As I write, the petition to demand the UK government reviews it’s outdated I.T. project processes has been going for a week and has 193 signatures.
Am I disappointed? Far from it. The signatories list reads like a who’s who of people in the UK who care about software. Among the countless thought leaders, authors, conference speakers and influential bloggers, signatories includes:
- Steve Freeman, winner of the Gordon Pask award and author
- Rachel Davies, director of the Agile Alliance and author
- Karl Scotland, founder member of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium.
- Mike Hill, conference chair for SPA
- Giovanni Asproni, conference chair for ACCU
- Keith Braithwaite, conference chair for XPDay
Lets face it, this is never going to be a populist campaign. The simple matter is no one else is going to tell our government that there’s a more effective way to manage software*. It’s certainly not in the interests of people like BT and Siemens to stop signing multi-million pound contracts and I’ve no doubt there are very few people working in an advisory manner to the government on I.T. strategies who are particularly aware or interested in the now well-established and highly successful Agile umbrella of ways to build effective software, both on time and on budget.
So it’s up to us to highlight this situation. No one else is going to do it for us. As member of the software development community in the UK, your money is not going towards hospitals or schools, your money is being wasted on failed I.T. projects and will continue to be wasted** until our government stops naively signing off massive contracts for hugely optimistic and unrealistic projects.
I’m calling on everyone involved in software development in this country to do more to try and raise the issue to the level of visibility it deserves:
- Sign the petition if you haven’t done so already
- Write to your MP informing them about the petition and personally demanding a review. I’ve written a sample letter here which you can use as a template, but you should try to use your own words as much as possible otherwise it’s likely they will ignore it. Some more tips are available here.
- Blog about the petition. Tell people to sign it and email their MP and blog about it too. Twitter is great but blogging is better.
Nothing is going to change unless you get involved and demand your hard earned cash is better spent.
* An open letter was written to the Government by a bunch of academics about the problems with the NHS I.T. project, but was woefully misguided asking to see, among others, documents showing the “detailed design” and “technical architecture” for what must be the most idealistically naive and over-ambitious software project ever undertaken.
**According to IT Jobs Watch the average salary for a developer in the UK is Â£37,000 which means that, on average, they will contribute around Â£6,000 per year in tax. We’ll also say for the sake of argument that our average Joe works 40 years in his/her lifetime so in total he/she will pay Â£240,000 in tax. It would take 100,000 developer lifetimes to accrue the estimated Â£26 billion that has been wasted so far on failed Government I.T. projects.
To be fair to BT (for whom I work, but don’t speak), we are making progress in moving towards a more agile approach to software development. If anything, there’s frustration that to compete for government work we are forced to use an inefficient waterfall approach rather than collaborating and iterating.
Yes that’s a fair point and I have actually been to presentations organised by BT on Agile practices. However I do believe that companies like BT have a real responsibility (and are not doing enough) to stop the Government trying to undertake death march projects.
As good as people within BT’s intentions may be, I’m sure that as long as there is no drive from the Govt. to change the way it approaches managing software projects there will be little motivation for BT to do so either.
HERE IS MY CONSTRUCTIVE ADVICE ABOUT AGILE
While the organisation of XP Day is often rather nebulous, it is the case that I have never been Conference Chair, but was Programme Chair in 2008 and 2009.
Kerry raises an interesting point: I think there is one of those no-conspiracy conspiracies at play here. As is so often the case, there turns out to be no reason for anyone invested in the status quo to break the cycle, and no way for anyone who would want to break the cycle to become invested in it. Indeed, if any supplier seeks to change the game they will be immediately expelled from it. No-one involved in this is (as far as I know) actively evil, rather its a perfectly reasonable system that just happens to be settled in a fabulously wasteful, but stable, orbit.
That system needs a _mighty_ perturbation to allow it to seek a less wasteful orbit, and that can only come from the politicos. We almost certainly get a new government in a few months, one of a party supposedly interested in smaller, more efficient government. We shall see what comes of that.
There are some good points made above. But it is important people recognise some fundamental truths – the first of which is that IT projects are NOT undermined by ‘the process’ (though thats part of it), but by financial practices which force people into behaving in a certain way. Processes are important and a contributing factor, but ultimately one that is dictated by the finance and accounting professions through their procedures. Those are the ones we should be holding to account. Once again IT are lapsing into a subserveance and assuming ‘oh my god, we have these project failures, so it must be us at fault’. It’s not quite like that….