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Government Governance

The figure below highlights one problem with government “governance” of big software systems development. Sure, it’s dated, but it drives home the point that there’s a standards quagmire out there, no?

Stds Quagmire

Imagine that you’re a government contractor and, for every system development project you “win“, you’re required to secure “approval” from a different subset of authorities in a quagmire standards “system” like the one above. Just think of the overhead cost needed to keep abreast of, to figure out which, and to comply with, the applicable standards your product must conform to. Also think of the cost to periodically get your company and/or its products assessed and/or certified. If you ever wondered why the government pays $1000 for a toilet seat, look no further.

I look at this random, fragmented standards diagram as a paranoid, cover-your-ass strategy that government agencies can (and do) whip out when big systems programs go awry: “The reason this program is in trouble is because standards XXX and YYY were not followed“. As if meeting a set of standards guarantees robust, reliable, high-performing systems. What a waste. But hey, it’s other people’s money (yours and mine), so no problemo.

  1. March 19, 2014 at 1:29 am

    “… why the government pays $1000 for a toilet seat, look no further. I look at this random, fragmented standards diagram as a paranoid, cover-your-ass strategy …

    Does this meaning covering your ass with a toilet seat? (Well I thought it was funny anyway :-))

    • March 19, 2014 at 4:36 am

      Hah hah. Hadn’t explicitly thought of that connection. Somehow I was thinking ass & $1000 toilet seat when writing the post. Add to this the fact that I use lots of “poopies” in my pics and it may seem like I have an obsession with bowel related concepts.

  2. March 19, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    One of life’s little secrets – government vendors do not produce things for the government, they produce documentation of compliance with a million and one specifications (none of which seem to adequately specify the underlying function desired). Thus we can get the $1000 toilet seat with 5,000 pages of documentation and certification, that won’t actually fit a toilet and the vendor will be blameless because they met the specifications provided.

    This is why I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories – all evidence is that the government would be hard pressed to conspire to hold a company picnic.

    • March 19, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Hah! One of my friends is a huge government conspiracy theorizer. I’ll show him your comment just to piss him off :).

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