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Simplicity must permeate #gov20 efforts

Simplicity is not the Hallmark of Government, Yet...

The fine folks over at the Telegraph continue to have great mashups based upon the UK Gov’s open data work.  This image made me laugh a bit.  It shows the overly complex nature of HMG and one is left to wonder why.

I am not as cynical as Gerry McGovern over at Giraffe Forum, but his post on bureaucracy and complexity does give some insight into, at least, the historical reasons such complexity existed.  In many parts of the world the overt corruption that used to drive such complexity has gone (although I am fully aware that such detrimental practices continue to exist in many parts of the world).  But the lack of the overt corruption has resulted in an even more difficult set of challenges in many cases.

When corruption was actively present, it was obvious to those involved why the complexity existed.  As it was eradicated, and as civil servants took over who had no need for it, the positioning became difficult to move.  You see, these civil servants aren’t corrupt, are driven by mission and therefore, defend their organizations as protectors of that mission.  They see attacks on it as thwarting objectively good outcomes and fight against the threat.  And when folks mention that corruption may result, or indeed may have been the cause of the complexity, they resist with righteous indignation, because, in fact, they are not engaged in it.  Therefore they defend the complexity as part of the mission, since they cannot buy into the argument that the structure inculcates bad things, in their mind, it does not.

So, we need to be careful what arguments we use to advocate for governmental reform.  Instead of labeling civil servants as corrupt protectors of a corrupt system, which is not true, we need to take a different tack.

This is where Gerry has it right on.  And it is incredibly prescient given the industrial shift right now to the cloud.  He argues eloquently that:

Bad complexity creates dependence. Good complexity creates independence. One of the things the Web reflects is a movement away from the production of products to the delivery of services. In a world of production the thing itself often dominates, but in a world of service the satisfaction of the customer dominates. In other words, in a service-driven world,the measure of success is not what you have produced, but rather how satisfied your customer is.

As I engage with customers in Government around cloud topics this statement rings very true.  Not just for us as managers of online services, but to them as managers of government services.  Instead of creating a dependent culture that protects a franchise, we need to make sure that we enable our governments to create unbelievably happy and satisfied customers (a.k.a. citizens).  The shift is vital.  And as some centralized ICT bodies look to provide cloud services for their own Ministries, they need to make the shift as well.  Their customers (internal) must be unbelievably happy with the solutions they are providing.  They must shift from holding a monopoly to holding a franchise based upon the satisfaction of their customers.

As we each, industry and government, make the mind shift to the cloud, the strategic imperative is obvious.  Change your organization structure to reflect the simplicity that your customers demand to be satisified.

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