Projects are hard. Especially IT ones. As well as considering the business objectives you are trying to achieve you also need to consider lots of other things: the sort of technology platform you’re going to sit your solution on, the support model, the types of security you are going to need to introduce, etc. Worse than that, projects are often single-minded in their purpose. They have a goal to achieve within a timescale and their success is measured by reaching that goal within that time limit.
When the project is operating under a wider organisational banner, the project can get harder still. Now you have to consider the wider organisational dependencies in your project. You find you now need to integrate to other systems to access dependent data. You may also need to consider whether the technology stack you intend to use is compatible with a system that needs to access your data. Often you will find that the actual ‘new’ stuff is much easier to do than linking back to the existing estate.
When liaising at a business level it is often difficult to explain or articulate the dependency complexities. It is often simpler for projects to bypass those complexities rather than dealing with the elephant in the room. This often results in a more complicated architecture, duplicated data sets (which then need synchronising) and a more involved business workflow.
The SFA is trying to make this easier by promoting the use of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). This approach champions the building of components that are designed to be integrated with. These new ‘services’ are based around open-standards, are technology agnostic and are self-contained. Most importantly, the definition of what that service does is defined at a business not technology level. Given that projects should be based around business requirements this will make it much more straightforward to identify the components that dependent new technology initiatives will need and the implications to using them.
The Funding and Contracting Transformation programme (FCT) is the first of the new SFA programmes to embrace this approach. Aside from making the overall integration effort much easier it also helps the business to more effectively relate to what each of their services do and to put a business value upon them. In a world where the Agency needs to have greater clarity of its overall Total Cost of Ownership it is imperative that the organisation better ties its technology and information base to a real cost benefit.
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