by Edward Qualtrough

Local government CIOs toil with joint procurement and shared services

Aug 22, 20132 mins
GovernmentIT Strategy

Public sector CIOs are being forced to focus on tactical cost reductions in periphery IT services, are acting in a piecemeal way due to limited availability in the vendor market and feel they are not able to deliver shared services on a major scale.

These were some of the findings of a recent Local Government Study by RPC Consulting, released earlier this month, after interviewing 27 CIOs and senior transformation executives in local government – including a housing association and one arm’s length management organisation alongside 25 councils.

RPC’s Chris Airey, who featured in the CIO 100 earlier this year, discussed the findings with local government CIOs and CIO UK, looking at how the government’s austerity measures are affecting technology procurement and the delivery of local services, as well as how the vendor market was viewed by the CIO community.

Airey explained that while CIOs are being more commercial and seeking value for money, a long-term pressure on pricing will remain for the foreseeable future, and said that CIOs had responded that because of such a fragmented and complicated sourcing market there were big vendor opportunities if software partners could articulate the benefits of a certain strategy.

Decision-making, however, was primarily being driven by cost.

“CIOs are not terminating contracts on performance. Rather, they are being terminated because of cost and to take systems off maintenance while accepting some risk, not because another supplier is being seen as much better,” Airey said.

Joint procurement was viewed as structurally difficult to achieve, while the few examples of shared services successes seen by CIOs as being limited to non-core services.

Sheffield City Council CIO Paul Green said that he was frustrated with trying to pursue shared services arrangements. “We’re now looking at a multi-agency approach as a city with health and other departments.”

The study showed little evidence of transformational ‘invest to save’ spending, with silos and leadership seen as the major barriers. It was on the agenda, however, for some of the bigger and sleeker authorities.

Sheffield’s Green, who has recently over the City Council’s corporate transformation team, said: “The problem is whether IT is actually seen as an enabler of change or just viewed as another cost?

“If the CIO doesn’t articulate the value of IT to the rest of the organisation then there’s no chance of transformation,” he said.