Public Service Modernisation - Planning for
Success in re-Organising and re-Engineering for Efficiency and Effectiveness



Abstract
"The wise man built his house upon a rock..." Well founded E-Governance projects keep their perspective, moving incrementally to new heights, from the existing base of skills, knowledge and other resources, taking adequate steps to solidly bridge gaps in order that the resulting programmes are robust, geared towards success. Revitalizing an established order such as a Public Service needs a serious planning effort with mature IT and ITC participation at all levels. Properly designed and engineered, the results are able to be impressive. Inadequate planning with unrealistic judgements as to what can be achieved yields a system awaiting collapse. The methods of successful economies and successful corporations contain 'secrets' which can be tapped into to create imaginative and exciting re-engineering of a Public Service - fit to enter the predicted competitive event in performance between Public Services!

Author: David L Evans Ph D, 15th March 2008

e-Governance R&D, ALERT::COMMUNICATIONS, St. David's, Grenada W. I.




Introduction

Attributes & Personalities

The writer, George Bernard Shaw was famous for a variety of things including his public statements - such as "Those who can DO, those who can't TEACH". There is an underlying concept embodied in this statement which contrasts personal dynamism with a more passive approach. Other similar ideas are along the lines that the world is comprised of leaders and followers. Yet another is that view that the world is populated by creators and maintainers. From these views we may learn that there are variety of personalities that one is likely to encounter in a large organisation such as a Public Service or Corporation.

Where does Government sit in terms of attributes such as these ? Where does the Public Service sit in relation to such attributes ?

Natural Acquisitiveness

For all humans, and other beings there is an underlying biological need to acquire food for sustenance. From this basic need springs acquisitiveness in a number of guises - in its worst forms greed and repressive domination.

Entropy

A fundamental Law of Nature - termed by Physicists - the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics is that entropy (the state of disorder in any system) naturally increases and that the only way to decrease entropy is to do work on the system. By way of a simple example - consider spilling a box of matches. No matter how many times you do it never once will they fall in such a way as to be orderly - all pointing in the same direction - to get them to that state one has to do work - to line them up. If one could design a special chute to spill them then the amount of work to line them up might be much smaller - the spilling process is re-engineered to enable the process, of unloading the matches in an orderly manner, to be much more effective.

A quick breakfast...

Governance and regulation are an out-growth of the process of civilization. Eating one's neighbour for breakfast may be a quick and easy meal but the reprisals may result in one being someone else's breakfast tomorrow - not a happy state of affairs.

Dominance

Dominance leads to organisation - the strong organise supporters to assist themselves in achieving their goals. Enlightened dominance - that is good leadership leads supporters to the achievement of worthwhile goals. And achievement of dominance may be by fair competitive means or by unfair disreputable means. In today's world we still see manifestations of both types of dominance.

Public Service Functions

To understand the need for a Public Service and the associated functions that that implies it is necessary to have an understanding of Government and the particular model of government tends to dictate the way in which its administration is performed.

Energy, Agriculture & Land

In simple terms, the world is powered by the sunshine which arrives every day and by other energy sources which, in the case of fossil fuels, have been stored for millennia ready for use. Nuclear energy is a further form of stored energy which can be captured for beneficial use. Agriculture is primarily powered by sunshine enabling plants to be grown, some of which are consumed for food, others are consumed by animals which are subsequently consumed in a number of food chains. The usefulness of land for food production is a fundamental need in the world with some countries being better at utilising that resource than others.

Land Value

When a resource, such as land, has a value those societies which have a monetary form of exchange develop systems of valuation of land, described in monetary terms. Valid land valuation, in modern times, relies on knowledge of the land area, the perceived value of the land nearby and in other similar circumstances. Nearby residential land may be quite different in value to neighbouring industrial land. Utility value is also important. Land (of the same area) holding 12 apartments will be of greater value than land for 4 apartments. Land producing 12 units of food will be worth more than that producing 4 units of food, of the same area.

Farming Cultures

Humankind has developed a number of techniques for the organised development of food crops - generally known as farming and horticulture. Intrinsic to the development of such techniques has been the invention, deployment and use of tools for more effective and efficient achievement of cultivation techniques. Different environments have led to different types of farming cultures. The farming culture suitable for growing and harvesting grapes on a plain is quite different to that which is suitable in a mountainous area. (Mechanical harvesters don't perform too well on steeper slopes!)

