Remember the NHS IT fiasco? Between 2002 and 2011 the Government spent upwards of £11 billion trying to make health service computer systems work more efficiently. They failed. The money was a write-off.
But perhaps it wasn’t completely wasted. Because the subsequent political crisis led directly to the setting up of the Government Digital Service (GDS), which in turn established the concept of “digital transformation”. The GDS approach has so far saved the British taxpayer over £50 billion.
As GDS themselves put it, they’re in the business of “making digital services so good, people prefer to use them”. Every time you update your road tax, you’re using a GDS system. The GDS model has since been successfully copied by other governments, businesses and bureaucracies around the world.
Of course, when it comes to bureaucracy, property management organisations are quite capable of giving governments a run for their money. Like barnacles on the bottom of a boat, property management processes have a tendency to accrete over time, which, at scale, invariably slows down the enterprise and makes it less efficient.
Software systems tend to fossilise those processes still further. Users are forced to follow the way the software does things, rather than the other way around.