Sunday, 28 August 2011

Parliament - Time for Change - Radical Suggestions

Having voted this year to retain the current first past the post electoral system, as out of the systems on offer, it was to me the only viable choice; but it got me thinking...

  • Does the current system provide fair representation?
  • Is there a fairer way which would represent a larger proportion of the electorate?
  • Wouldn't it be nice to do away with the cross party point scoring!
  • What if we could take the good ideas from each party!
It often strikes me when talking politics with others, regardless of party affiliation, that there is a large amount of cross party consensus, certainly at the grass roots levels, yet party politics seems to get in the way. If only there was a way to get all the parties to work together then we might;

  • Actually allow the best ideas to become policy regardless of which party has them.
  • Reduce, or even eradicate party political point scoring.
  • Remove the constant references and point scoring based on polling data on which party is currently leading.
  • Get all the parties working for the good of the country not trying to increase the electability of their party.
  • Remove party political voting in parliament.
So how could we achieve this?
    Well the following is a radical suggestion that has been floating around my head for a while on how it might be possible to level the political playing field and get all our politicians working in the same direction for the betterment of our country and not have to worry or be concerned with oversight from their own party. It is radical, it might not be perfect but perhaps we need some radical suggestions in order to find a better way of running the country.

    Firstly lets look at our local MP's...
    With the current electoral system we have a single MP for each designated seat, elected based on first past the post (most votes) and from one political party. They are elected as full time MP's for the defined period of that parliament. Although the method of voting under proportional representation would be different and some argue could produce a different "winner" it still only provides for single party representation during that parliament. Many argue that neither system provides for majority representation.
    So how can we change the system to provide for a more majority representation.

    My suggestion would be as follows (and could also be a format for local government);
    • Instead of a single MP, whose sole role is as an MP, create 3 positions and divide the role between 3 people, each person from a different party. 
    • The 3 people work collectively under the terms of a collective agreement where each person is an equal. 
    • They will be expected to come to a collective agreement on each parliamentary issue. 
    • They should share equally the role and take it in turns to attend parliament. 
    • They would not be expected to just be an MP but also retain other employment and their renumeration would reflect this expectation.
    How do we get to the three representatives...
    • Each party provides two candidates for each seat
    • Each candidate should have been resident in the seat for a minimum of 10 years
    • On election day each voter has a single vote and votes for the person they wish to represent them.
    • The candidate from each party with the most votes moves forward and takes their and the other candidates number of votes with them.
    • Then the collective of three is decided by the number of votes each candidate brought forward with them - the three candidates with the most votes become the representatives for that seat.
    This format would mean that the elected representatives would hold collectively the majority of votes for each seat, with a collective number of votes far larger than delivered by the first past the post system, and providing cross party representation of the people from within the seat and across the country.

    The Cabinet, PM & Deputy's
    There is of course still the need for country leadership and the decision making cabinet.
    • The cabinet would be formed from a percentage representation of elected representatives.
      • e.g Cons 30%, Lab 30%, LibDem 30%, Green 5%, Others 5%
      • Each party would offer up a candidate for each role and each seats representatives would vote for there preferred candidate for each role ensuring the above percentage split was observed.
    • PM would be party leader with the most number of elected representatives.
      • Two Deputy's would be party leaders from next two parties with the most votes - adopting the trio consortium also in place in each seat.
    The system would also require controls to prevent political parties forming groups to force through policy - as this would be against the fundamental principals of a political system such as this.

    This is far from a polished proposal; but a radical suggestion and attempt at making the UK parliament more democratic and more representative of the UK voting public.

    I'm sure I have missed some fundamental issues (such as funding of the parties - but that is a whole different debate entirely and for another day) and/or taken parts from other proposals.. But it is a suggestion and as with all my posts here to encourage debate...

    Wednesday, 3 August 2011

    Government IT Projects - A way forward!? (A long second post)

    So today the Public Accounts Committee published their report into the NHS Care Records system. As has been reported the findings from the PAC concludes that the project has failed, cost a huge amount of money and failed to deliver.

    I must state, I did at one time work on the project and the findings are hardly a surprise.

    Once again we are in a position where a large scale Government IT project has failed and cost the tax payers a huge sum of money.

    In the IT circles within the private sector, Government IT projects are often discussed, laughed at and gawped at from afar - many looking on in disbelief at what has gone on; some even from working on the projects staring at their project plans/scope in disbelief in what they are being asked to do. We all ask time and time again "how can this keep happening" "why do they not learn the lessons" "if this happened in the private sector we would be sacked or the company would go bust!".

    Unfortunately what always seems to happen is an enquiry where some element of blame is thrown around, whether it be at the Government departments charged with delivering the project, or aimed at the vendors/contractors charged with delivering the solution or party political blame - but never do we get to the root of the problems which caused the overall project to fail.

