Reinventing organisations as agile

Achieving 40% cost reduction in operations, delivering services four times faster and reducing errors by three-quarters are three benefits that governments can realise through digital reinvention.  It requires governments to take a citizen-centric approach just as expectations have been raised in the commercial world with the delivery of digital platforms by Netflix, Airbnb, Uber etc that are consumer-centric.

One enabler to becoming citizen-centric is the adoption of agile organisational culture, structure and practices.  But this is difficult transition for established organisations, especially government departments, to make.  I recently published a TechNote outlining steps that organisations can take to become more aligned to their customers and to citizens.  It summarises thinking from an IBM Academy of Technology initiative that produced an Agile Organization Guide last year to help technical leaders in our own transformation.

We have also been applying elements of that guide to assist various clients round the world in their transformation.   Here are three learning points from one client whose IT department strives to better serve lines of business.

  1. The product centric-customer intimacy-operational excellence triad (from, “The discipline of market leaders,” Treacy and Wiersema) helped the IT department shift itself to become business rather than product centric. Four value propositions were created: 1) access IT practitioners directly; 2) be close to the business; 3) instill pace using appropriate paradigms; 4) balance strategic versus technical debt, while managing the lifecycle.
  2. Business driven tribes were created, two for each of these four areas. Organisational layers have been removed and the access point to IT changed from management to the practitioners in the tribes.  A corresponding shift to sense and adjust servant leadership was made.
  3. Adoption of the scale free network approach and newly defined ‘intrapreneur’ and ‘extrapreneur’ roles help drive change. Empowering IT practitioners and equipping them the tools they need made a big impact.

The main challenge encountered has been with the group responsible for the largest applications.  It has been the hardest to change, and we hope that use of strangler pattern will help.

Find out more in the IBM Academy of Technology’s TechNote by asking yourself, “How agile is your organization?

Ensuring Trust in Government Services

One of the most impressive developments this week is the launch of the Government-backed Dubai Blockchain Platform.  It is a significant step forward in the digital reinvention of Government to deliver services that are citizen-centric.  Reimagining business processes to be cross-agency demands trust to build and sustain public confidence.  The first application to use the platform is Dubai’s Payments Settlement and Reconciliation System.  It eliminates friction from financial process, reducing the time taken to settle payments between entities from 45 days to near instantaneous.

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I presented on blockchain to over a hundred delegates at digitech18 in Leeds this week.  Blockchain offers opportunities to overcome the inefficiencies that arises when information crosses organizational boundaries.  Processes that span multiple agencies throw up variations in reporting and costly, slow reconciliation because each has its own system of record.  Typically, there is a proliferation of documents, and agencies revert back to these when disputes arise.


A single, shared system of record reduces friction and disputes


There is a single, shared system of record for all agencies when using blockchain.  All have the same view of what has been agreed, and disputes don’t arise because all have agreed consensus: what constitutes a valid transaction.  Only agreed transactions are posted and changes are tamper-proof.  Therefore, records in the blockchain are trusted as the truth and the cost and inertia of reverting to paper records is removed.

Simply underpinning today’s processes with blockchain will not realise the benefits.  Governments need to rethink how they can revolutionise service delivery end-to-end, across Government and beyond.  The expectations that citizens now have in a world where commercial organisations have reinvented industries using digital platforms is now being demanded of Government.


Enabling greater trust in Government


I highlighted two examples of blockchain in Leeds:

  • TradeLens is an open, neutral supply chain platform. It reduces international shipping barriers by overcoming the burden of paper-based processes, data trapped in organizational siloes, disparate perspectives on transaction states, and risk of fraud.  Governments can benefits from using the platform at borders and customs to reduce friction and gain greater visibility of the supply chain which can help target inspections.
  • IBM Food Trust is a platform that helps to build and sustain confidence in food, addressing provenance concerns by recording a complete history. One benefit is that stakeholders, such as supermarkets, are able to identify the exact food packages that should be removed from shelves in the event of a safety issue within minutes rather than days, or even weeks.

There are many other instances where Government can benefit from blockchain including the justice system, sovereign identity, and licensing.


Hyperledger Fabric: ready for Government


Blockchain is about enabling trust in an ecosystem through open governance.  In the same vein, IBM gave its blockchain platform code to the Linux Foundation and the Hyperledger Fabric was formed.  It is open source software with open management and governance, and no private control.  Furthermore, IBM took the view that a permissioned approach to blockchain where the participants are known and access control is intrinsic is the right one for business and Government.

In my blog post last week in the run up to digitech18, I described how a managed implementation of the Hyperledger Fabric is ready to use on the IBM Cloud.  It has enabled the Food Standards Agency to get up and running with its first iteration in three weeks, and gain the benefits of richer information to target an inspection on a suspected outbreak of liver fluke identified at an abattoir in the first week of operation.


Start with opportunities that benefit an ecosystem, not the technology


I closed my talk with three points:

  • The business of Government is no longer centralized but devolved. Ecosystems are now delivering services rather than being limited to processes of a department.  Each participant in the ecosystem has interests and benefits that can come together to make a case for blockchain.
  • Data sharing standards enable rapid implementation of blockchain. Government should lead the way and set the rule to facilitate adoption.
  • Governments should take a citizen-centric approach, and blockchain helps reduce the inertia of sharing information between parties.

Blockchain offers participants in ecosystems indelible, searchable and current views of records, with transaction visibility and transparency.  These are technology enablers of trust across the ecosystem.

You can start here today!

