Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Spend more not less on IT

At lunchtime today we will see the Coalition budget and I fear that buried in the detail will be a cut in expenditure on IT. Prediction is dangerous, but I reckon the cut will take two forms; pay less for what looks like the same and cancel projects (some of which have been announced already).

Paying less for the same project seems a great idea, but in reality often means suppliers providing services at a loss (really!!!) or reducing what they provide. And the bits that disappear are often the bits that generate value for the public sector. For example lets say the bit that is removed is something that avoids re-entering information. Customers get irritated because they have to keep answering the same question and public sector costs are higher than necessary to fund reconciling the differences in data and to fund repeatedly ask the questions. This isn't inevitable, contracts should be designed to avoid such perverse incentives (see my www.thinkgov.co.uk website for some ideas).

IT should be a small proportion of the cost of achieving an administration task and has the potential to remove a large part of the total cost. Spending more on the right IT therefore has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of effective government services. Let's hope that Osborne and his colleages see it that way.


Rodney Clare said...

Sounds sensible until you look at the dire performance and almost universal failure to meet goals of UK government IT projects. As IT practitioners we should be ashamed that we do not stand up to civil servants and ministers who produce inadequate specifications which then are changed subject to the whims of ministers to meet short term political considerations.

Gary Rowing-Parker said...

I dispute the idea that there is "almost universal failure" in government IT projects. The good ones just don't get talked about. EDS' programme: Modernising the Employment Service, which Peter and I were involved in, transformed Jobcentre Plus. In particular, the kiosks (or Jobpoints) allowed significant savings in staff time.

Enhancing still further the DWP's labour market systems, by making them more accessible to the private sector, will help the DWP achieve its 25% cut. But, as Peter points out, this depends on continued investment in IT.