We want to have smart gadgets, smart cars, smart homes, smart cities and yes, above all, a smart government, which would make our lives way easier, comfortable and enjoyable. Most things that are in one or more ways smart today heavily rely on some sort of IT support and solutions. Since Slovenians are always first to point towards their political leaders and government itself when they want things to change, the smart way of bringing changes to the nation should be the IT way.
Slovenia has had its ups and downs when it comes to government IT. But the current climate at the national Department of Informatics (DI) is truly promising. There is a (cloud) strategy in place on how to put this small country on the IT world map when it comes to digital transformation. It will, of course, start with the transformation of government IT, which is long overdue.
This is how the Slovenian Cloud strategy reads today: "In the next five years, the cloud will progressively be established as the government’s primary way of providing information services. DI intends to provide a single point of access for cloud services, brokering a coherent cloud-based service catalogue to cope with the needs of Slovenian citizens, businesses and government, establishing an adequate governance framework, developing cloud service and security policies, and carrying out the necessary procurement actions, in collaboration with Ministries and other key stakeholders.”
Good. Now let’s make it happen.
I was honoured to take part in the preparations of a strategic IT roadmap for the Department of Informatics (DI). Together with IT experts from Cisco we were able to perform in-depth interviews with users of IT services within the government and with the government’s IT personnel. Since DI has already started to consolidate and centralize the infrastructure of government IT in order to reduce risk and optimize resources, it is only right that all key stakeholders from government, academia and business follow suit. They all have to promote and communicate new ways of work and be transparent about it. DI will still keep its IT Strategic Council (including all IT Directors) where strategy will be defined and decision-making will take place, but the hardest change will be felt on lower levels. The new government IT aims to break organizational siloes in DI and throughout the government with the mission to reduce the digital divide. Before it can actually empower its citizens and businesses, the government has to standardize and centralize its own IT environment and ranks. The idea behind the government cloud is to provide as many horizontal IT services as possible (centralized directories, applications, etc.) and to ensure that any IT service offered (either externally or internally) is founded on the appropriate support model.
Many current IT personnel might still struggle with the idea that they actually have to act on user feedback to continuously improve services. Some of them even fear losing control over their own (small) "play grounds". This is a challenge that will be addressed in the near future. Personally I am quite a bit disappointed that some IT guys don’t see the government cloud (in Slovenia, also known as DRO) as the true opportunity to show their development skills and knowledge of added value creation. Now it really isn’t the time to hide any talent(s) these people might have.
The new government IT will be run business-like. That is the only way to go.
Where are we today? Honestly? DI secured financing for hardware and software for the state cloud (DRO). But those things alone are not the cloud yet. Now the real work begins as these solutions have to be put in place and serve the people in the most efficient way possible. The cloud brings new processes, optimization and automation of several IT-related services. We now know what users need and want and what IT personnel is able to deliver. Sure, there are some missing links, but these can be fixed as long as we keep working with professionals. And to answer the first raised question once again – government IT should be no different than the one enterprises use. Both need professional solutions provided and maintained by professionals, there are no real shortcuts on this road (well, at least no shortcuts without substantial risks).
What have we done so far? We passed the first two phases of rethinking innovation in government, the government's IT space and personnel have been thoroughly analysed (by the COBIT5 methodology) and assessed. Plans on how to deliver modern IT services are being put together as I type these words. But there is still a long way to go. It will soon be time for the new information systems and IT services to show how effective, efficient, reliable, and secure they are and how economically they actually run. Failure is (simply) not an option.