We're reminded every day that the pace of innovation just gets faster and faster.
Agility, in the eyes of the 'business' typically presents itself as tangible capabilities that can be seen, touched, and experienced. In the domain of IT these are usually instantiated in the form of some sort of application or mobile app.
If we agree (to various extents) that the pace of change is constantly increasing, then it follows that corporate IT risks being left behind if it doesn’t also keep with the pace, specifically in these four fundamental areas:
IT needs to shift to an agile structure, something which GDS (Government Digital Service) has been encouraging, and which some Public Sector organisations have embraced. An agile structure should empower each person in IT with the opportunity to deliver. Adopting a dev/ops model in IT is growing in popularity because it increases the empowerment of IT teams by blending development with IT operations. Classically, these IT functions were separated into two separate teams but more IT teams are finding that combining those functions leads to faster delivery of business capabilities.
Agile scrum teams are another structural change advocated by GDS in IT. These teams are defined to help accelerate delivery through iterative, “sprint-based” development. Both of these examples require that Public Sector IT change their structure, which may mean breaking down fiefdoms and empires, so don’t underestimate the fact that there could be strong resistance to these structural changes.
Typically, in the private sector, IT has truly become a team sport, because technical decisions are being made in a more distributed fashion as the business functions become more tech-savvy and more technically empowered. Within the Public Sector however, IT needs to be thought of and act more like a broker of solutions, rather than the gate-keeper of any and all things technical. IT should be empowered to offer pragmatic options to solve a particular business challenge.
We need to stop negatively labelling the non-IT business power-users as “shadow IT” and instead embrace them by providing self-service solutions that they can easily exploit. Our goals should be enabling the business teams to do the things that, in the past, only IT could do. We should adopt a self-service mindset.
Dev/ops, continuous integration, and agile development often require new tools. The old legacy development tools need to be replaced with tools designed to fully support speed of delivery demanded. Some of these tools are open-source which requires a mindset change in some Agencies and IT teams which perceive open-source as inherently insecure. Appropriate use of open-source needn't expose to undue risk.
Much has been written about the possibility that open-source is actually more secure than closed-source, given that more code reviews and testing typically happen in open-source. Maven, Puppet, Chef, and Jenkins are just a few examples of the popular open-source solutions that are designed to speed IT delivery and improve quality of those deliverables.
Public Sector IT can empower the organisation through a “knowledge uplift.” Given that architectures are much more distributed and much more cloud-based, IT needs to become the cloud architecture experts. We are seeing a resurgence in the need for enterprise architecture and the expectation grows in the times of austerity that IT is not beholden to external organisations and understands “how it all works.” This requires a desire by IT teams to expand their knowledge to understand the bigger picture and not just a specific technical domain. Their technical knowledge and experience needs to be combined with solid business knowledge – including business goals and business operations.
Our recommendation is to push your architects out of their comfort zone and get them educated about cloud architectures, both formally and informally. Formally occurs through training and certifications and informally occurs through networking with their peers.