    It is also important to explain this last paragraph as it always seems to get missed. There is almost always a clear distinction between roles in a project where a company is asking an external party to provide a solution to a requirement - you have the role of defining the project and delivery of the overall project which falls to the initiating company, in this case Government (Civil Servants) - and the design and delivery of the solution to meet the companies needs, which falls to the external party who has been successful, usually, through a bid process.

    So where does it all go wrong?
    Well lets look at it this way, the external companies who are delivering the solutions are picked, I would imagine, because they are successful companies who have a track record in delivering solutions to their customer base. After all they would not be successful companies if a large proportion of the solutions they delivered did not meet their customers needs. Yet in recent times we hear time and again that government IT projects fail, that they have gone wildly over budget and still not delivered a fully working solution.

    Now if this was one solution provider you might think, well why do the government keep using them, but there are numerous different companies that have been involved in these different projects. If we look at the NHS project, originally four companies where picked to implement the solution, the idea being this would provide competition and avoid the risk of committing to a single supplier which may not deliver. Yet over the course of the project, the number of suppliers has halved, either from withdrawal or contract termination and of the remaining two we find in todays report that they have failed to deliver; perhaps now calling into question the original scope and project definition - if the original scope and definition are are wrong how could the project ever succeed?

    So looking at the history of Government IT projects what is the common denominator in all these projects? The Government IT and the civil servants charged with running and delivering the projects!
    There we go with apportioning blame again - it's all the Central Government and Civil Servants fault!
    Well yes and no - in reality both sides need to share the blame of previously failed projects, but the Government needs to stand up and take responsibility and change the way it runs IT projects.

    How can this be done?
    Project Definition & Running the Project
    Firstly, the Government needs to take a long hard look at how the projects are defined, run and critically who should do this. The vision or requirements certainly have a place within Government but I would question whether the Government itself has the skills and experience to then initiate and run the project from looking at the catalogue of past failed projects. There are plenty of private sector companies with vast amounts of experience in successfully running large scale IT projects. Unfortunately the Governments track record is very poor at running large scale IT projects.

    Secondly, I would question wether the Governments Civil Servants have the experience to provide technical design authority and project governance in what are usually solutions utilising multiple technologies brought together to provide a complete solution - again this is an area that the private sector has a wealth of experience in delivering.

    Some will argue that using the private sector in these roles introduces higher risk and cost - I would counter that with saying, with the right contracts (another thing government needs to look to the private sector for) this should actually mitigate risk and reduce cost. One figure that seems to be missing with the NHS project is what the Government department running the project has cost so far, we hear all about how much has been paid to the service providers, but not what the internal cost of running the project has been.

    The Solution Providers / Solution Design
    It would seem that where projects have gone wrong before, is when the solution providers have been given too much scope to design the solution without sufficient technical governance and over site from the Government, primarily because it would seem the Governments Civil Servants do not have the experience and knowledge to provide it. Whereas projects run and governance provided by private sector companies who have this experience should stop the solution providers often coming up with hugely complex solutions, where actually there is probably a lot of simplification that can be made if the design is properly reviewed. This is exactly what happens in the private sector today, an exchange of ideas between the customer and solution provider ultimately ends with an optimal solution design and a clear cost and scope for delivery. Project governance from both parties should then provide clear documentation and process for any scope changes and associated costs - something the PAC report says is missing from the NHS project.

    If I was to take it a stage further, as these are projects funded from the public purse, why not put the designs out for public consultation!? Maybe a radical idea, but my local authority has started putting it's policy documents out for public review, after all they will affect us all, so why should we not get an input to how our money is going to be spent!

    So to conclude a mammoth second ever blog post - there is much to be done by the Government to stop the continual IT project failures and it appears the present Government has started the process. But I fear until the Government carries out full enquiries and actually looks to the private sector for assistance at all levels of the project nothing will change.

    Lets all hope for some radical thinking in the very near future.

    **Please remember the ethos of this blog - these are my views and observation and I welcome constructive and reasoned debate. So please feel free to comment and discuss further

    Wednesday, 13 July 2011

    Welcome - First Post!

    Why I have started
    I have often thought about starting a blog, but never really got round to it. I have always thought, do people really want to hear about what I think!?
    I enjoy a good debate and find debating issues, what ever they maybe, helps to enrich my own knowledge and also appreciate other peoples approach and points of view, however right I may think I am.
    So here we go - please bear with me as I learn the ropes of blogging - are there do's and don'ts of blogging?

    What to expect from me
    Probably a varied mix of blogs on current affairs including Technology, Politics (I vote conservative - doesn't mean I agree with everything they do), Sport, Local (to me) Topics and anything else I might have a view on.
    Please remember these are my personal views, I am posting them to encourage your views and to debate the topics. We all have our own opinions, of which we are entitled too, and I know I can often become blinded to the other side, firmly believing my view is the only right one - So looking forward to some lively debate and discussions - but please remember everyone is entitled to their own opinions and these should be respected always.

    The start of a Journey - looking forward to see where it goes and meeting/debating with some interesting people along the way.