Category Archives: reforms

Shared services disaster: a gain for some officials and ERP suppliers?

By Tony Collins

Today an impressive report by the National Audit Office shows in detail how various shared services ventures in central government have, over time, cost rather than saved money.

Five shared services centres studied by the NAO have cost £1.4bn so far; they were supposed to have saved £159m by 2010-11 but the net cost has been £255m. Setting up the centres since 2004 has been good, though, for some suppliers (and officials who wanted to gain new skills in Oracle and SAP enterprise resource planning systems).

The Cabinet Office has now intervened and plans a new shared services strategy, based on the DWP [Oracle v11i ERP) and Department for Transport [SAP ERP] offering independent major shared service centres to departments and agencies.

One of the urgent drivers for the Cabinet Office’s publishing a new strategy in July 2011 was that three shared service centres face an investment of £47m to upgrade their Oracle ERP systems before November 2013, says the NAO.

“The current version of Oracle will not be supported by the manufacturer past this date,” says the NAO. “This means that if their core system fails, there is a high risk that they would not be able to re-instate it quickly. This gave the Cabinet Office an opportunity to see if it could derive better value-for-money options for shared services.”

Saving £32m on Oracle upgrade costs?

The Cabinet Office expects its new plans to save £32m on Oracle upgrade costs, says the NAO. Indeed the Cabinet Office has questioned whether departments need to use large ERP systems. It acknowledges that smaller, simpler software solutions may be appropriate, says the NAO.

Civil servants in search of new ERP skills rather than saving money?

The NAO report hints that civil servants at the five service centres might have wanted to implement new Oracle or SAP ERP software more than to save money.

Says the NAO: “The [shared service] Centres have prioritised increasing the number of customers or implementing new software, rather than working with existing customers to drive efficiency… There are other options to reduce costs in addition to increasing the number of customers or implementing a new ERP system.”

Indeed the NAO questions why the service centres bought big and expensive ERP systems that are now under-used, without looking at smaller and simpler accounting packages.

“These ERP systems [installed at five shared service centres studied by the NAO] are complex and it is not easy to modify them when needs change, such as when an organisation is restructured or processes are redesigned.

“We found the Centres are only using a small part of the capability their ERP systems provide. The systems are capable of handling larger volumes of transactions and more services and it is not clear why such expensive solutions were bought. Other smaller and simpler accounting packages were not looked at to see if they may have provided the required functionality.”

Concludes the NAO:

The shared services initiative has not so far delivered value for money for the taxpayer. Since the Gershon Review recommended the creation of shared services in 2004, the Government has spent £1.4 billion against a planned £0.9 billion on the five Centres we examined.

“By creating complex services that are overly tailored to individual departments, government has increased costs and reduced flexibility. In addition, it has failed to develop the necessary benchmarks against which it could measure performance. The Cabinet Office has issued an ambitious new shared services strategy to address these issues.”

Failing to standardise ways of working

Shared services are about standardising ways of working, not running separate services for every client but the NAO found that the five centres replicated old ways of working.

“The services provided are overly customised. We found shared services to be more complex than we expected. They are overly tailored to meet customer needs. This limits the ability for the Centres to make efficiencies as they have an overhead of running multiple systems and processes.”

Big cheques to big ERP suppliers?

The NAO said departments have wasted money on ERP systems – and now plan to spend more on DRP systems.:

“The software systems used in the Centres have added complexity and cost. All the Centres we visited use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems. These are complex and have proven to be expensive. They are designed to manage all the information generated by an organisation by using standard processes. These systems work most effectively with large volumes of heavily automated transactions.

“With a lack of scale and usage in some Centres, limited standardisation and low levels of automation, the cost to establish, maintain and upgrade these systems is high. As a result two Centres intend to totally re-implement their existing systems with simpler, standard ERP software, despite the significant investment already made.

“All the Centres acknowledge they need to simplify and standardise their systems and reduce customisation.”

Cabinet Office took a back seat instead of driving sensible change

Says the NAO: “The Cabinet Office and Civil Service Steering Board could have done more to ensure shared services were implemented appropriately. While the Cabinet Office led by example in initiating their own shared service arrangements, more could have been done to challenge the performance achieved by customers and providers.

“They could have established reliable cost and performance benchmarks and done more to document best practice and lessons learned for customers. Also, they could have done more to remove the barriers to departments and agencies joining shared services.

“The Cabinet Office relied on a collaborative model of governance, which was consistent with the role of central government at the time. Under this model it was left to individual departments to implement shared services and eight shared services have been established. There has been little actual sharing of services between departments…”

Should officials have been forced to take part in shared services?

