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Efficiency and Modernisation driven by Process Excellence
An approach to application modernisation with business process excellence at its heart will be the key to a public sector which can continue to deliver vital services without breaking the economy.
The UK public sector currently faces the twin challenges of implementing significant changes to policy and government organisational structures while at the same time attempting to drastically reduce the costs of providing services to citizens and businesses. Given that the underlying IT systems and software in use today represent significant assets that in the words of John Suffolk, the government CIO, need to be sweated, an approach to modernisation and transformation based on the wholesale replacement of applications is rarely cost effective, necessary or even desirable.
Policy makers have realised the claims made by some IT vendors that all government needs to do to realise efficiencies and improve services is to throw away old applications and replace them with new ones is false. The recent history of UK public sector IT is littered with examples of new systems, based on the very latest packaged applications, failing to deliver their expected benefits due to difficulties and cost-overruns in their implementation. This is particularly true where the systems being replaced are the ones which support the unique, core business of public sector organisations which embody many years of carefully crafted business logic. Experienced practitioners in the industry understand the risks of wholesale rip and replace modernisation projects, and the career-threatening cost and time overruns associated with them.
Software does not wear out, but it may give the impression that it does if it is configured in a manner which means that it is not capable of adapting quickly to the changing needs and shape of government service provision. Simply replacing an old application with a new one, however “modern” the underlying technology may be, rarely delivers the expected benefits and return on investment. The reality of government policy is that it can change in a heartbeat, leaving government CIOs with the impossible dilemma of having to deliver on ministers’ expectations of rapid change with yet more systems that are not built for it. The consequence is often a grand programme that takes longer to deliver than a minister’s tenure, leaving projects hanging as a new incumbent sends them off in another direction.
An encouraging step away from the cycle of rip and replace modernisation is hinted at in the “21st Century Welfare” consultation. This document recognises that the way to modernise service delivery is not to invest in new applications, but to repurpose existing systems across government.
Software AG’s approach to this programme would be to put business process excellence at its heart. It appears that the DWP believes that this is important too, as their 6th principle states that to deliver these reforms, they will:
“Automate processes and maximise self service, to reduce the scope for fraud, error and overpayments. This could include a responsive and immediate service that saves the taxpayer significant amounts of money …”
There is no doubt that the automation of business processes is an effective way to reduce the costs associated with delivering services. Industry best practice and the experience of our customers demonstrate that a Business Process Management Suite (BPMS) closely integrated with technologies that allow simple re-use of existing applications and services are the most appropriate method of achieving the best possible return from their application and data assets. Furthermore, the consistency of processes executed through a BPMS means that the same high quality customer experience is received by all, regardless of the access channel the customer uses.
However, the most compelling arguments for the use of a BPMS to support the reforms that will be required in the delivery of UK public service over the coming years is that of flexibility and cost effectiveness. Flexibility when compared to either attempting to tailor an ‘off the shelf’ business application or application suite to the unique requirements of UK government organisations. Cost effectiveness when compared to bespoke application development, even if open source software components are used.
What is clear is that if government wants to get better results from its investments in software, wholesale replacement of so-called “legacy systems” with new applications (which will simply become tomorrow’s legacy) is not the answer.
Cost savings and efficiency improvements come not from IT alone, but primarily from the improvement of the processes that IT supports. Focusing on analysing, modelling and improving the process will reveal where efficiency improvements can be made. The good news is that the best practices and technology exist to enable strategic application re-use. Service-oriented architecture working hand-in hand with a BPMS to re-use existing systems can deliver the rapid process improvements needed by the public sector to achieve their efficiency targets.
For more information
Tel: 01344 403800