by Mark Chillingworth

Government choose redundancies rather than change – CIO Suffolk

Feb 28, 2011
IT Leadership

With CIO John Suffolk departing the Tory led Coalition government he’s allowed the lion’s share of airtime in a Cisco cloud computing debate. What is of most interest, is that Suffolk uses the broadcast as an opportunity to reveal that complete lack of appetite government has for real change.
CIO columnists Richard Sykeshosts the online video debate on the role cloud computing has for the government. Westminster City Council CIO David Wilde joins Suffolk and Sykes on the couch.  
Suffolk tellingly reveals that total lack of clarity about the changes and improvements IT can offer government. 
“One of the last things I told the last government was: ‘One of the worst things you did was to give people too much money. When you have no money, the harsh reality of having no money is that people make better decisions,” Suffolk says. 
This is a clear example of the constantly shifting pendulum of authority in this Green and Pleasant land. The former Labour government re-invigorated the public sector by giving it plentiful funding. Today’s Conservative Party led Coalition government is making drastic cuts to pay off the debt the nation incurred to keep the banking sector afloat. Just last week a doctor told me in despair the reality of life inside the NHS under David Cameron where patients are told that they cannot under any circumstances have further treatment they really need. It’s boom or bust for the public sector depending on whom is in power.  
The pendulum of too much revenue to too little means at no time do those operating the various agencies of state assess – together – whether things could be done in a better way. Throughout the debate it became clear that across Whitehall and local government there are too many fiefdoms. 
Cloud computing is following in the wake of shared services with authorities developing their own cloud solutions for their own needs. But as Wilde pointed out:
“You’re not taking advantage of the marketplace if you build a cloud,” the Westminster CIO has done a deal with a Rotherham based service provider, which hosts a number of different organisations and has saved Westminster considerable sums, he claims. 
Wilde adds: “The really annoying thing of the public sector is there are lots of instances of the same system in different authorities.” 
As the Tory cuts make themselves felt in cities like Liverpool, Suffolk rounds on the authorities for not changing. 
“Local authorities are making people redundant and it’s their choice because they don’t want to bite the bullet on all this duplication. What will make them work together?” 
Sykes and the two CIOs challenged the big vendors like Cisco to become “heavy lifters” large cloud providers who can offer large processes to a wide variety of government areas, leaving the bespoke work to specialists. Cisco’s Public Sector strategist Andy MacLeod defended vendors pointing out that the difficulty with cloud is that the “hard bit is identifying the reward”.
Cisco should be applauded for allowing the debate to be an open discussion and for not turning this into an opportunity to flog kit or talk “paradigm shifts”. This is a good web debate and can be viewed from here