“Departments have struggled to fully roll-out shared services across all their business units and arm’s-length bodies,” says the NAO. “This is because participation has largely been voluntary. Of the five Centres we examined, three had not attracted the customers they had expected and two had potential spare capacity of 50 per cent.”

Cabinet Office is trying to repair the damage

Using DWP and DfT centres the Cabinet Office plans to have two independent shared service centres and a host of sub centres. But the NAO suggests the strategy may fail unless the Cabinet Office mandates the use of the centres. [But there’s no point in mandating change unless working practices are standardised.  If they cannot be standardised shared services may end up – again – costing more.]

Says the NAO  “The Cabinet Office did not have the powers to mandate shared services. Without a mandate, we do not think that coherent shared services are likely to be achieved. If there is an overall value-for-money case for the taxpayer, the Cabinet Office should seek appropriate authority to mandate the shared services strategy and its implementation.

“The Cabinet Office should also make sure that there is clear accountability for implementing its new shared services strategy.”

MPs ignored

“…the Committee of Public Accounts set out recommendations (on shared services) for the Cabinet Office in 2008,” says the NAO. “None of the recommendations have been fully implemented. All are relevant to shared services today.”

The five shared service centres under NAO scrutiny – and their ERP

• The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Centre provides services to 16,000 customer users (full-time equivalents)7 from the Department and 13 of its agencies. Enterprise Resource Planning System: Oracle 11i, upgrade to Oracle v12 in 2012-13.

• The Department for Transport (DfT) Centre provides services for 14,000 customer users from the Department and four of its agencies. SAP ERP.

• The DWP Centre provides services for 130,000 customer users from the Department, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education. Main site Norcross. ERP system: Oracle 11i, upgrade to Oracle v12 planned in 2012-13.

• The Ministry of Justice Centre manages two separate systems – serving 47,000 customer users for its National Offender Management Service and 27,000 for the Home Office. Enterprise Resource Planning System: Oracle 11i, upgrade to Oracle v12 in 2012-13 and plans to completely re-implement its system to remove all customisation.

• Research Councils UK Centre provides services to 11,000 customer users from seven Research Councils. ERP is Oracle 12.

Three major shared service centres not under NAO scrutiny

• The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Business Services, which was established in July 2011. ERP is Oracle 11i. An upgrade to Oracle v12 in planned for 2012-13.

• The Department of Health NHS Shared Business Services Ltd (joint venture with Steria) which does not provide services to central government. (ERP is Oracle v12)

• HMRC which set up a shared service centre – but no other departments used it. ERP is SAP.

Comment:

Anyone reading the NAO report could be forgiven for thinking that civil servants setting up shared service centres have aimed to fail, perhaps to prove to ministers that major change within central government is a bad idea. We doubt this.

What is more likely is that civil servants, encouraged by some suppliers, thought it a good idea to buy big ERP systems from which they thought savings would naturally flow. But big has not proved to be better. When will this message get through? Isn’t it time for civil servants to stop throwing money at big suppliers?

[And there may be some substance in the NAO’s hint that some civil servants have preferred to work on big ERP systems rather than save money. Having strong ERP skills is an insurance against job loss.]

NAO report  

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Some success in cutting Whitehall costs

By Tony Collins

The coalition government, Cabinet Office, Treasury, departments and agencies have succeeded in cutting central government costs, according to a National Audit Office report published today.

The NAO found that “in particular, large reductions have been made in spending on consultants, temporary staff, property and information technology” in 2010-11.

Departments cut their spend on consultants by £645m in – a real-terms reduction of 37%, said the NAO which also identified “£537m reduced capital spending on IT-related items”.

Unlike some previous reports of the NAO that have questioned the credibility of officialdom’s claims of savings, the NAO’s latest report “Cost reduction in central government: summary of progress” found that the savings claimed by the Cabinet Office, Treasury and government were usually genuine.

Where departments have cut costs by cancelling IT projects or having contracts renegotiated – as opposed to simplifying and streamlining the way they work – the NAO was unsure whether the savings could be sustained.

Said the NAO

“Central government departments took effective action in 2010-11 to reduce costs and successfully managed within the reduced spending limits announced following the 2010 election.

“This resulted in a 2.3% real-terms reduction in spending within departments’ control, compared with 2009-10. Some £3.75bn or around half the reduction was in areas targeted by the Efficiency and Reform Group for cuts in back‑office and avoidable costs.”

