By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: A British government IT system that works

I'm in London for the next few days, working on a case for use in classroom instruction at Harvard (and maybe elsewhere, if other professors want to buy the case from our case program!). The case involves the Joint Personnel Application. This system is similar to Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, except that it is actually in operation and has replaced the legacy systems of each of the three British military services.


The system, based on modified commercial off-the-shelf technology, was built based on the principle that for the services to achieve significant cost savings, they had to harmonize their business processes and adapt them to the COTS technology. So an important part of the case study is understanding how such harmonization was able to take place, despite inherent difficulties familiar to anyone involved in such efforts.


One thing that has made an impression on me so far is how the Ministry of Defense made it clear to the contractor, EDS, that its success on the program would have an important influence over its future as a supplier to the British military. EDS has had a number of high-profile failures, and the government let the company know that there could be no lose-win on the program -- either both EDS and the government won, or EDS and the government lost. This message, coming from high levels of the Ministry of Defense, was made clear to the highest levels of EDS leadership.


In other words, it was an aggressive use of past performance.


We need to be in the habit of being as aggressive about our use of past performance in our government as well.


BTW, for readers following my various travelogues, my teaching in the MPP (Master's of Public Policy) program -- aka "the kids" -- starts again next Wednesday, after a year's sabbatical. I am juiced up to be getting to know a new cohort of Kennedy School students. But I'll be travelling less -- maybe there'll be more blogs about the classroom and the kids.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jan 24, 2008 at 12:09 PM


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