Abstract Thought

There came a time in the development of the world when the human race moved ahead of other animals and came to be able to think abstractly. Whilst domination is readily observable in the animal world the presence of higher level communication - by way of language and writing is absent. Abstract thought contains concepts such as comparison, mathematics, opinions, right and wrong, kindness, thoughtfulness - a variety of virtues.

Fairness & Competitiveness

An important product of human thought are systems of justice and the consequences which flow from the concepts underlying justice - in particular fairness. Stemming from the underlying need for biological survival comes competitiveness. Stemming from abstract thought comes the concept of fairness. And here is an important question - is it right that a dominant male should dominate the herd, chasing off all other males in order to perpetuate his genetic strain with off-spring from all of the females in the herd. With the competitive feature highly developed and no concept of justice whether it is right or not the dominant male in the herd does not know any better so cannot be criticised on any type of moral grounds. However when the dominant male (or female) is a human being then the morality of this type of behaviour is quite different and in civilized societies methods of regulation have been established to restrain undue greed and misuse of power.



What is the Role of Government ?

Concepts

The world has reached the point where the concepts of competition and justice are well developed even if they are not dealt with in exactly the same way from country to country. On the other hand the utilisation of these concepts is very uneven varying widely from country to country.

Innovative Thought

Why you might ask is this so ? The reality is that in those countries where the climate is cold in the winter the need for planning to survive through that less productive period each year coupled with contemplation and reason has led to the development of societies where a higher value has been placed on thought and, as a consequence, mechanical and other innovation has developed much more rapidly than in the mild and hot climatic regions of the world.

Monetary Systems

There are also societies where monetary systems have existed for thousands of years and others where money only arrived within the last 200 years. Clearly cultural development, notions of justice in relation to assets and technological development are at very different stages in different cultures, different economies and countries.

Models of Government

Asked - What is the Role of Government ? - There are many answers. There are different models of government - the Westminster system, the Presidential system and the Communist system are 3 that were prominent in the 20th Century. An interesting question may be asked in relation to the Communist system as analysis for its demise can be described in terms of parameters which also cause aspects of both Public Service systems and private business to fail.

A Muslim Brewery ???

If I said to you that there was a western plan to build a brewery in a Muslim state for local consumption and that only devoted Muslims were to be employed then I could well expect you to indicate that such a project was doomed to failure from the outset - it did not understand the local culture and would never operate.

Utopia & Human Psychology

The communist system was a utopian construct and as such was out of touch with reality as it did not take into account human psychology - failing to realise, amongst other things, that profit, gain and competitive success is an intrinsic component of the human spirit and to repress such rewards was to repress the human spirit. After 70 years of development at a year-on-year rate of around 1% it could not help but be noticeable that the resultant development was lagging far behind the 2% year-on-year development in the "competing" western economies.

Control & Suppression

The communist system was centrally planned and imposed from the top. Those in control whilst not accumulating the wealth of a Czar were doing much better than those at lower levels. The public service was all-powerful, innovation was suppressed and development restricted.

Failure of an Over-Controlled System

One may conclude that the role of government is therefore not to run the country as a large pseudo-business. History has shown that that does not work.

...of, for & by

Should Government be "of the people", "for the people", "by the people" ? This is the thesis of the western, democratic, Westminster and Presidential forms of government and in terms of economic success appears to engender the best results. (Japan is also a constitutional Monarchy similar to Britain.) In these types of vibrant democracies there is always plenty of public debate and despite the constant, healthy, internal criticism economic success occurs in the environments of such administrations. As someone once said - New Zealand - yes - a country with 4 million people and 1 million Prime Ministers!

Restricted Democracy

In the communist scenario the same claims might be made - democratically elected representatives to a Duma with 1 party (which is very similar to no party), of the people, for the people and by the people. And what might therefore asked - what was the difference. The difference lies in the methodologies employed by those allowed to be elected. The party controlled the selection of the candidates. Yes - in all other countries the Parties select the candidates - and the method is different but much more importantly, in the communist system only one party is allowed!!

First Need for Government

Let's look briefly at the justification for having any form of government. From our earlier discussion it is evident that man has acquisitive needs, ingenuity and power yet some are more civilised than others in the exercise of those attributes. This leads to one major reason for government and a degree of regulation of the public - a system of Justice is needed to enable all to work and live in a fair environment.

