Today I had a very interesting conversation with a client from a national government department who is trying to make a business case for using web 2.0 technologies and approaches. What the client is particularly interested on is the impact on effectiveness and efficiency of internal government operations, since his agency is responsible for rationalizing cross-government processes.
During the discussion we went through a number of examples that we are aware of in different jurisdictions, and it occurred to me that almost none of those, including the most successful one, had any sort of solid business case behind. In some cases it was just a leap of faith (combined with the authority and clout of a leader to make it happen). In other cases there was just a general sense that greater transparency and collaboration could help, but there was no way to articulate the actual value. In other cases it was a response to the need to be seen as modern and up-to-date. Interestingly, all these can lead to either success or failure, which mostly depend on whether there is a sufficiently compelling purpose for those who are expected to participate.
But a purpose is not a business case. It won’t tell you how much money or time you are going to save, nor by how much you are going to improve in meeting certain quantitative goals. I know, this conflicts with whatever we have been saying about the importance of business cases to align IT to the business. But if there is a sufficiently common purpose, if there are common pain points that might be addressed by just reaching out to people outside (or even inside government, but overcoming organization barriers), then it is worth trying.
One might observe that, given the financial crisis and economy downturn, this is not the right time for experimentation. I would rather say that, as many government organizations are facing unprecedented challenges, the time is exactly now.
Category: web 2.0 in government Tags: