Transforming Government IT What if Marie Kondo worked in Government IT?
 
That’s what I was thinking whilst cleaning my house on Saturday. Now maybe I’m a bit unusual in my enjoyment of decluttering and tidying but I know for sure I’m not alone. For everyone out there who loves to restore order – this is for you.
 
For over a decade I have had the privilege of working alongside government departments to deliver new IT systems and business processes which have the sole purpose of keeping the UK safe and prosperous. I’ve met amazing people whose mission is to deliver something better to people like you and me. But everywhere I have worked I have been amazed at the amount of complexity and clutter and the lack of focus on cleaning house.
 

Clean up, shape up

Picture arriving at a house for a party, and finding you have to clean up after the previous one – it kind of kills the atmosphere – and saps all that early inspiration and energy straight away. Well that’s what I’m talking about here.
 
At some point, government policies, budgets and departments, became so segregated that for almost every new policy, a new system sprung up; and even when that new system was absolutely intended to replace some creaking, operational infrastructure, by the time it’s delivered there is no time or money, or let’s face it interest, for actually completing the job and decommissioning the old thing.
 
Add onto that layer upon layer of projects which start but never complete, systems still in use because a small team somewhere can’t be convinced to move onto the latest upgrade, and years of prioritising the future – sometimes at the cost of the operational infrastructure – and you end up with a landscape so complex and rickety, that no-one knows where to start.
 
Basically, what you have is a teenage boy’s bedroom; a mass of stuff that it’s almost safer to just leave alone, because he’s not going to thank you for sorting it out anyway, and who’s really brave enough to look under the bed?
 

Time to tidy

My theory is that no-one is tackling this for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not exciting or glamorous, and therefore not easy to ‘sell’ to the people who have the budget and the time to commission the clean-up crew; and secondly, because it’s hard.
 
It’s hard because no individual can see the whole picture; documents and diagrams have long since fallen out of date (I have seen architecture diagrams related to operational infrastructure, which were last reviewed in 1985); and to unravel it takes time. Who has time anymore when there’s crime to fight, new trade deals to strike and the running of the country to do. Add in a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic and it becomes even more challenging.
 
Even the process of figuring out what a system was for, or finding anyone that remembers, is difficult. There’s a strong argument for taking this tidy up to the next level – Swedish death cleaning style – and just switching things off and waiting to see if anyone notices. But who has the stomach for that?
 
So there you have it, all these exciting new problems to solve, but I have to be honest, what I really want to do is bring in the crack clean-up team and get tidying!
 

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About the author
Annabel Snaith is an Account Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
annabel.snaith@baesystems.com
 
 

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Annabel Snaith

Account Director, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
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