Ex Govt CIO speaks – having left the public sector

By Tony Collins

In November last year we asked “Where is the Government CIO?”

We said that the then Government CIO Joe Harley – amiable, straight-talking and influential – could be the civil service’s ambassador for change.

Like his predecessor John Suffolk he could have used conferences and public events to talk inspirationally about the dystopian costs of government IT and what to do about them.  Why hasn’t he, we asked.

“If the Government CIO has much to say, it is not for the public ear. While there has been talk in recent weeks of how five corporations control GovIT, and how it can cost up to £50,000 to change a line of code, Harley has been silent.

“Where does the Government CIO stand on the need for major reform of the machinery of government, on the sensible risks that could save billions? Is the top man in Government IT inspiring his colleagues and officials in other departments to do things differently?”

Now it’s good to hear Joe Harley has speaking publicly about government IT, and what needs to be done. He has left the public sector though.

He suggested to Computing that there needs to be less strategising and more action.

“The whole emphasis now needs to be on implementation and delivery. There has been enough strategising and there really needs to be execution… [The government must] deliver on the implementation plan that we created and grow the talent with capability for the future.

“When it starts to deliver, we’ll start to see government ICT getting a [better] reputation,” he said.


Who will do less strategising and focus more on delivery?

As Harley now says, there needs to be individual accountability for decisions rather than a generalised blaming of committees.

“I think we need to be more light-footed and make people more accountable for their decisions and actions rather than [blaming] committees and programme boards,” he said.

No individual in government is going to make the changes that Harley recommends. Any real changes will be effected by committees and programme boards. Which is probably why material change in government administration and IT will happen in geologic periods. Unless an individual with charisma and leadership abilities – and who doesn’t mind talking in public while still in the public sector – is prepared to make the difference.

3 responses to “Ex Govt CIO speaks – having left the public sector

  1. It really is a “desperate” situation and where easy PR seems to hide the truth. All the initiatives that gained good PR The “Skunkworks, the Innovation Launch Pad, The G Cloud, the Intellect “Radar” and the recent Solutions Exchange are failing to deliver on seeing “innovation” recognised never mind adopted. From my observations it comes from “silo” mentality all doing their job but no one overall responsibility even when questions asked no individual seems accountable? Just wait for the Universal Credit fallout……?


  2. Ask Me I’ll do it!

    but could they handle the fallout?
    Strategy which does not lead to action is complete waste of time and thats what we appear to have, a load of strategy (and what form does that actually take) and no action. Probably means that the strategiy per se was, like so much other marketing speak, vacuous ‘


  3. One of the illustrations of “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” is provided by this article in 2005 by Michael Cross http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/mar/03/onlinesupplement.epublic which no doubt had a greater reach than the original Dunleavy et al study it quotes:

    “For the British government, the findings do not make comforting reading. There was a strong correlation between success and small, short-term IT contracts placed by governments that keep expertise in house. In the Netherlands, for example, public bodies split contracts into very small packages of work, rarely exceeding €1m. Canada showed a similar pattern.

    “In the Netherlands, the top five IT suppliers have 20% of the government market, as against 80% in the UK. In the US, it is 48%. The UK was unique in that a single firm (EDS) has 51% of the market. Government-IT industry relations have become “dangerously unbalanced” in the UK, the study concludes.

    “Meanwhile, the UK has the highest “scrap rate” of government IT projects among the seven. The lowest are the Netherlands and Japan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.