Are IT cuts sustainable without a change in working practices?

The NAO said:

 “The fall of 35 per cent in IT capital spend is partly the result of decisions to permanently halt or reduce spending on specific projects, and partly the result of action to reduce the costs of IT products and services including through contract renegotiation.

“However, it is unlikely that IT capital spending will remain at this lower level in total, given the key role of IT and online services in increasing productivity.”

The NAO mentioned the actions of some departments by name.

–          The Home Office cut costs in part by “significant reductions in IT, estates and consultancy spending”.

– HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence aimed to secure the bulk of cost reductions from within their organisations. HM Revenue & Customs has established comprehensive governance arrangements to reduce costs, with a central team and programme management infrastructure. The Department for Work and Pensions put in place a transformation programme board in May 2011 to oversee the redesign of its corporate centre and broader cultural change. “However, it cannot finalise plans beyond 2011-12 as they depend on the future business model after the introduction of Universal Credit,” said the NAO. The DWP’s finance team has provided ‘What the Future Holds’ updates and interactive briefings for staff.

– The NAO said it “identified strong leadership as a key factor in the success of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s cost reduction efforts”.

– The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Services within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “held sufficiently detailed information to be able to challenge its project managers to reduce costs without affecting services”. The NAO said the “resulting savings identified from some 200 projects made up 30 per cent of the Agency’s efforts to meet their efficiency savings target”.

In July 2011, the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group reported to the Public Accounts Committee that it had helped save some £3.75bn through various initiatives. “Our analysis of the audited accounts of the 17 main departments confirms that spending in the areas targeted was reduced on this scale”, said the NAO.

Comment

The NAO report shows that within some departments officials are cutting costs by simply reducing grants but some parts of central government are making an effort to do things differently.

We hope the coalition and Cabinet Office keep up the pressure for cost-cutting because, in IT alone, the potential savings are in the billions. The NAO report shows there has been a good start. We hope that the officials who are achieving lasting success will pass on their learning experiences to those who are struggling to make cuts sustainable.

NAO report Cost reduction in central government – a summary of progress

DWP defends £316m HP contract

By Tony Collins

The Department for Work and Pensions could lead the public sector in technical innovations. It has had some success in cutting its IT-related costs. It has also had some success so far with Universal Credit, which is based on agile principles.

It has further launched an imaginative welfare-to-work scheme , the so-called Work Programme, which seeks to get benefit claimants into jobs they keep.

Despite media criticism of the way the scheme has been set up – especially in the FT – a report by the NAO this week made it clear that the DWP has, for the most part, taken on risks that officials understand.

Some central government departments have updated business cases as they went through a major business-change programme and not submitted the final case until years into the scheme, as in parts of the NPfIT.

But the DWP has implemented the Work Programme unusually quickly, in a little more than a year, by taking sensible risks.  The NAO report on the scheme said the business case and essential justification for the Work Programme were drawn up after key decisions had already been made. But the NAO also picked out some innovations:

– some of the Work Programme is being done manually rather than rush the IT

– suppliers get paid by results, when they secure jobs that would not have occurred without their intervention. And suppliers get more money if the former claimant stays in the job.

– the scheme is cost-justified in part on the wider non-DWP societal benefits of getting the long-term unemployed into jobs such as reduced crime and improved health.

So the DWP is not frightened of innovation. But while Universal Credit and welfare-to-work scheme are centre stage, the DWP is, behind the safety curtain, awarding big old-style contracts to the same suppliers that have monopolised government IT for decades.

Rather than lead by example and change internal ways of working – and thus take Bunyan’s steep and cragged paths – the DWP is taking the easy road.

It is making sure that HP, AccentureIBM and CapGemini are safe in its hands. Indeed the DWP this week announced a £316m desktop deal with HP.  EDS, which HP acquired in 2008, has been a main DWP supplier for decades.

DWP responds to questions on £316m HP deal 

I put it to the DWP that the £316m HP deal was olde worlde, a big contract from a former era. These were its responses. Thank you to DWP press officer Sandra Roach who obtained the following responses from officials. A DWP spokesperson said:

“This new contract will deliver considerable financial savings and a range of modern technologies to support DWP’s strategic objectives and major initiatives such as Universal Credit.

“The DWP has nearly 100,000 staff, processing benefits and pensions, delivering services to 22 million people.

“DWP is on schedule to make savings of over £100m in this financial year for it’s Baseline IT operational costs, including the main IT contracts with BT and HPES [Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services].

