One of the benefits of an agile approach is being able to get a product to market quickly and get feedback.
Many of the big names in social media took this approach and turned initial ideas into multi-billion dollar global offerings. How many great ideas failed, we don’t know, but hopefully they failed soon and avoided significant waste.
For existing organisations with a strong brand and reputation to protect, there is more at stake than the initial investment required to get the first product to market. Getting it wrong can have a serious impact on reputation, shareholder value and perceived integrity.
There’s much to be commended for the desire of the Government to become more agile. The processes within Government often move slowly, due to procedures built in over time that protect society from rash, biased and previously corrupt motives.
For the current initiatives across the Government sector, there is a clear danger that the “agile” agenda really means quick and dirty.
Take the Cloud Store, for example. A clear political imperative to get something up and running as quickly as possible and prove that things can be done with more “agility”. Great, until you look at the quality. At first glance the site seems fine in look and feel and provides access to a set of information about services available to public sector organisations.
Dig even just below the surface and you will find that fast implementation has resulted in poor quality. As an example, try making sense of the offerings from the set of suppliers who provide “Compute” services under “Infrastructure as a Service”. From the information on the store you will immediately find that there is no like-for-like comparison. Contacting suppliers to get clarification (which is difficult in some cases as even contact details are wrong) helps to establish firstly that pricing is not provided on a consistent basis. More seriously, they say the information entered on the site by the “authority” is inaccurate and misleading. Now, this is a commodity service – x pence per hour for cloud based computing – so it should be more than feasible to compare offerings on a like-for-like basis. Indeed, you can get comparable data direct from some supplier sites, if you know where to look.
So, if it’s so difficult to get the data right for commodity services, what confidence is there in the more complex services such as Agile Training and Consultancy, the first so called successful order placed through the Cloud Store. If I was a procurement official, I would want to know how the Cloud Store helped to ensure that value for money and fair procurement were achieved or could be achieved in the future.
So, it’s great to see steps to become a more agile Government, but let’s not compromise on those things that are more important – quality and integrity.