Second Need for Government

A second reason for Government is the need for infrastructure beyond the means of individuals or private organisations - in particular this relates to roading, education for all and higher level health care. Today these are pre-requisites for a state to be able to compete successfully in the modern world. Very few countries have sufficient natural resources of each type to enable them to be entirely self-sufficient - international trade has been with us a long time and is going to continue.

Unfair Advantage

In the past century politicians sought, at times, to take unfair advantage in a number of ways - seeking power by controlling media, wishing to own railways and postal services. The economic results have generally been dismal.

A new Approach

In the 1980's there was a re-awakening - governments took stock and at least one realised that it did not need to own hospitals to provide health care - it could just be a supplier of money (and do it on a rational basis). A strategy was formulated to purchase medical services from hospitals that the government owned and from others which they did not own, at a specified price for each procedure, and to stipulate quality factors in the contract. (A system of bidding was used to determine the prices.) The results were amazing. 5% year on year increases in the quantity of high quality health care delivered for the same dollar amount for the first 6 - 7 years of the new system. Part of the strategy was for the government to transfer the higher levels of management away from the hands of medical practitioners to generic managers. Despite being an unpopular move the results, just described, speak for themselves.

What was the real secret ? If you looked over the fence and saw your neighbour growing twice as many tomatoes as yourself on the same area of land you might realise that he knew something that you did not.

Neo Liberalism

Neo-liberalism is the term used to describe the change which began in the 1980's. Governments moved to re-engineering their employee's systems of work along the lines of their successful neighbours - private business. Naturally there was some pain (but as some say - no pain - no gain). A number of people who had gravitated to public service as they had political views not in harmony with business left the public service when it began to adopt a business model as its modus operandi.

Levelling the Playing Field

When a government decides that it is not to be regarded as the holder of a large bag of money but a responsible steward of the taxes it collects then it starts to look for value for money in the areas of its administration. It may go further and decide that all in business need to be treated equally and to stop subsidising particular activities they were persuaded by supporters to subsidise in the past. (Subsidies are payments to under-performing sectors of business for which the government gets zero value for the money spent but may gain voters to its cause. On the other hand the politicians may lose potential support from others who are jealous of those receiving the payments.)

Straightening things out

At times governments 'take stock' and one of the questions a government may ask itself is - which of the services it provides actually need public servants to do the work. The result of this self-examination is that governments have sold various businesses as they had absolutely nothing to do with justice or the provision of services which required the public purse for collective financing.

The most trust-worthy!

There was a notion, at one time, that public servants were more honest than others and were therefore the only people able to be trusted to deliver the mail!

"Yes Minister"

The English Television Series - "Yes Minister" was a delightful illustration of - "Politicians are here today and gone tomorrow" - but "The Public Service is here Forever".

Let's take a brief look at a large successful corporation and a typical 'old style' public service and examine the differences and similarities - or places where there could be similarities.

Realism

The business corporation generally has a principal goal of making a profit on shareholders funds which is competitive with other companies and does this by the sale of goods and services. There are internal pressures within to obtain good value for money in the purchase of inputs in order to be able to provide goods and services at an economic and competitive price. Managers and employees who stray too far from the required processes generally end up 'in trouble'. Successful businesses take care in establishing sensible realistic, realisable plans or they are soon out of business.

Is the plan valid - can it be followed successfully ?

This is an important concept - developing sensible realistic, realisable plans. Every architect knows that his plans need to have these same characteristics. And members of the public may ask - are the plans such that what they show can actually be built!! Discrepancies tend to show up when services begin at one level and have to travel past a lower level. Care needs to be taken!

Land Transactions

Earlier, land was identified as an area where it is important to have fair dealing and it may be further stated that there is need to ensure that there are good systems in place supervised by some type of authority under the direct or indirect authority of Government, as the ultimate regulator.

New Technologies

Thus - it may be contended that there is a valid role for a government related organisation to have a role in terms of dealings with land. This is not a new idea. However the models on which such systems are based are varied and have, changed, come and gone over the years. No longer are the dimensions of land measured using a chain of a standard length and less and less with any form of tape-measure. Nowadays precise measurement is with high-tech instruments which bounce infrared beams from one instrument to a reflector and back and calculate the distance based on the transmission time detected. The technology in the field has changed. Equipment is available for the office also, for record-keeping, data interrogation and analysis. Some systems are simple and of limited use, others are also simple but of much greater use.

