Government technology leaders must make efforts to improve IT asset management and accelerate tech investment cycles, creating an environment where digital systems can readily adapt to fast-changing technology upgrade cycles and ICT teams can ensure smooth delivery of digital transformation programs.
Adam Carthew, chief information officer at Service Victoria and a panellist at the FST Government Victoria event last week, noted the tendency of decision-makers beyond IT to frame their tech spend agenda in terms of simply “[running] the business and [changing] the business” rather than as a collection of manageable assets – one where the value of a technology system is consistently tracked, and suitable and timely reinvestments are made when and where they are needed.
“You need a strategy. You need senior executives engaged and making sure they understand where you are at and that you’ve got people who know where the systems are at. And [we need to] listen to them!”, Carthew said.
Heads of IT, he added, too often remain fixated on the current projects rather than focusing their efforts on reinvestments. He added that there must be an acknowledgement that “things are… out of date and need to be patched”.
“I have really uplifted that part of our IT organisation to give us a focus and to uplift on [our] technology subcommittee where the CEO sits, so there are no more surprises,” Carthew said.
He added that Service Victoria has not only emphasised the need for a modern ICT architecture, but also a team of people who are well acquainted with technology lifecycles – often better than technology heads – who are empowered to make informed decisions on technology expiration dates.
“I think this is an important part of making sure you’ve got not just the right architecture [and] direction, but also the right skills in your organisation, [with people] who can actually take and lead you as an organisation and that will help to modernise the technology faster than CIO.
“This comes down to a question of how to invest in the right people, because trying to get one executive to say ‘That is the direction in which we are going in’ does not work.”
At the same time, he stressed, the days of behemoth systems, including those integrated systems not amenable to change, were now over. The focus has now shifted from technology architecture towards “business architecture”; effectively, this means that decision-makers must now ensure that pre-existing components of technology matched their business agenda.
As a result, investment cycles have now changed to emphasise incremental changes to technology stacks rather than large-scale, or ‘big bang’, system and legacy technology replacement. There is also the need to account for future proofing in architectures, one that appreciates ever-changing technology and functionality requirements.
Fellow panellist Cassandra Highfield, chief information officer at the Victorian Building Authority, stressed the need for governments to stop wasting resources on maintaining legacy systems, urging agencies to simply turn off the “old stuff”.
“Turn things off. Just turn it off if you’ve got [only] three people using it. They’re going to be heartbroken, it’s going to be sad, you will have got a box of tissues, buy you’ll say it has to go because they are actually creating security risks and you are paying for them.
“You do need to be a little bit tough sometimes. And when you are building new projects, don’t forget to turn the old stuff off and end the lives of things; really don’t be afraid to do that, because otherwise you’ve got really good IT people who can do really clever future technology and they are still spending their time dealing with low-value, low-return [systems], and that frustrates everyone in the end.
“Make a few hard calls and take your own box of tissues.”