Interview met Joost Visser, lid van het Adviescollege in I/O Magazine

A critical yet constructive role

As of January this year, Joost Visser of Leiden University became a member of the Advisory Council on IT Assessment. He states that the council has come a long way and is still improving.

By Marysa van den Berg (interview in I/O Magazine april 2023)

‘The primary role of the Advisory Council on IT Assessment (in Dutch: Adviescollege ICT-toetsing) is to critically assess the chances of success of large IT-projects – with budgets exceeding 5 million euros – of the national government and to provide
recommendations for improvement. The council has been doing this successfully over the last eight years. One of its accomplishments is that the great majority of its recommendations are accepted and implemented by the project organisers.

Joost Visser, lid
Joost Visser

Governmental IT projects are as large and as complex as IT projects get. And they are often surprisingly innovative. The amount of data, users, requirements and connections with other systems can be overwhelming. As a council, we try to
be critical but also fair and constructive. It is easy to point out apparent problems, such as budget overruns or failed deadlines. Uncovering the root causes and indicating effective steps for correction and control form a bigger challenge.’

Critical assessment

‘I do like the challenge of the job. In the past, I have been assessing IT projects in the private and public sector in a different role with the Software Improvement Group. Assessing IT projects and systems is interesting and rewarding, as it requires a lot of critical thinking, careful analysis, but also situational awareness, and clarity of presentation. Things I enjoy as a scientist as well. And I think the role of independent assessor of complex IT in general, and especially the council’s role within the governmental IT landscape, is essential, as it ultimately helps to successfully develop our digital society.

In addition, the council must also critically reflect on its own activities and welcome feedback. In fact, several years ago, I wrote an opinion article with a colleague where we, as outsiders, formulated several suggestions for improvement for the council, which was then still called Bureau ICT Assessment (BIT). One of these was to further standardise its assessment procedures and to increase transparency. Now I have joined the council, I am happy to see that it has grown and developed in these and other aspects over the years. I feel the responsibility to help continue that movement.’

This interview is published in the April 2023 I/O Magazine.

Joost Visser is Professor of Large Scale Software and Data Science at Leiden University, Programme Manager of the Master in ICT in Business and the Public Sector, and Head of the LIACS (Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science) Software Lab. Previously, he fulfilled R&D leadership positions at the Software Improvement Group (SIG).