New Zealand Government websites could get more centralized

In years of servicing government departments, it's tedious and professionally frustrating to see so many similar-but-not-the-same sites built to order for different agencies. The RFP process especially seems to waste a lot of time on both ends as the client (Government Dept etc) tries to re-state their requirements, throw in feature requests, and the Web agency then tries to invent a new solution for them.

These are solved problems

We could reverse that trend and save hundreds of hours each time if there was a baseline “here is a website that does what we know you need, now lets see what needs to be changed” approach. Creating a few common web site templates, and standardizing (or at least narrowing the field of choices) could provide a number of advantages.

All the good-sized web development agencies are familiar with NZ Government requirements for websites, and should be able to pre-emptively start to provide the solution they need, rather than the one they think they want.

Swapping technologies every few years hurts

Additionally, Government re-tendering (where departments are required to go to market for alternative suppliers on a regular basis) seems to create a lot of busy-work as different agencies use different technologies and different workflows to try and manage what used to be effectively the same product. This process often seems to involve a change of technology as different suppliers have different preferred solutions. The work done in moving from one system to another is often expensive effort, and can make up a hugely disproportionate amount of the budgets.

Competition and choice is good, but if the field of preferred methodologies was narrowed, a lot of savings could be made. Maybe less cash for the competing web agencies though.

With the best result for the New Zealand Government as a whole in mind - that time could be better spent making a better product.

Life would be so much better for both developer and client if we had a more consistent playing field.

What? Less Choice? Surely open is good?

As an Open-Source advocate, it feels strange to argue for a more confined market.

If Microsoft or Apple were the only game in town, the world would be a poorer place. But it's also arguable that there would be a lot less friction, a lot less standards wars, and a lot less time wasted doing conversions between systems.

There will always be variety, and that's a good thing. We will always need the freedom to choose the right tool for the job. We need innovation - The next big thing to come along may in fact be a better thing than the one we were using last year.


And here's the but. It seems too far out the other end of the scale for one organization to be paying to support more than two dozen different CMS systems because their departments are all doing their own thing! Sure, ColdFusion programmers still need to eat, Plone seemed like a good idea at the time, sometimes Wordpress is all you need, Maybe FrontPage was already installed on someones desktop, or maybe the only IT guy in the office was a Perl fan.

However, after all allowances for diversity have been made - The New Zealand Government as a whole - could benefit technologically, and save a hell of a lot of money for the taxpayer, by picking one (or several) of the front-runners and specifying both preference and support for that as a website publishing platform.

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