Calibration and auditing

Calibration of measuring instruments is an important supervisory role for a suitable authority as auditing of the measurements recorded, particularly in relation to land as correct value, for owners, and taxation based on value is dependent on them.

Flawed Project Designs

Recent studies of projects designed to utilise modern office equipment have revealed that many such projects carried out for public services in a range of countries have failed - like a building collapsing - and in the poorer, less developed countries the success rate has been an abysmal 15%. There have been a number of reasons - and 99% of these can be classed as manifestations of project designs which were unrealistic in too many ways and thus fundamentally flawed in their design. (There are 7 important categories in which the amount of latitude for movement should not be too large.) Scoring systems now exist in order that a project designer may determine whether the new system will be sufficiently robust to survive - similar in concept to the calculations an engineer must carry out in order to design the strengths of components - such as steel beams and glass - for safe construction of a building in a specified environment. (Put simply the average carpenter could be viewed as an amateur when it comes to designing buildings. In the same way many computer programmers - IT people are at the same level when it comes to designing robust office information, communications and decision systems for government purposes - nowadays collectively termed E-Governance.) In either circumstance, if the risks are not mitigated in the design phase, collapse is a real possibility given sufficient tensions at some time in the future. Need I tell you about the roofing which came off in Grenada - of the person speaking to her friend - commenting that she was watching roofing flying by - and when it became very light inside realising that it was her own roof that had been peeling off!

Susceptibility to Weakness

The 7 areas where E-Govt projects have found to be susceptible to poor perceptions of reality in project design are given below.x

  • Information
  • Technology
  • Processes
  • Objectives and Values
  • Staffing and Skills
  • Management Systems and Structures
  • Other Resources
It is the sum of the weaknesses that matters and when the sum is too large it leads to the structures eventually failing - a bit like a weak roof connection to a concrete wall - off it comes in a hurricane. Too many weaknesses and the whole building collapses.

A Reality Gap

What is meant by weakness in this context is a gap between the Current Reality within the area of service and the Design Proposal for the New Project in that area. If the sum of the sizes of the gaps is too large then the structure will fall apart - a simple idea when expressed in this manner but apparently not readily seen as a danger. If the gaps were gaps where walls were meant to connect or beams that were too small for the intended load then steps to correct the situation might have been made.

Gap too large

At the outset there is Reality. On the Plan is the Design. If the Gap between Present Reality and the Proposed new Reality is too large then the Plan is UNREALISTIC and its implementation will be in trouble.

Imaginative Plans

This is not to say that imaginative plans should not be contemplated nor embarked upon but like the plan for the impressive new building the 7 areas identified need to be properly addressed in the plan to ensure that there are not gaps which make the planned structure inherently weak.

Examples of Gaps

In this discussion we are talking about things such as people being expected to move from pen and paper to PC when they have no PC experience. Such a situation would contribute to both a Technology gap and to a Skills gap. If the project required particular technology and there was not funding for it then there would be a large contribution to a Technology gap.

Bridging Gaps

Small gaps in these areas can be tolerated but they do need to be identified as part of the plan and it should include steps to reduce them as part of the project. For example a person skilled in using software would not know exactly how to operate a new program so would have a knowledge gap. Such a gap can be dealt with by appropriate education. Re-engineered work processes can fall into this category. As long as designed to utilise existing skills (but perhaps in a different manner or sequence) then insurmountable gaps will not appear.

Safety for Building Occupants

Construction supervision is an area of surveillance that governments have been shouldering around the world to varying extents. It is well accepted that governments play a role in ensuring the safety of citizens. As most citizens, nowadays, spend at least 16 hours/day inside buildings it is most reasonable that governments should take a significant interest in ensuring that buildings are designed and constructed in an manner which will ensure the safety of the occupants in the forseeable future. In the mid 1980's a small resort style village was being established in a mountainous area prone to very high winds and in a country prone to strong earthquakes. The houses were required to be constructed with hurricane straps and other strengthening features and were generally timber framed. A few years later a force 7 earthquake centred in the mountains about 50 miles away occurred. (This is very close). Trees near the village were shaken so strongly that their tops were striking the ground. People outside were terrified - others thought they were having heart-attacks. In many parts of the world the houses would have been a pile of rubble. Not one of the 50 odd houses in that village showed any external damage. There was a very small amount of internal damage in 3 of them. The local authority had taken its responsibilities seriously, knowledge available in the world at the time was utilised in professional manner by the local authority insisting on the specialised protective additions to the standard construction techniques employed.