“All contracts have benchmarking clauses to ensure best value for money in the marketplace.

“The five year contract was awarded through the Government Procurement framework and has been scrutinised to ensure value for money.”

My questions and the DWP’s answers:

Why has the DWP awarded HP a £316m contract when the coalition has a presumption against awarding contracts larger than £100m?

DWP spokesperson: “The Government IT Strategy says (page 10) ‘Where possible the Government will move away from large and expensive ICT projects, with a presumption that no project will be greater than £100m. Moving to smaller and more manageable projects will improve project delivery timelines and reduce the risk of project failure’.

“HM Treasury, Cabinet Office and DWP’s commercial and finance teams have scrutinised the DWP Desktop Service contract to ensure that it represents the most economically advantageous proposition.”

What is the role, if any for SMEs ?

DWP: “There are a number of SMEs whose products or services will form part of or contribute to the DWP Desktop Service being delivered by HP, for example ActivIdentity, Anixter, AppSense, Azlan, Click Stream, Cortado, Juniper Networks, Quest Software, Repliweb Inc, Scientific Computers Limited (SCL), Westcon etc.”

Why is there no mention of G-Cloud?

DWP: “Both the new contract and the new technical solution are constructed in such a way as to support full or partial moves to cloud services at DWP’s discretion.”

Comment:

For the bulk of its IT the DWP is trapped by a legacy of complexity. It is arguably too welcoming of the safety and emollients offered by its big suppliers.

The department is not frightened by risk – hence the innovative Work Programme which the NAO is to be commended on for monitoring at an early stage of the scheme. So if the DWP is willing to take on sensible risks, why does it continue to bathe its major IT suppliers in soothingly-large payments, a tradition that dates back decades? What about G-Cloud?

DWP reappoints HP on £316m desktop deal

DWP signs fifth large deal with HP

“DWP awards Accenture seven year application services deal”

“DWP awards IT deals to IBM and Capgemini”

G-Cloud – it’s starting to happen

By Tony Collins

Anti-cloud CIOs should “move on” says Cabinet Office official, “before they have caused too much harm to their business”.

For years Chris Chant, who’s programme director for G Cloud at the Cabinet Office, has campaigned earnestly for lower costs of government IT. Now his work is beginning to pay off.

In a blog post he says that nearly 300 suppliers have submitted offers for about 2,000 separate services, and he is “amazed” at the prices. Departments with conventionally-good rates from suppliers pay about £700-£1,000 a month per server in the IL3 environment, a standard which operates at the “restricted” security level. Average costs to departments are about £1,500-a-month per server, says Chant.

“Cloud prices are coming in 25-50% of that price depending on the capabilities needed.”  He adds:

“IT need no longer be delivered under huge contracts dominated by massive, often foreign-owned, suppliers.  Sure, some of what government does is huge, complicated and unique to government.  But much is available elsewhere, already deployed, already used by thousands of companies and that ought to be the new normal.

“Rather than wait six weeks for a server to be commissioned and ready for use, departments will wait maybe a day – and that’s if they haven’t bought from that supplier before (if they have it will be minutes).  When they’re done using the server, they’ll be done – that’s it.  No more spend, no asset write down, no cost of decommissioning.”

Chant says that some CIOs in post have yet to accept that things need to change; and “even fewer suppliers have got their heads around the magnitude of the change that is starting to unfold”.

“In the first 5 years of this century, we had a massive shift to web-enabled computing; in the next 5 the level of change will be even greater.  CIOs in government need to recognise that, plan for it and make it happen.

“Or move on before they have caused too much harm to their business.”

He adds: “Not long from now, I expect at least one CIO to adopt an entirely cloud-based model.  I expect almost all CIOs to at least try out a cloud service in part of their portfolio.

“Some CIOs across government are already tackling the cloud and figuring out how to harness it to deliver real saves – along with real IT.  Some are yet to start.

“Those that have started need to double their efforts; those that haven’t need to get out of the way.”

Cloud will cut government IT costs by 75% says Chris Chant

Chris Chant’s blog post

Clegg speech renews Coalition mutuals and employee-ownership focus

By David Bicknell

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has advocated greater employee-ownership.

In a speech yesterday to the Corporation of London, he described employee share ownership as “a touchstone of liberal economic thought for a century and a half and a hugely under-used tool in unlocking growth.”

As this report explains,  he suggested that employee-owned firms could end the ‘standing feud between capital and labour’.

“We don’t believe our problem is too much capitalism: we think it’s that too few people have capital. We need more individuals to have a real stake in their firms.”