How ready is the public sector for AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) should now be seen as a core part of business transformation rather than merely an interesting technical project.  It means revisiting the relationship between government and its citizens, and rethinking how public services are delivered.

There are already numerous applications deployed that use AI in public sector.  These fall into five areas:

  • Improve customer service contact centres. Assistants are being used to increase both civil servant and citizen satisfaction through greater productivity and accuracy, and extended hours of support.  There is a reduction in mundane work for civil servants, and the burden from citizens on specialists is reduced.  Benefits are being realized within a few weeks.
  • Enhance knowledge workers. AI is particularly attractive in fields with massive volumes of domain-specific data to find patterns that offer improved results.  Fields include legal and regulatory, policy development, oncology, cyber security, and more generally taking this approach helps those on rotation become productive more quickly.
  • Manage the complexity of risk and Contract governance is one such use of AI by Governments.  Operational decision making has also been augmented by AI by monitoring current situations, assessing risks and making recommendations.
  • Find the best talent and modernise learning. AI is being used to analyse the talent market to find candidates who best fit a role.  Aptitude can be assessed to help build digital skills in scarce areas, eg cyber security.  Furthermore, AI aids learning in content, its delivery and management.
  • Empower developers to build AI-powered Equipping business teams to build applications using AI tooling and training platforms has facilitated integration of AI with both existing systems and emerging technologies such as blockchain.  Governments have been able to provide access to video content for its citizens using audio analysis, improve the way they deliver services using speech to text, and better protect critical infrastructure.

The opportunity apparent here is to deliver better services to citizens more quickly whilst reducing the burden on civil servants.  General characteristics can be drawn from these implementations that can be applied to assess those processes that are suitable for AI and likely to deliver benefits.  These are:

  • Does the process exploit a lot of data? And could it benefit from using other accessible content?
  • Is a personalised service required?
  • Is the process repetitive and reliant on a degree of knowledge and intelligence?

Business teams will need to be prepared to move away from the way things have always been done.  One technique to imagine new possibilities with AI is to creatively explore problems from an end user perspective using Design Thinking.

Re-thinking defence and security for the digital age

Strategic threats

The world if facing four strategic threats.  We have unstable but predictable threats from Russia.  Unstable and unpredictable threats in the form of migration, terrorism and nuclear from parts of Africa and the Middle East.  Stable and predictable threats, for now, from China.

This is the backdrop set out by a former senior military officer at SPADE last week in Copenhagen.  This defence conference, now in its sixteenth year, was sponsored by AFCEA, IBM, Samsung, Secunet and SES.  The fourth threat is ourselves in the western world: populism, diminishing cohesion and leadership.  It raises the question, how prepared are we to face these threats?

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Informed decision making

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Let’s consider a macro perspective on information.  I have previously blogged on how data pipelines enable smarter decision making.  They take raw data, fuse and analyse it to sift out the valuable indicators.  These are used to build a coherent picture of what is happening.  The challenge is then making decisions that use the evidence rather than taking the easy option of aligning with prevailing perceptions, and then being capable of acting accordingly.

Four areas to improve

Speakers from eighteen defence departments around the world, NATO and the EU debated how technologies can help present the indicators and coherent picture.  An essential, if partial, contribution.  Here is a selection.

  1. Coherent C4ISR is required. Fusion of sensor data and integration of systems, both tactical and command, overcomes current siloes.  A step-by-step approach should be taken.  Connectivity and interoperability between allies are important design principles.
  2. Mission, including platform, readiness needs greater focus. It is dependent on network enabled capability, but also requires smarter approaches to communications, maintenance, optimising inventory for operations, and through the supply chain.  Mesh networks, IoT, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer opportunities.
  3. Kinetic operations have become secondary to the digital domain. Information security efforts must focus on protecting communications as well as information.  Approaches are needed to deal with influence through disinformation.
  4. Use of Artificial Intelligence is gathering pace in the commercial world. Scale is being achieved through the use of machine learning, graph analytics, and video and speech analysis.  Defence will need to shift from requirements-based procurement to writing capabilities statements for what it needs on the battlefield.  It is the only way to stay ahead of the emerging technology curve.

Reinvention

NATO sees mobility, cloud and AI as technology disruptors.  From these come opportunities, some of which are outlined above.  Nevertheless, re-thinking defence and security for the digital age – the theme of the SPADE conference – demands more: digital reinvention.  Critical success factors are:

  1. Business projects with business commitment, not IT projects
  2. Create culture of innovation where air cover is given for teams to fail
  3. Agile thinking in place of programmes
  4. Partnerships with benefits for everyone
  5. Senior/board level focus on talent

Integration across siloes, interoperability and the application of AI are just three examples of what it takes to be ready for highly intensive, full spectrum operations.

 

Introducing Tech Insights

Thanks for joining me!

I shall be sharing personal perspectives on cloud, data and analytics, and the use of technology in Government in line with IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines.

I have blogged extensively in recent years, as well as providing copy and interviews to trade press and national media.  Here are some of those articles and publications for your convenience.

IBM Insights on Business (generating insight sooner)

Many posts on IBM’s Big Data & Analytics Hub

Big data patterns and maturity model on IBM developerWorks

Big data is multi-disciplinary

Making data serve society (The IET)

Behind the scenes of IBM’s Wimbledon data bunker (The Guardian)

Cyber Security: Protecting the Public Sector and subsequent articles in SC Magazinecouncils must improve their digital security, building a risk aware cyber secure culture.

An author of the IBM Redbook: Implementing a service-oriented architecture using an enterprise service bus

Check out my profile.