The UK government has revealed its plans for how it will overhaul and modernise its legacy back-end IT systems.
One of the big takeaways is that the government is looking to exit its large existing IT contracts with end-to-end providers and move to a model that takes advantage of individual components that are communicating through common APIs.
Ben Gummer MP, minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, cited public demand for a government that is more capable of doing what people want, whether that is simply filling in a form or trying to talk to someone on the phone.
Gummer said that government is more complex and wide-reaching than ever before and that it needs to serve people of all abilities, ages, genders, which is partly why, “government has been slow to use the transformative potential of digital technology to change the way it does business. It is at a double disadvantage, therefore: big and slow. In a world where people rightly expect the government to deliver public services effectively and at speed, that makes the challenge more daunting still,” said Gummer.
Basically what this means is that the government needs to change and to do it at both pace and scale according to Gummer.
Gummer said: “It is the most ambitious programme of change of any government anywhere in the world, by a government that has already done more to transform itself than any other.”
So what will the government actually be changing? Well firstly there is the plan to transform citizen-facing services, then there is the plan for full department transformation, and finally an internal government transformation.
Amid the lengthy document that is filled with all the things the government is already doing so well, is the aim by 2020 to design and deliver joined-up, end-to-end services, deliver major transformation programmes, and the idea to establish a whole-government approach to transformation.
There’s a lot of talk about what the government will do about using data better, embedding skills and training initiatives and so on but not a lot of detail as to how exactly tasks will be achieved.
The plans do reveal that there will be a new Chief Data Officer appointed and a Data Advisory Board will be set up in order to make sure that data will be better used across government.
The document is full of what it will do and much of it aimed on a timeline of by 2020, but as we have seen with other digital programs and initiatives run by government organisations, timelines are rarely met.
Moving away from legacy systems is a huge task for organisations of all sizes, so a broad move from the government to move away from legacy systems and to exit large existing IT contracts will be one fraught with potential bumps in the road.
Mark Cresswell, CEO of LzLabs said: “If the British government is serious about breaking-down entrenched silos in enterprise IT, it must address the issue of legacy mainframe technology, which holds many organisations back from modernisation.
“Many of the UK’s largest institutions are running business-critical back end systems that were designed in the 60s, and due to the serious and fast-growing mainframe skills gap, the public sector would be wise to wake up to this impending crisis, when so many people are dependent on the continuation of these services.”
Little has been said about what exact technology paths will be taken, whether cloud will play a much greater role, or if an open source route will be taken. Considerations will have to be as to what kind of infrastructure will be used, how many cloud providers can be used.
“If the UK government wants to ensure it will continue to be able to modernise, it must ensure its infrastructure is operating from modern, open computing platforms. If they do this, they will also be able to take full advantage of price vs performance comparisons, and pave the way for a modernise-able IT infrastructure built for the future,” said Cresswell.
What this plan will likely do is open up the eyes of many vendors that have now identified an opportunity to get a potentially lucrative contract.