by Steve Shine

A rare opportunity to implement effective change?

Apr 25, 2010
IT Leadership

  • MODspending gets slammed in enquiry (again)…
  • Government IT Policygets yet another revamp after seeing no change in practices…
  • Unprecedented budget cuts and staff reductions looming across UK government…
  • The winds of change in political leadership…

Whenever you implement change, there are always vested parties who resist the changes. But in times of acute difficulties, resisting change is a dangerous tactic. The UK Governmenthas an opportunity to introduce effective IT policy change like never before.

For as long as I can remember (which is a pretty long time!) the UK Government has been criticised for its waste and incompetence in procuring and delivering IT systems to support the UK. Only a few weeks ago, we heard headline news from the Rt Hon James ArbuthnotMP, Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, who heavily criticised the MOD for ineffective and outdated procurement practices and wastage. This, and many reports like it, concentrate on that fact that UK government procurement shows no innovation. It still procures from the same tight knit group of “inside” suppliers and awards huge multi-year contracts with little or no competitive tendering. How many times have we heard such reports yet nothing seems to change?  Right now there is a very large negotiation underway to renew Oracle’s contract with the MOD which, in theory, should be put to competitive tender but sadly is being conducted behind closed doors. How can you possibly get the best deal for the UK tax payer if you are negotiating with only one supplier???

The procurement of IT within Government seems to be particularly prone to criticism. IT practices and technology around the world has moved on leaps and bounds. Smaller more agile approaches to systems development, transparent value based tendering and the adoption of newer technologies has driven huge productivity gains throughout the world. Unfortunately for UK taxpayers, the Government cannot seem to break out of the “old way of doing things”.

This week the Conservative party issued a Conservative Technology Manifestowhich takes some pretty radical views on how to use technology as a force for change as well as a means to drive cost and inefficiency out of UK Government. If enough people demand change, it can happen.

There are clearly some very able people within the UK public sector,  as well as in various parts of the machinery of Government and Politics, who all seem to share a common view on the opportunity for the UK Government to make changes now.  In times of crisis, which the UK is surely embarking on, we need these people to come together and wrestle these changes through the system.

I see the tough times ahead as a great opportunity for the change agents in UK Government.