Slick Salesmen Taking Advantage

The scenario of "Casanovas" selling development systems to "virgins" has been reported on in a number of cases where the systems were sold as 'the best thing since sliced bread" but were a dismal match to the realities of what was actually needed - and this is still unfortunately continuing. There is a need to be wary of the slick vendor when there will be no day-to-day maintenance available. In the long term local development, maintenance and enhancement will provide one of the strong driving forces for project success.

Lesson to Learn from Others

So - getting back to the successful businesses - what lessons can be learned from them ?

We'll have to digress for another moment for some helpful background

Laws

In the world all countries have laws.

Codes of Practice

Many countries have Codes of (best) Practice which lay out in simple terms how to do things in a manner which will keep the operator well within the law.

Standards

There are also what are termed "Standards". These lay down in detail how certain processes are to be carried and are an adjunct to the law and Codes of practice. Codes of practice may specify that particular specified standards are to be adhered to.

Standards have originated in a number of ways - frequently there has been an engineering input. For example a standard may lay down the formulation required for concrete of a specified strength.

Standards for Organisation Itself

There are standards which relate to the performance of organisations - and these are typically businesses but may be churches, NGO's - even Public Services or parts thereof.

ISO 9001

Perhaps something can be learned from the ISO standard 9001.

This standard sets a framework whereby an organisation of any type may set upon a course to optimise its technical performance and any other important parameter whose value it seeks to maximise. Without going into great details a methodology is established to

  • establish plans for improvement
  • based around entire processes
  • with an emphasis on reliable methodologies
  • utilising measurement, auditing and monitoring of specified parameters
  • for performance of functions in a consistent manner
  • at a specified level of quality.

Bids with Quality Specifications

When the government, referred to earlier, decided to purchase health services from both private hospitals and its own public hospitals, at specified prices, it also specified a quality for the procedures. When hospitals needed to prove quality suddenly various departments "discovered" that Standards Organisations existed and embarked on the process of obtaining ISO 9001 : 2000 certification (or similar). (The certification involves an examination (by an external agency) of the manuals, processes and records kept to determine to what extent the organisation is following its own plans and the standards it has declare it will adopt and follow.)

Efficiency & Effectiveness flowing from the ISO 9001 : 2000 Road

Whilst it is not essential to obtain ISO 9001 : 2000 certification going down the road towards it brings significant benefits to any organisation that travels that road. The discipline by way of thought and its application to the processes and sub-processes required to achieve the goals of the organisation brings substantial increases in efficiency and effectiveness.

This brings us to a slightly different question ?

Optimisation

What important parameter, in addition to technical performance, should a government want to optimise ?

... Profits

In business the answer is clear - business wants to optimise profits.

... Government Surplus

The parallel item for government could be surplus income ? What's that foreign word I hear you asking - a government surplus - does that exist anywhere in the world - is it even possible ?

Drivers

Yes - it is possible. There are several aspects to achieving surpluses. Elimination of loss-making enterprises is one avenue - by sale or by modification. If a service has intrinsic value in remaining in government ownership and is able to generate acceptable fees in sufficient quantities then it can be a net generator of funding for government. A careful budget with appropriate fees needs to be established and the end product is a dividend to the owner. The incentives to managers and directors need to be similar to the private sector to ensure that they drive the enterprise in the successful manner it is intended that it be driven. The operation of the service needs to have a quality component specified as it would if it were an assembly plant for an automobile manufacturer.

...done well

Not only must the product be good but as with Justice it must be seen to be done and done well.

Is there another single parameter which it would be worth seeking to optimise ?

The communist system set itself different goals. It sought equality for all with no-one being rewarded better than another (at least in theory). Housing was owned by the state and assigned to people to live in - but there was little incentive for personal maintenance. Overall the system did not work well at the industrial and agricultural levels and in the end change has occurred. Perhaps the natural way is the best way - understand human psychology - harness its potential and achieve in a manner which is successful - that of the private sector - that which has to be so successful that it generates sufficient to pay for the Public Service! Imagine if the Public Service could generate sufficient revenue to entirely support itself ! It's an imaginative idea but at the moment not a realistic target

Where does an IT & ICT Specialist fit into all of this you may well ask ?

