MANAGING DIGITAL SERVICES IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT
To make the radical approach to digital transformation real, agility, flexibility, and the latest thinking and technologies are needed. But traditional management disciplines and legacy estate can’t be ignored. Instead, these need to be built upon and used as part of the new agile and flexible approach.
TECHNIQUES FOR DELIVERING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ARE EVOLVING RAPIDLY
A series of technology and methodology revolutions have combined to create a new style of IT: one focused on rapid time to market and on iterative and agile development, unconstrained by earlier processes and solutions. Continuous integration, deployment, and testing characterize this new IT. Enablers include cloud technology, agile development techniques, and open source software.
In this new IT world, complex cloud-based infrastructure environments can be built in hours or even minutes instead of months through the latest code-based automation; software can be developed, configured, tested and deployed continuously; and the need for infrequent and complex release cycles has been removed.
New development philosophies such as DevOps and test-driven development have emerged. At the same time, open-source technology is increasing the levels of automation and operational sophistication that can be achieved – for example, the use of containerization with products like Docker or Kubernetes.
OLD AND NEW DISCIPLINES MUST COEXIST
Government organizations, with the encouragement of the UK Government Digital Service (GDS), have already embraced agile development techniques, open-source software and user-centric design.
In many cases, however, this new paradigm sits uncomfortably alongside the established IT regimes. These are usually characterized by “waterfall” processes evolved over a number of years to control what are often large, complex, and highly interconnected IT estates.
Typically, there is a strong focus on testing, predictability, safety, and change management. These IT management regimes have delivered results predictably, but at a pace that constrained business change. They were costly to operate, and sometimes disappointed key stakeholders.
Can these two very different worlds coexist? The answer is that in the short term they must. Old-style IT processes and solutions will ultimately be replaced by the more modern, cost-effective and responsive solutions and approaches. However, the level of investment in “slow-lane” (or “legacy”) IT, and its scale, is such that it will continue to play a role in many government institutions for some time to come.
This coexistence must be managed carefully, ensuring that fast- and slow-lane processes and solutions interact in a controlled manner, and that the transition to the new world is part of a clearly understood strategy. The coexistence of old and new IT operating models is often referred to as “bimodal” or “multimodal” IT, the latter term recognizing that a range of techniques is needed, not just two.
LET’S GET RADICAL –
AND LET’S MAKE IT REAL
The digital revolution should be welcomed by public sector organizations because it promises improved, more responsive and more controlled IT for internal users, and hence more effective services for the public. But at the same time, it’s vital to be realistic about the starting position for each specific organization, and work with its culture rather than against it.
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