Finding the right direction for IT in a reborn public sector

11th June, 2020. Published by Marc Silvester

Everyone in the public sector knew that IT practice needed to change to be more responsive, adaptive and faster to deliver. The achievements of the past few months have underlined that message. Central government stepped up and scaled up, getting cash to the right places. Local authorities built new citizen support systems with new partners in record time. The UK’s nations developed policies and services to support their own populations alongside UK-wide efforts.

These achievements are testament to the dedication, imagination and flexibility of our public servants. The ethos of service was brought dramatically to life in rapid, targeted delivery that is the envy of many companies. It’s been a combination of completely novel demands, incredible timelines, massive scaling, multi-partner collaboration, fluid workgroups and distributed support.

Not a reboot, but an upgrade

“Unprecedented” may be an overused word, but the extraordinary experiences of early 2020 are a precedent for a new and better kind of ordinary.

Firstly, IT must be ready for massive, unpredicted behavioural change on the part of customers, partners and staff. This means that IT teams must focus on smaller, targeted products linked to short, collaborative delivery schedules rather than monolithic solutions designed for a static world.

Secondly, the pandemic brought new clarity to factors affecting productivity, such as connectivity, support for people working from home and secure, effective collaborative tools. For most public sector organisations, flexible working will be the default, requiring IT teams to support and secure a very diverse technical landscape.

Thirdly, traditional expectations about institutional ownership of initiatives and services are no longer relevant. Responsibilities are likely to be shared and to migrate across central, local and national boundaries. Shared development frameworks and open standards will be key. The design and deployment of systems will need to be much more modular, moveable and malleable.

Fresh IT for an upgraded world

Public sector organisations must focus on simple, transparent and affordable IT solutions that accomplish specific tasks. At Silxo, we call this approach Fresh IT – inspired by the world’s cooks. Like fresh food items, our deliverables will have a limited shelf-life. We choose our ingredients and methods with a specific purpose in mind and depending on an ever-changing mix of needs. Our expertise and tools are reused across experiences, with continuous learning adding to our effectiveness and scope.

A framework for action

Making the change to Fresh IT involves adjusting the IT delivery model from project thinking to product thinking. The main challenges to making the adjustment are in organisational culture and management frameworks. We need to rethink roles and responsibilities, and build new kinds of relationships.

That’s why we developed the Silxo 4D framework for Fresh IT:

  • Design: create the menu – a business-justified, technology-enabled investment
  • Develop: source the ingredients – a modular product development capability based on agreed roadmaps
  • Deploy: set up the kitchen – an implementation capability for product pilots, integrations and go-live
  • Deliver: service!

Silxo 4D shifts the emphasis from monolithic, supply-constrained IT to specific, business-driven digital capability. Many organisations are already doing many of the right things – but not necessarily in the right way or the right order. The 4D framework provides an enabling agile structure and encourages a product-led mindset which removes the potential for conflict and confusion, leading to sustained focus on achieving goals.

The appetite to deliver

As we all regroup and look ahead to an uncertain future, we must capitalise on the good that has come out of this dark time. There’s a new vision and purpose in public sector IT – an appetite to deliver more value, at greater pace. This is the era of Fresh IT.

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