Tory’s want IT Reform

Posted by Kevin Brady on Tue 2nd March 2010 at 09:36 PM, Filed in Project /Programme FailuresIndustry News

One of the big complaints about the Conservatives in recent weeks has been a growing concern about their lack of policy. I believe this is very much a real issue for the Tories and in some ways I believe they have been unfairly slated. To be fair the other parties are just as bad and aren’t showing their policy cards either. At the moment politics seems to be all about themes and no substance. However, state IT reform is an area where the Conservatives have clearly revealed some excellent Government IT policy intentions.

Today I decided to call Conservative Central Office and see if I could get details of the Conservatives IT policy. I have to say the policy statement I received was clearly drafted by someone with real world knowledge and experience of the problems which have faced government IT procurement in recent years. The policy explained to me was published in their draft document called “Delivering Change” which sets out a draft version of their approach to government IT. This was officially adopted as party policy in December 2009. Fantastic! the policies if implemented are exactly what the IT industry the Project Management profession and the State Deficit need with little downside :-

  • Throw open policy-making process to crowd-sourcing and collaborative design.
  • Impose a moratorium on existing and upcomoinng procurements
  • Strengthen the central role of CIOs, giving them greater responsibility for the effective management and delivery of projects. -At last people who are accountable for success / failure of IT Projects / Programmes. Hopefully this might make them think a little more clearly about the feasibility of the projects / programmes they initiate.
  • Immediately establish a presumption that IT projects should not exceed £100 million in total value. At last someone has noticed that large projects / programmes fail 90% of the time. Anyone working for the Big 5 consultancies knows this for real.
  • Build a register of IT of related assets across government, including intellectual property rights, so that taxpayers do not pay for material they already own.Consultancies and IT providers have exploited poor interdepartmental communications in government for years and double charging for similar projects and materials across government are common.
  • Expect senior responsible owners (SROs), the designated owners of IT projects, to remain in that role for the life of the project so that this does not hold back careers.As mentioned earlier people being made accountable for success / failure will encourage active sponsorship and governance, and the habitual blaming of Project and Programme Management as SROs disappear into the fog when projects and programmes get into trouble might be at an end. Harrrah
  • Minimise changes to contracts –All suppliers know that change can turn a fixed price contract into a Time and Material Contract which results in BIG bills. I have actually tried this little stunt myself over the years. Very very good idea.
  • Publish Gateway reviews on central website to allow the public to scrutinise the value and progress of a project. This will hopefully mean that projects which are failing will be closed down earlier as such transparency minimises the scope for spin and politically driven delivery (embarrassment minimisation).
  • Scrap Failing Projects –Fantastic. Many of those knocking around in the NHS and are only limping on in order to minimise political embarrassment.
  • Encourage the use of open source –Cheaper and often much better and no ransom payments when licenses come up for renewal !
  • Where open source options are inferior, assess whether it is worth paying a third party to upgrade an open source solution rather buy proprietary software.Many IT suppliers do this internally for their own systems. Unfortunately this approach does not earn the fees when making recommendations to clients. Good news for the tax payer I think.
  • Provide opportunities for smaller UK based suppliers.Many of these companies do not outsource and are likely to employ mostly UK workers. Great to see more employment in the local market.
  • Ask SROs to publish their plans online via low-cost platforms such as blogs –Transparency and more transparency is my motto and blogs are great.
  • Redesign the NHS IT scheme and give patients more control of their medical records –A little odd really. This has no place in an IT policy statement, should be included in a human rights statement. However, it’s always good to see more power to the people.
  • Review big databases, and scrap ID cards and ContactPoint.Never understood the need for these expensive schemes. Always seemed to solving a problem which never existed. I can demonstrate who I am with a flash of my passport or my driving license. Simple work round:)
  • Publish every item of spending over £25,000. Enabling the public to see how and where the government is spending their money. This might encourage the government to keep IT projects small like Google. Small projects turn-up and tend to work.
  • Require local councils to publish online details of all expenditure over £1,000. Not sure this will actually be practical.
  • Introduce a new right to government data so that the public can receive government datasets containing anonymised information that may be socially or commercially useful. Perhaps wrong place for this. This should be in some freedom of information policy and a good idea.

This all looks great. Still light on changes to the law but a very very good start which if implemented along with current common law changes (BskyB Vs EDS) will alter the IT industry in the UK and propel suppliers to deliver feasible projects which can deliver realisable benefits. This should all be good for the Project and Programme Management profession and hopefully puts the need for better professionalism on the map.

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