DVLA aims to slash IT costs by moving to public cloud and open standards

Agency’s IT strategy for 2019/20 will see a concerted move to deprecate legacy systems, deploy applications in the cloud and develop in-house IT

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is planning to slash its IT costs by 40% by 2019/20 compared to 2017/18 spending.

The agency’s new IT strategy aims to meet its Comprehensive Spending Review commitments and wider efficiency targets by deprecating legacy systems and moving to interoperable, open standards.

“Over 75% of our ICT spend is on keeping the lights on,” the DVLA said in its IT strategy document. “The cost to maintain our systems must be rebalanced to enable change to be delivered while meeting the cost-reduction targets.”

The organisation’s existing legacy systems are monolithic, which means it has to rely on proprietary technology that cannot be scaled individually, which results in much longer deployment cycles.

“Disaggregating these monolithic systems using a loosely coupled and component-based architecture allows us to respond quickly to change,” the DVLA document said.

Where possible, elements of its on-premise IT estate will quickly be transformed and moved to commodity cloud, said the DVLA. “The simplification of our on-premise IT services will drive efficiencies and reduce cost, accelerating the transformation to public cloud,” it said.

The strategy is architected around repeatable builds of software-defined environments from templates, with frequent release cycles and support for continuous delivery, which will enable the DVLA to automate IT processes.

“We will build solutions that automatically detect and recover from failure without manual intervention,” the IT strategy document said. “Errors will be handled in a controlled fashion, allowing systems to continue to operate normally (graceful degradation). We will implement best practice ‘design for availability’ patterns such as circuit-breakers.”

DVLA builds in-house skills

  • It will recruit significant numbers of people internally over the lifetime of the strategy, with a focus on technical skills.
  • It will increase individual accountability and personal empowerment.
  • All key new systems will be developed and managed by permanent staff, augmented where necessary by external resource.
  • It will maintain about 10 15% resource external to the agency.
  • To avoid lock-ins and to lower risk, it will aim to deploy interoperable open standards, which promotes openness and portability, and offers greater choice around tools, people and processes.

Source: DVLA IT strategy

The strategy relies on building in-house skills to create, operate and support the new digital services it builds, while reducing reliance on external resource.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in April, DVLA CTO Dave Perry, said: “We are empowering people to do good work. We are looking at innovative activities, so we promote that, and we promote personal ownership of career development.”

The DVLA also plans to expose its services and data using standard application programming interfaces, to allow business and government to develop new services on top of its own digital services, fully controlled under data protection legislation.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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Moving to the cloud to reduce costs is the right strategy, but the DVLA must consider the implications of such a major change on its people and workflows.
 
According to McKinsey, 70% of large-scale IT transformation projects like this fail because they do not implement business change alongside the IT change. Or to put it another way, if you are going to drastically change the way people work, you need their support. You must get them on-side from the beginning so they can shape the change for the better, otherwise you risk the alienation of staff and a new system which no one wants or uses.
 
The DVLA has the right strategy, but it must have a robust change management strategy to ensure its success.
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