Modernizing public sector IT management

Editor’s Note: Kevin Desouza will speak at a seminar titled #IdeasToRetire: Information Systems in Public Management, Public Policy, and Governance in Washington, DC on May 9.

Over the past 10 weeks we have featured 22 ideas that represent outdated practices or modes of thinking when it comes to public sector information technology (IT) management. In this closing post, we would like to draw out five salient points to move the conversation ahead.

1. Evidence-driven decisionmaking is required

Several of our posts suggest that we might get a greater return on our technology investments if we relied on evidence as a basis for our decisionmaking rather than relying on outdated ideas masquerading as conventional wisdom.

2. Experimentation and risk-taking is essential

Just like in the private sector, risk-taking is something that we need to instill and value in the public sector. That is the only way we can advance the state of practice. At present, too many ideas are left fallow since no one is willing to bear the risk of bringing the idea to fruition. This cannot continue.

3. Collaboration across sectors matters

We need to design and harness better collaboration platforms that go beyond the traditional models. Importing rock star CIOs, relying on outsourcing, or engaging students to think meaningfully about IT in the public sector only after they graduate have reached their limits of value. These are all mutually exploitative relationships and need to be redesigned.

4. Governance modes matter

We need to revisit how we govern and become comfortable with balancing goals when it comes to governance. Security is not the enemy of innovation but has to peacefully coexist with it. This calls for more agile governance models that force us to think holistically about the IT programs in our agencies from multiple perspectives.

5. Solving procurement issues

Few things raised as much anger as our discussions on procurement issues, and it is clear: procurement must be solved for government to move forward.

We need fresh thinking when it comes to modernizing the management and governance of IT in the public sector. A lot of attention has been given to modernizing our technical and infrastructural systems, but we have not kept up with modernizing our governance and management practices. This series of articles is simply a first step, but given the response to the series (over 24,000 hits and numerous formal and informal discussions), the message about needing to retire outdated ideas has resonated. The challenge now is two-fold: continuing the discussion and having the courage to retire outdated ideas. It is time.