Learning from mistakes

Norway conference showcases digitisation failures


Norway’s public services should not hesitate to try out alternative methods to manage IT projects, or scrap a modernisation project before it goes under, government representatives said recently. Learning from mistakes was the theme at Norway’s annual Feiltrinn (‘mistakes’ or ‘missteps’) conference, organised by Norway’s Agency for Public Management and eGovernment, Difi.

This year’s conference, which took place in Oslo on 6 December, discussed a modernisation drive by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (Arbeids- og velferdsdirektoratet or NAV).

In 2011 NAV embarked on a project to modernise its IT services, including the phasing out of some of its core computer systems dating from the 1970s. The project had a budget of NKR 1.3 billion (about EUR 130 million). In early 2013 NAV realised that the project would run over budget and would take years longer than planned.

At the conference, former NAV director Joakim Lystad - who was fired in 2015 - talked about his decision in 2014 to halt the massive overhaul and start over, this time taking much smaller steps. “A crisis can be productive”, he concluded. “There is no shame in turning around.”

NAV estimated the value of unused work at about NKR 300 miilion (about EUR 30 million).

NAV also presented its testing of alternative ways to manage IT projects. The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation reviewed its four-year change project to improve public services governance and leadership.

“To find innovative methods and better solutions, we have to try our way forward,” Difi writes in its conference announcement. “Innovation is about daring to try, test, fail, learn, develop, test, redo, fail, test, fail, learn more and trying again.”

All the presentations from the fourth Feiltrinn conference are available online, including as videos.

More information:

Feiltrinn conference

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