We've all been there. We've seen the research project develop a "proof of concept" then deployed it to production as a "pilot" (production in lieu of testing). Then the business processes change due to the new system making it business critical. However, as a "proof of concept," it wasn't built with appropriate security or resilience and became a liability to the organization. Now the business doesn’t want to pay for hardening, it already has the functionality, and IT doesn’t have the discretionary budget to fix the issues. This situation occurs when the corporate IT group’s research relies on funding from a supporting business area or an investment plan with a specified deliverable as an outcome.
IT research for CIOs in government agencies sounds like a dream but is probably never going to happen. However, a small investment of time and money applied to the right experiments can deliver valuable insights and guidance for your technology strategy and investment plan.
So, what can IT research look like within the average government agency?
IT research should only be conducted on technologies that may have meaning for the agency and support the strategic direction. Applying research dollars on answering questions like, "Is this technology a good fit," "how would technology x impact the workforce," or "how can I integrate this technology into my existing environment?", will allow agencies to make strategic progress. Experiments designed like this should not seek to solve a business problem or deliver a product but provide the organization with more planning certainty. These are often referred to as “safe to fail” experiments.
Look for experiments that inform the technology investment roadmap. Experiments aimed at testing new or existing assumptions are the most valuable as they reduce risk and uncertainty from existing and proposed investments. These experiments could be paper based, workshop driven, or development focused. These should all be time-constrained activities with a defined scope (what assumption is being tested, and what are the conditions for success), to focus the activity and deliver insight as quickly as feasible. It should be noted that if the experiment outcomes disprove your original assumption or hypothesis it has still been successful.
Agencies already absorb the cost of creating business cases for new investment proposals and many CIOs seek seed funding for initial viability assessments for more extensive programs of work. Building a research framework to propose, select, design and execute experiments that is aligned with this investment process will prove valuable to the IT area and the wider agency. If a proposed experiment requires more time or external assistance this is an indication that seed funding needs to be sought for the development of that business proposal. The same framework can be used to test new architectural patterns, technology platforms, and integration methods, feeding results into your architecture board and technology roadmap.
In short, most CIOs are already expending money on investment planning and business case development that could be structured into a research framework. Allowing the CIO to be ahead of the game and reducing delivery uncertainty in planned investments.
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