It could be the latest kick-start the mutuals and employee-ownership initiative needs. (And John Lewis’s marketing department must be wallowing again in the free publicity)

Not all coverage of Clegg’s speech has been positive, however, with Nils Pratley in the Guardian calling the employee share-ownership  ideas ‘half-baked’.  Pratley says the speech raised more questions than answers.  But in fairness, I don’t think Clegg’s intention was to lay out a complete White Paper for action. It was merely to continue to put employee ownership on the agenda for discussion.

Text of Nick Clegg’s speech

Are officials pressing GPs to switch IT supplier to SystmOne?

By Tony Collins

There’s concern in the NHS that Primary Care Trusts, which are due to be abolished next year, are putting GP practices under pressure to switch their IT systems to TPP SystmOne, a patient record system that is supplied by CSC under the National Programme for IT.

The conversions are being subsidised by taxpayers under unpublished NPfIT local service provider contracts. The concern of at least one aspiring Clinical Commissioning Group – which is one of the CCGs being formed under Andrew Lansley’s health reforms –  is that GP system conversions to TPP SystemOne under local service provider NPfIT contracts could leave CCGs a legacy of financial commitments that are as yet unknown.

One CCG contacted Campaign4Change to express concern that it may have uncertain financial commitments when it begins to take on SystmOne commitments next year. On 1 April 2013 PCTs and strategic health authorities are due to be abolished and their responsibilities passed to authorised CCGs.

Aspiring CCGs are now taking a close interest in PCT financial commitments because the Groups are due to inherit any of their local PCT deficits incurred from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2013.

At present, GP practices receive PCT funding whether they take replacement SystmOne patient record technology from CSC  under the NPfIT or acquire new IT under a scheme known as GP Systems of Choice.

But the Group’s spokeswoman said that PCTs are putting pressure on GP practices to replace their systems with SystmOne. She said it’s because it can cost PCTs less – or nothing – for a GP switch to SystmOne under NPfIT-funded local service provider contracts. In comparison PCTs may have to pay costs such as hardware maintenance when GPs acquire systems under GPSoC.

Incentives for GPs to switch IT supplier

Our inquiries show that at least one PCT has received what it called “incentives” from its strategic health authority for GP practices to change computer systems, according to the PCT’s response to an FOI inquiry. The FOI response said: “The PCT can confirm that the incentives passed to [GP] practices to change computer systems as follows”.

It went on to say that its strategic health authority gave the PCT a £10,000 implementation fee [for each GP practice that changed its systems]. The PCT passed £3,000 of the £10,000 to the GP practice to part fund its implementation costs.

The PCT’s preferred GP system supplier was SystmOne, as supplied by CSC.

What happens when CSC’s NPfIT contract expires in 2015?

At that time Clinical Commissioning Groups may have to pay whatever costs are levied because GP practices with SystmOne could be reluctant to switch systems again, said the CCG spokesperson.

The Department of Health’s Informatics Directorate, which has subsumed NHS Connecting for Health, has confirmed that the prices it pays CSC for TPP installations are confidential.

Said a DH spokesperson “While prices within the LSP [Local Service Provider] contracts are commercially confidential we are in partnership with Intellect, the Technology Trade Association, to develop an open and transparent approach to costs and quality, as part of working to create a vibrant marketplace.”

A spokesperson for CSC said  “Because we are in active negotiations with the government, we are not able to comment in depth on the programme until those negotiations have concluded.”

The spokesperson said the comments applied to TPP as it is “a supplier to us working on the National Programme”.

Department of Health response

When asked if GP practices are taking on non-transparent NPfIT commitments for TPP systems, the DH spokesperson said “If a GP practice chooses to take a system under an LSP contract they are made fully aware of the product they are taking and the length of the contract.

“We are committed to ensuring transparent and trusting working relationships between suppliers and their NHS customers.”

Asked whether GP practices that choose GPSoC systems cost the PCT more than TPP acquired through the LSP contracts, the DH spokesperson said “ It is up to the GP practice as to whether they choose a system through GPSoC or through the LSP contracts.

“The GPSoC PCT/ Practice agreement provides a mechanism for GPs to raise and resolve any concerns they may have.”

Comment

Centrally-funded incentives to PCTs to encourage GPs to switch to SystmOne as supplied by CSC under the NPfIT keep alive one of the original objectives of the national programme, which was to have health IT dominated by a few suppliers that would be under firm central control.

But that strategy creates an imbalance in the health IT market, inhibits open competition and leaves the NHS with unquantifiable future costs given that SystmOne is being supplied under NPfIT contracts that are secret.

