Whitehall must measure the progress of its IT strategy more effectively, particularly the use of agile methodologies,if it is to achieve its technology transformation agenda, the Institute for Government has warned.
In its report, System upgrade? The first year of the government's ICT strategy, the Institute for Government (IfG) thinktank acknowledged the good start made by government in implementing its strategy, but urged that more progress needs to be made.
Concerted action is needed to ensure the strategy leads to the sustained improvements in ICT effectiveness, said the IfG in its report.
The current focus on short-term efficiencies could come at the expense of longer-term transformation, the IfG said.
These risks are exacerbated by the lack of data that could give an overall impression of departmental and government ICT performance.
The absence of such data makes it difficult for the government CIO or departmental leaders to track progress, benchmark performance or identify areas of good or promising practice, said the IfG report.
The report said the strategy needed to shift from being seen as a technical document to an integrated business case.
“Currently ICT risks being lumped in with ‘back office overheads’, with the overriding goal being to cut costs," said the report.
"The challenge to ICT leaders is to turn this into a conversation about how ICT can best deliver value.
"It should be clear how the strategy supports departmental business, wider civil service reform plans and better services to citizens.”
There was little in the way of measuring the tangible progress made in realising the strategy’s aims, particular in the use of agile methodologies, the IfG report said.
Of 570 government projects underway, just 37 were using agile methodologies, with some of those having adopted the term as a buzzword rather than having applied the methodology to projects in a meaningful way, said Tom Gash, programme director at the IfG and one of the report's authors.
On the subject of Universal Credit, he said not enough was known to determine whether it is currently using agile in a meaningful way.
"Many in government don't yet see it as the true embodiment of agile principles it was intended to be," Gash said.
"The question has got to be who bears the consequences if the government doesn't hit its milestone to have 50% of projects delivered using agile by 2013.
"It's great to have ambition but we have to see the consequences if targets not being met."