ICT & IT

Information Communication Technology and Information Technology has to be seen as a tool to achieve what are generally office-based tasks whose goal is to enable office and external activities to proceed in a cost-effective and both time and cost-efficient manner.

Let's turn to the Executive Agencies to be established and the Plans to do so.

Identify Main Processes

For each of the EA's the first task relating to their operations - which is small but important - is to determine the processes required (from beginning to end) to achieve the present outputs required of the existing sub-departments. Not every sub-process need have a detailed description at the beginning but what is important (following the ISO 9002) methodology is to detail the main steps in each of the main processes which are implied by the outputs required. It also important to assess the need for other outputs as the present range is somewhat limited. The means for producing the additional outputs also needed - at the moment the outputs primarily serve government's needs whereas the needs of the public are very poorly served. And the role of government "for the people" is to serve them not to just serve its own needs.

Sub-processes

Once the main processes are defined then the constituent sub-processes can be elaborated along with the tools and personnel and other inputs needed to enable them to function successfully.

Alternative Ways

Many times in life there are alternative ways in which to achieve the same goal. Some will include method A whereas the other will include method B. If method B is 100 times faster than method A (because it is a lot smarter - and no more expensive) then it needs to be used in preference to method A. But - if the project designer only knows about method A and is unaware of method B then the project may miss out on a very significant efficiency. At the moment the most widely read electronic media other than email is material on the internet. Those who are computer literate nowadays are certainly Internet literate - and at times too Internet literate! Nevertheless, the production of outputs by the Public Service needs to be internet compatible. Fortunately the internet language of HTML does not lose features so the oldest of pages are still viewable. On the other hand different generations of other software do both gain and lose features from one generation to another and cheaper 'cut-down' versions such as Microsoft Works files are not compatible with Microsoft Office. Thus, it is highly desirable to use office systems which create files which are compatible with what the intended viewer is likely to have to be able to read them. In other words it makes good sense to use systems for ICT that will keep things easy for the intended recipients.

Design Team

So - today what is needed is either a small team conversant with the ways of government - both politicians and public servants, conversant with modern ICT, conversant with work design procedures and methods such as ISO 9002 and the functions of Land Measurement, Land Valuation, Building Codes & Standards, Conveyancing and Land Registration matters. The team is likely to have both full and part-time members. The full-time members need to be able to draw up the knowledge and cooperation of the Public and Private Sector members involved. The ICT specialist should, in the end, be the glue which will design and implement all of the necessary electronic office systems for the new system - determining the best ICT and IT solutions for each sub-process within each of the main processes.

Sustainability

In all aspects of the plan the following areas need to be addressed in such a manner that the aspects of the plan which they relate to are realistically achievable in a long-term sustainable manner.

IT Specialist's Involvement

In summary, the IT specialist needs to be involved at all points of the planning of the system. That person either needs to have all of the types of knowledge alluded to above and the maturity to be able to draw on the wisdom of those who know more where needed. Furthermore there needs to be serious involvement of all of the players having a 'finger in the pie' in order to give them a sense of ownership in the project. The public servants who will really drive the ongoing work need to play an integral part in the planning - contributing and understanding the needs of others in order to ensure that the benefits of the re-designed system with the re-engineered processes really do accrue to the public and to the government in the future on a long term basis.

Analogy

An analogy can be drawn with an architect.

Building Planner

The architect who designs building needs to have several characteristics

  • A design flair.
  • Building Code and ordinance knowledge.
  • Detailed construction knowledge - materials, prices and methods.
  • Engineering knowledge - enough to know when to utilise an engineer.
  • Knowledge of relevant standards.
  • When to call on the knowledge of other experts in relation to things beyond the norm such as electrical engineering, a water & sanitation expert.

At times builder's act as designer and the occasional one has the design flair to create an impressive building - but this is rare.

Software Aids

The time has come when architects rarely draw plans with a pencil. They are nowadays drawn on computers with various software aids.

Cyber-space Viewing

The time has also come when the global citizen needs to be able to see his plans, as they evolve, in the comfort of his office on the other side of the world.

The ICT specialist needs to follow the same sort of disciplined path, in planning, as the building architect.

The Ultimate Test!

What is different is that the ICT specialist has to devise a system which is easily able to be used - so fool-proof that the lowliest of employees can be safely let loose on it. The system has to be practical, functional, user-friendly, bringing real benefits in terms of effectiveness and efficiency both for the needs of the public and the government which through its public service, serves them.

