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Using DID to break down IT silo’s (8 december 2021).

By Brian Johnson

Ever noticed how all ITIL experts have completely adopted DEVOPS as the Lord of the best practice rings? Or how DEVOPS conferences make a point of recognising the valuable contribution ITIL has made to applications development?

No?, me either.

Ever thought that the ever so tiny dispute between infrastructure managers thinking they rule development (and vice versa) means the poor customer of IT services (ie, the unlucky user….) gets exactly the kind of experience that they participated in endless ‘sprints’ and ‘prototypes’ and ‘working beta applications’ to avoid?

Of course, both best practices aim for satisfied customers and the best customer experience (CX), and both now support the new, shiny answer to the useless SLA, the XLA---experience level agreement. The XLA (like the SLA before it) should be the means by which consumers of IT services assess the quality of delivered and consumed IT services and how well it meets expectations. Again, like the SLA, the rush to write the XLA means that the hard work needed to make sure that all underpinning processes are in place to support the data gathering and assessment that is needed to ensure the XLA is meaningful is usually avoided (because perhaps a lot of work is not able to be described as Agile, which is a sin of course, but more likely because it is quickly realised that telling people they need to do a lot of work is similar to disagreeing with QA anon guru’s).

Don’t however blame Agile for all development issues, blame those who think Agile means cutting corners, the UK test and trace application being perhaps the only world beating example. Who would appoint someone with chequered IT knowledge and no Health Care experience (but good with horses, let’s be fair) to lead the most important health care programme of the century? Well our Health Secretary did just that….

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dido Harding was appointed the head of the NHS Test and Trace programme until April 2021.She is a former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group where she faced calls for her to resign after a cyber-attack revealed the details of up to four million customers; the company was subsequently fined for negligence. In 2020 Harding was appointed to head NHS Test and Trace, established to track and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in England.
The cost of Harding’s test-and-trace fiasco is estimated as £37bn. The public accounts committee blasted “the unimaginable resources thrown at this project” that failed to make “a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic”. Scientists on the government’s Sage committee found test and trace made no more than “a marginal impact on transmission” of the virus. Harding oversaw this spending of to create possibly the world’s worst IT systems using consultants instead of experienced NHS IT staff. The system was developed using Agile (of course) and cobbled together using software ‘amalgamated’ by consultants who knew nothing about the likely user or how health care operated and whatever best practices were used by the very highly paid consultants (and you can bet the house that they railed-off a list of every IT best practice out there as proof of just how they were the best choice rather than in -house IT staff who would be much inferior in intellect…..).

The key point here is that this is a living example of total failure to look at the customer experience required---most of the victims of Covid have been elderly, infirm, disabled and economically dis-advantaged,---- so making T&T an IT mobile phone service to begin with seems a dubious start.

So, smart Alexander, how would Digital Information Design have solved the problem? Well, it would not solve anything unless the first and most important point of DID was fully considered; is this service needed and valued (even Boris would say yes….) so what capabilities do we need to fulfil the Mission of being able to track and trace effectively every living soul who has come into contact with Covid 19?

The assessment might well have identified that the NHS did not have sufficient IT resources and capabilities but for sure, it would also have assessed what NHS applications existed that could have been used as building blocks and it would also have led to a proper assessment of how vulnerable and disadvantaged customers would be served as well as those of us with iphones or galaxies. My mother thought galaxies were chocolate bars…….
DID looks at design from the age-old concept of Stakeholder perspectives. Another bad idea, using proven techniques rather than new consultancy ideas to establish all stakeholder needs…..

DID also promotes the novel idea that IT teams should fully understand the terminology and methods of all of the teams involved in creating an IT service and to stop arguing about which is Lord of the Frameworks. Instead focus on which framework (if a framework is needed) is most appropriate at a given stage of IT application development. Using let’s say ITIL to gather data requirements of the information to be processed by IT systems would be similar to appointing Italian chefs to cook at a restaurant specialising in food from India. DID also reinforces the specific (and old fashioned….) concept of business systems analysis that analysts should sit alongside those who will use new IT systems to ensure that the service will meet their expectations.

DID Governance would have been used to clearly establish who should be involved and the purpose of their involvement; it would (at a lower level) also ensure that for example, an enterprise- wide IT best practice was indeed governed and managed according to a fully documented, understood and practiced Policy.
Just to be clear, we do not expect (like Dido and Boris) that IT (and their favourite consultants and PPE suppliers) would have saved the world. We do however claim that using an independent method to Govern and Strategise would have markedly increased usability and for absolutely certain, been cheaper.

But heigh ho, when was politics ever anything other than nepotism, lies and jobs for the boys (and girls)?
This blog is using the T&T project to illustrate how strategic thinking cannot be minimised or avoided or under-estimated, not to take pot-shots at the useless UK government but that can hardly be avoided. Any IT programme will benefit from using DID or any independent model to direct thinking about complex problems. To use government marketing ideas….

Thus: Think. Then. Act.