Allowing government IT to fail

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Allowing government IT to fail

NSW IT head wants accountability refocus.

The man leading the NSW Government’s ICT Strategy is looking forward to a future where small-scale failures in government IT are acceptable.

William Murphy, the NSW executive director of strategic policy at the Department of Finance and Services, told delegates at last week’s IPAA State Conference he hoped smaller failures could eventually be seen as "a normal part of the innovation process". 

“As we go down the path of making more data and service delivery channels available and engaging more on social media, I hope we will start to create an environment where government can have some failures without that being seen as an embarrassment for us."

Traditionally, governments like to take a polished product to the public - an approach that puts them at odds with more innovative sectors like mobile app developers, Murphy said.

“The developer community has a licence to innovate because half a dozen apps might spring up around something like real time bus data. Those that are successful will continue, but the creators of those that aren’t successful will simply go back to the drawing board and try something else.

“They are not going to attract the attention that a $150 million government ERP system falling over is going to,” he said.

Learning to let go of control is crucial to the public sector embracing new ways of sourcing and opening up IT service delivery, he told iTnews.

“I think the most important thing is our response to projects running over budget or behind time," Murphy said.

“In the past people got into trouble when overruns happened. I’m hoping we can move beyond this approach to a point where we learn from these experiences and feed that knowledge back into other projects to improve their chance of success, viewing it as a positive part of the innovation process."

He said the NSW Government had released its open data portal in a beta version “so you can go and look at that now and tell us how wrong it is”.

Other governments have also become increasingly willing to release products to the public before they are completely finished.

The US government recently went live with a beta version of its new open data portal, and is currently seeking feedback. 

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