Design Considerations

Visibility

If Government is for the people then is must be for the people!! In other words information which is classified as public must be actually public in an easily accessible manner - which these days means on any PC connected to the internet anywhere in the world.

Public Service of The Year Award

In today's competitive world there is a growing awareness of the value of good quality, well presented information in modern societies. Not only do local firms have to compete but countries have to compete as well. In order for countries to compete it is necessary for their public services to compete. I know you have probably never heard of public services competing before but that is what is needed - compete at what you might say - they're in different countries ! Where they have to compete is at the level of efficiency and effectiveness. The winner is the public service which is making the best job of serving the needs of the citizens - enabling the information required by business and individuals to be readily and speedily available. As the action arm of Government the public service can make the difference between activities in a country being bureaucratically slow or rapidly responsive. When Grenada has a public service which others want to come and study then it will know it is really up there. That has to be the goal. The government needs a public service it is proud to be able to say that it is very economical to run, highly effective and providing what is really needed, speedily. When accolades along those lines are being reported in the newspapers and around the world then there a serious competitor for the Public Service of the Year Award close by.

Now that we've had the commercial break it's time to get down to business...

Measurement

To be able to report on Effectiveness it is necessary to be able to make assessments or measurements of what is being performed. Counting tasks started and tasks completed is a very good way of making simple measurements. A worker who begins 10 similar tasks and finishes 2 of them in the same time as another who begins 14 and finishes 13 is not very effective nor very efficient. Should this situation occur there is a clear need for examination of the situation in order that the work be better managed.

Added Value

Using Methods which have valuable spin-offs accruing for next to nothing rather than using alternative methods to get to the same point but with no side-benefits is the smart way to be more effective. The valuable spin-offs are valuable as they provide inputs to other processes which would otherwise have to create the information themselves. Think smart has to be the strategy. It's rather important to take this approach when work-procedures are being re-engineered - think of the bigger picture and re-engineer the procedure in such a way that it is not only of high value to its parent process but also a significant contributor to other side-processes.

Accountabily

For accountability to be truly possible there are 3 components necessary in a management system. There needs to be a measurement capability - generally with measurements occurring on an on-going basis. Secondly there needs to be a functioning monitoring system - monitoring the measurements. Thirdly there needs to be.... When these 3 elements are present then it is possible for a person (who is accountable) to have the tools necessary to actually account in an honest, factual and verifiable manner on the process for which they are responsible.

The Intelligent Office

This office uses the know-how in people's heads coupled with smart software in computers to achieve beneficial information outputs from the information inputs. There's only one way know-how gets into people's heads - by exposure to relevant information and study. Exposure may by way of formal education processes, on-the-job training - both formal and informal and by communication with people outside the office such as clients, customers and other associates. Study and memorization is an adjunct to the exposure and facilitates understanding and usefulness. Smart software is the result of ideas. The Intelligent Business elicits ideas from its personnel for ways of improvement on a continuing improvement, including ideas for better computer methods.

Calculators

There are a range of small mathematical tasks which require a few inputs. Small programs may be written which are activated from a desk-top icon or others may utilise pre-set spread-sheets with appropriate formulae embedded in them - again able to be activated from a desk-top icon. A recently, Grenada-developed, enhanced activation system is to have the calculators able to be activated from a browser such as Internet Explorer, where there can be operator notes displayed along with the icon.

Examples relating to land and construction:-

  • Calculation of areas of triangles, rectangles and other multiple sided areas.
  • Calculation of building cost as a function of area, internal wall-lengths, external wall lengths and other parameters.
  • Calculation of diagonal distances.
  • Calculation of the path of vectors (distance and angles) around a lot of land (for survey auditing) or a building (for valuation survey and other purposes).
  • Calculation of glass thickness as a function of dimensions and wind speed.
  • Calculation of I-beam characteristics as a function of load and length.

A Filing System

A man telephoned the Inland Revenue Department in another country - he had sent them an enquiry nearly 3 weeks earlier but had no response. Oh - said the receptionist - they probably haven't received that yet. But mail delivery is guaranteed within 48 hours in this country was the response. Well... yes... but (confidentially) they're so behind out the back that all mail is being for 3 weeks, at the front, before being passed through to them... I guess that's a type of filing system! And yet another example... I've come to give you some additional information - could you get my file and let me include it please... Come with me... And in the room the papers were 2 ft high on every table and shelf. You're welcome to include the information if you can find the file ...

