I started to think about the technology strategy at the beginning of 2016. Our previous strategies had focused on our adoption of Office 365 and our detailed preparations for the 2015 general election. It was clearly time to change our thinking about the future. Crucially we needed to consider how technology was going to support the digital strategy for Parliament and Parliament’s objectives.
If you’re going to have a governance process you need to have some principles to apply. That’s where the technology strategy comes in.
Things had moved on
Things had changed significantly since the last IT strategy for Parliament. Technologies had moved on and our confidence in cloud platforms had significantly increased. The Digital Service had really got behind agile techniques for developing services and our data and web teams were making great progress in their work.
So we needed a technology strategy that would:
- support the digital strategy
- be meaningful for at least four years
- reflect our aspirations to adopt new technologies
- support the work of our infrastructure teams who buy big bits of kit and make big up-front decisions
- support the work of our agile and iterative development teams
We’ve all seen IT strategies that are simply lists of technologies that an organisation’s planning to buy. These are often out of date within a year. We were determined to avoid that mistake and decided to focus on the principles that should inform our technology work over the next few years.
I worked closely with colleagues across PDS to define and agree our principles. We also looked at other examples of strategies, and debated about technologies, culture and working practices. We wanted to make sure we were drawing close links to the digital strategy for Parliament.
Technology strategy principles
These are the principles that we came up with:
Start with user needs
Our designs should always start by considering the needs of users.
Openness and transparency are the focus of Parliament’s digital strategy. The use of open standards supports flexibility and reusability.
Keep things simple
We’ll aim to remove complexity from our services as simpler systems are more reliable and easier to support.
Secure our technology
Our services should use government and industry best practices to make sure they’re secure.
Use cloud first
Parliament will always make use of cloud services where they’re available.
Reuse data and technology
Parliament will aim to reuse existing data sets and technology components.
Keep applications and services loosely coupled
Applications should avoid creating dependencies that will make it difficult to update or replace. This will also help to reduce expensive IT contracts.
We’ll automate our services as much as possible for repeatability and consistency.
Make things accessible
Our services must be accessible to all users.
Manage the whole lifecycle
Manage the full lifecycle of the applications and services so that they’re decommissioned at the end of their lifecycle.
Our technology strategy was approved back in November 2016. That leaves us with two more steps. Developing detailed roadmaps that show how we’ll be updating our technical tools and developing a governance process to make sure that any new systems follow the principles in the strategy.
This is the first of two blog posts about our approach to technical governance in PDS. I’m going to cover the governance process next time.
Read more about the technology work at PDS.