Could Agile help solve the government's IT problems?

Computer Weekly published today a call by the British Medical Association to halt what it calls a rushed roll-out of an imperfect Care Records Service.

Responding to the article, Rob Bowley has reminded me of a petition on the Number 10 website which calls on the Prime Minister to:

 “demand a review of the current approach and look at adopting a more incremental and agile approach to Government IT projects”  

His email to me says that the petition is aimed at persuading the government to review its outdated software development processes.

“‘This may not sound like much, but the petition is getting hugesupport in the software development community and the list reads like aWho’s Who of people who care about software in the UK including manywell known authors, thought leaders, influential bloggers andconference speakers.

“It was created in response to an articlein the Independent reporting the Government had wasted £26 billion on”failed” IT projects.

“Of the projects mentioned in the articleI’ve particularly been following the NPfIT failures for some time andit’s quite clear that most of the reasons it has failed so badly can beattributed to following ‘Waterfall’ type project management processes,dooming these behemoth to failure from the outset.

“Thefrustrating truth is that there is an alternative which is proving afar more effective way to procure and manage software developmentcontracts.

“The private sector is increasingly and rapidlymoving away from the “Waterfall” or big design and planning up frontapproach to more incremental (or “Agile”) practices.

“Most ifnot all of the leading technology firms, such as Google, BBC, Guardianand IBM, now follow Agile in some form and it is totally unacceptablethat our government continues to waste billions of pounds blindlyfollowing out dated practices which simply do not take into account forthe inherent unpredictable nature of software development.

“Thisissue needs to be raised to the level of visibility it deserves.Literally millions, if not billions of pounds taxpayers money, arebeing wasted for no better reason than a Kafka-esque, failure-demand,”software projects are always delayed” mindset which permeates theentire public sector.

“I would be exceptionally grateful if you would consider running a piece on the petition.”

This is the petition.


Stephen O’Brien, the Conservative Shadow Health Minister, has replied to an email by Bowley on Agile and the NPfIT. Says O’Brien:

“Whilst I have not come across the Agile approach before, I will certainly bear it in mind as we seek to develop our policy of giving local NHS Trusts a choice of IT system through a central catalogue of open standards/accredited systems. I will keep on record any further information you are able to provide in writing about the Agile methodology and would welcome any such information in response to this email.”


Rob Bowley’s website.

A call to action to UK software developers to stop money being wasted – Rob Bowley

Waterfall v Agile – Agile introduction for dummies

BMA says: halt rushed roll-out of imperfect Summary Care Records –