In a situation where an Executive Agency is to be established combining activities from several departments with different filing systems - which are generally manual serious planning consideration needs to be given to a unified electronic indexing system applicable to all needs -

  • Manuals of Procedure - manual (where the exist) and electronic (where they are to be developed or transposed from manual).
  • Referencing to browser compatible outputs.
  • Referencing to electronic records.
  • Referencing to email & browser based inputs.
  • Referencing to paper records.

Software

The software needs have particular technical and user characteristics in order that

  • Achieves the goals set for it
  • Facilitates portability of data handling with files what are widely compatible with a range of software (needs to have .CSV output available for spreadsheet analysis of data)
  • Is open-source - that is the computer code is available for local authorised personnel to enhance and otherwise modify.
  • It is reliable
  • It is user friendly (easy to use)

Software doing the right job is the most important aspect of re-engineered computer-based office activities.


Interfaces and Boundaries

In a number of instances a Government process may traverse more than one department. Collecting property taxes begins at the property end with a valuation and ends at the cashier receiving the tax payment. The cashier may well be in the Ministry of Finance whereas the valuation activity may be in the Land Agency. The transfer of the data from the Provider to the Customer will necessitate an interface. In the case where a process crosses from one department to another there is both a boundary and an interface - a boundary as to where the work ends in one and begins in the next. The interface relates to the transmission process rather than to the decision as to how the work is allocated between departments.

Minimise Impedance

It is a well known fact in the electrical engineering world that when the electrical impedance is identical on both sides of an interface then the behaviour of the system will be optimal. In the same way the interfaces between the public service and those whom they serve also needs to have a minimal impedance difference. When a client interfaces with the bank manager and the standard of dress is the same then a significant social is not present. Unless the scruffy client has a million dollar bank account he will be making it difficult for himself...

Such interfaces will be to

  • Business
  • Government Departments
  • NGO's
  • Politicians
  • The public

Some interfaces will be free of charge. Others will need to incorporate a payment. The interfaces will need to operate in a very simple manner in order for the Grenada Public Service to enter the Public Service of the Year Competition!

The technology is available and most of what is needed already resides on the desks of the Public Service. It is the software, training and re-engineering of tasks which will enable the technology to be the really useful tool which it should be.




Summary

The role of an ICT & IT specialist in a Public Service Modernisation project, where separated areas of responsibility are to be coalesced into a single Executive Agency, is very much akin to that of a senior architect designing not a building but an operational system for a modern office with multiple functions, represented by a number of main processes with a variety of information end and side products which need to be able communicated to the population at large, politicians, business, professionals and other bodies for a variety of purposes.

In order for the Project to implement individual sub-projects successfully it is necessary that their overall designs be sufficiently robust - that is it be a set of projects that are realistic in all of their aspects - within the range of the personnel and resources deployed given appropriate introduction, training and attention to a self-sustaining capability.

When it is understood from the beginning that a project must not only be technologically sound but also sociologically sound (that is able to find acceptance amongst the great variety of personalities with which it will interact) then it should be able to be constructed.

By setting goals at the beginning and using a recognized method of planning it will be possible for the new and re-vamped organisations to be both technically and financially successful, communicating ably to the world.



Bibliography

1

Heeks, R, Information Systems and Public Sector Accountability, Information Systems for Public Sector Management, 1998, 1-27

2

Heeks, R, Information Age Reform of the Public Sector: The Potential and Problems of IT for India, Information Systems for Public Sector Management, 1998, 1-21

3

Kahn, M & Swanborough, R, Information Management, IT and Government Transformation: Innovative approaches in the new South Africa, Information Systems for Public Sector Management, 1999, 1-20

4

Heeks, R, Government Data: Understanding the Barriers to Citizen Access and Use, Information Systems for Public Sector Management, 2000, 1-15

5

Heeks, R, Understanding e-Governance for Development, I-Government Working Paper Series, 2001, 1-25

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Heeks, R, Building e-Governance for Development: A Framework for National and Donor Action, I-Government Working Paper Series, 2001, 1-31

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Heeks, R, eGovernment in Africa: Promise and Practice, iGovernment Working Paper Series, 2002, 1-26

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Heeks, R, Most eGovernment-for-Development Projects Fail: How Can Risks be Reduced, iGovernment Working Paper Series, 2003, 1-17