be made available so that a level playing field was maintained?  Do we want to encourage such a capability in the UK, or should we publish the overall plans and transition maps and let the chips fall where they may?
  • Are there changes that need to be made to the procurement model so that every supplier can see what every department is looking for rather than the somewhat peculiar approach now where suppliers may not even know a department is looking to make a purchase?  What would that add to the timeline?  Would it result in better competition?  Would customers benefit as well as suppliers?  Could we try it and see – you know that whole alpha, beta, A/B testing thing?
GDS have long since been quiet on grand, or indeed any, plans for transition to the cloud (and on many other things too).   Instead of a cloud first strategy, it looks like we have contracts being extended and delays to existing projects. IR35 likely resulted in some unexpected cost saves as the headcount of contractors and interims reduced almost overnight, but that also meant that projects were suddenly understaffed and further delayed.
Energy and Vision
We need a re-injection of energy and vision in the government IT world.  Not one where the centre dictates and micro-controls every action departments want to take, resulting in lengthy process, avoidance of spend that might be scrutinised and cancellation/delays to projects that could make a difference … but one where the centre actively facilitates and helps drive the changes that departments want to make, measuring them for logical consistency against an overall architectural plan and transition map rather than getting theological about code standards or architectures.
A Strategy And A Plan
At the same time we need to recommit to a strategy and a plan for delivering that strategy.  In terms of the cloud that means:
– Setting a cloud transition goal.  In the same way that we have set a goal to give increased business to SMEs (which G-Cloud is underpinning), we should be setting the same goal to move government to commodity, i.e. cloud-based, IT where it makes sense.  10% of the total budget (including Capex and Opex, or CDEL and RDEL if you prefer) in the first year, increasing from there to 25% in 2 years and 50% in 5 years, say.
– Reviewing the long (36 month plus) contracts and testing them for value, current performance and overall delivery.  Are they supporting migration to the cloud?  Is the right framework being used (if it’s not cloud but it is delivering, then use the right framework or other procurement option)?  It doesn’t matter, in my view, whether it was valid in the first place or how the process was or wasn’t followed originally, it matters whether there is value today and whether there are better options that will support the overall plan.  If it’s not cloud, let’s not call it cloud and let’s get to the root of what is really going on with commodity technology in government.
– Overwhelmingly adopting an architecture founded on multiple shared and secure infrastructures. There’s no need for a single architecture when the market provides so many commodity options – and spreading the business will foster innovation, increase the access points (and improve security through distributing data) and ensure that there is continued competitive tension.  Some of that infrastructure will be pure public cloud, some of it will be a shared government cloud (in the US, cloud providers maintain clones of their public infrastructure for federal government use – that may be one answer for specific areas; importantly, what I am not suggesting is that a department set up their own infrastructure and call it a cloud, thought there may be specific instances, in the security services, say, where data classifications may mean that’s the only option).  
– Migrating all of government’s commodity services to the cloud.  Commodity means email, directories, collaboration, HR, finance, service support, asset management and so on.  This doesn’t have to be a wholesale “move now” approach, but one that looks at when it’s sensible to close down existing applications and make the move.  No new applications should be built or deployed without first assessing whether there is a cloud alternative – this is a perfect place for a spending team to look at who is doing what and act as a hub for sharing what is going on across central and local government.  
  • I’ve been on the record for a long time as saying government should recognise that it doesn’t collaborate with itself – having collaboration services inside the department’s own firewall isn’t collaboration, it’s talking to yourself.  I believe that I even once suggested using a clone of Facebook for such collaboration.  Government doesn’t need lots of collaboration tools – it needs one or two where everyone, including suppliers and even customers, can get to with appropriate segregation and reviews to make sure people can only see what they’re supposed to see.  Whatever happened to Civil Pages I wonder?
– Putting in place a new test for Lot 3 (the old Lot 4) services to measure what is being purchased against its contribution to the department’s cloud migration strategy.  This is a “cloud first” test – are you really using this capability to help you move to the cloud?  What is the objective, what are the milestones?  A follow on test to see how delivery is progressing will then allow a regular state of the cloud nation report to be published to see what is and isn’t moving.  
– Working with local government, Devolved Administrations, the Health Service and others to see what they are doing in cloud.  With 84% of G-Cloud spend in central government, maybe the other folks are doing something different – maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not so good, but there are likely lessons to be learned.