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Platform + Agile: Smart thinking for Govt IT

Platform + Agile: Smart thinking for Govt IT

Renai LeMay is CTO Group’s Advisory Delivery Manager. Contact him directly or through his LinkedIn or Twitter accounts.

When I think about the concept of ICT strategy for Australia’s public sector, one of the most common things that comes to mind is the ongoing debate between different paradigms.

On the one hand is the need for structure.

It should be obvious that large organisations such as departments and agencies need to make deeply considered, strategic decisions when procuring and implementing ICT products and services. They cannot afford to take such choices lightly.

On the other hand, it is also no secret that organisations which cannot react in a rapid manner to evolving challenges will find it hard to meet changing business requirements.

This need to generate innovation on a daily basis has driven the agile paradigm which has taken the world by storm over the past few years.

Not every IT decision-maker has been able to rationalise these competing paradigms. But some have.

One example is Steve Hodgkinson, the Chief Information Officer of Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services. Hodgkinson’s view – espoused in a blog post late last year – is that organisations should make strategic choices about IT platforms, and then rapidly innovate within those ecosystems.

He writes of his strategy at DHHS:

“I call it Platform+Agile. This means that we aim to make a strategic decision about preferred platforms and then use these platforms for multiple ‘applications’ which are implemented in an agile, iterative, manner upon a platform by experienced in-house developers. We seek to avoid ‘application-by-application’ projects and transactional procurement for new business systems whenever possible.”

It’s not hard to see the benefits of Hodgkinson’s approach.

For starters, it still allows for strategic decisions in choosing best of breed ecosystems. But it also allows an agile development process to flourish within a major organisation and on a standard platform, with all the re-use, knowledge retention and innovation that this entails.

It certainly appears to be working for DHHS, with Hodgkinson outlining a number of successes.

Perhaps one negative is that it does create a certain amount of lock-in for the chosen platforms. An organisation would be wise to choose their platforms wisely from the start; and to structure their commercial relationships with forethought.

What do you think of Hodgkinson’s Platform+Agile model for an organisation’s procurement and development model? Post your thoughts below, or send your thoughts to Renai directly or through social media.