Favouring central control, Labour created the NPfIT. In contrast the coalition favours decentralisation so it makes sense for GPs to have a genuine choice of suppliers, with the funding PCTs remaining neutral on the decision.

TPP SystmOne is good enough to compete freely in the open market. It does not need a leg up from the PCT or the Department of Health – just for the sake of keeping a part of the original NPfIT alive.

 

School report on Govt ICT Strategy – a good start

By Tony Collins

In a review of progress on the Government’s ICT Strategy after six months, the National Audit Office says that the Cabinet Office has made a “positive and productive start to implementing the Strategy”.

The NAO says that at least 70 people from the public sector have worked on the Strategy in the first six months though the public sector will need “at least another 84 people to deliver projects in the Plan”.

The UK Government’s ICT Strategy is more ambitious than the strategies in the US, Australia, Netherlands and Denmark, because it sets out three main aims:

– reducing waste and project failure

– building a common ICT infrastructure

– using ICT to enable and deliver change

The US Government’s ICT Strategy, in contrast, encompasses plans for a common infrastructure only – and these plans have not produced the expected savings, says the NAO.

In a paragraph that may be little noticed in the report, the NAO says that senior managers in central government have plans to award new ICT contracts (perhaps along the pre-coalition lines) in case the common solutions developed for the ICT Strategy are “not available in time”.

The NAO report also says that “suppliers were cautious about investing in new products and services because of government’s poor progress in implementing previous strategies”.

Of 17 actions in the Strategy that were due by September 2011, seven were delivered on time. Work on most of the other actions is underway and a “small number” are still behind schedule says the NAO.

The NAO calls on government to “broaden the focus to driving business change”.

Some successes of the UK’s ICT Strategy as identified by the NAO:

* The Cabinet Office has set up a small CIO Delivery Board led by the Government CIO Joe Harley to implement the ICT Strategy. The Board’s members include the Corporate IT Director at the DWP, CIOs at the Home Office, MoD, HMRC, Ministry of Justice and Department for Health, together with key officials at the Cabinet Office. The departmental CIOs on the Board are responsible directly to Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, for implementing the ICT Strategy in their departments and are accountable to their own minister. No conflicts have arisen

* Senior managers in central government and the ICT industry are willing to align their strategies for ICT with new cross-government solutions and standards but need more detail.

*  Some suppliers have offered help to government to develop its thinking and help accelerate the pace of change in ICT in government.

* The Cabinet Office intended that delivering the Strategy would be resourced from existing budgets. Staff have been redirected from other tasks to work on implementing the Strategy. “We have found collaborative working across departmental boundaries. For example HMRC and the MoD have combined resources to develop a strategy for greener ICT. Teams producing the strategies for cloud computing and common desktops and mobile devices have worked together to reduce the risk of overlap and gaps.

* The BBC has shown the way in managing dozens of suppliers rather than relying on one big company. For BBC’s digital media initiative, the Corporation manages 47 separate suppliers, says the NAO.

* The Cabinet Office intends that departments will buy components of ICT infrastructure from a range of suppliers rather than signing a small number of long-term contracts; and to make sure different systems share data the Cabinet Office is agreeing a set of open technical standards.

* Some of the larger departments have already started to consolidate data centres, though the NAO said that the programme as a whole is moving slowly and no robust business case is yet in place.

* The Cabinet Office is starting to involve SMEs. It has established a baseline of current procurement spending with SMEs – 6.5% of total government spend – and hopes that the amount of work awarded to SMEs will increase to 25%. Government has started talking “directly to SMEs”, says the NAO.

Some problems identified in the NAO report:

* Cloud computing and agile skills are lacking. “Government also lacks key business skills. Although it has ouitsourced ICT systems development and services for many years, our reports have often stated that government is not good at managing commercial relationships and contracts or procurement.”

* Suppliers doubt real change will happen. The NAO says that suppliers doubted whether “government had the appropriate skills to move from using one major supplier to deliver ICT solutions and services, to managing many suppliers of different sizes providing different services”.

* The Government CIO Joe Harley, who promoted collaboration, is leaving in early 2012, as is his deputy Bill McCluggage. The NAO suggests their departures may “adversely affect” new ways of working.

* The NAO interviewed people from departments, agencies and ICT suppliers whose concern was that “short-term financial pressure conflicted with the need for the longer-term reform of public services”.

* The culture change required to implement the Strategy “may be a significant barrier”.

* The Cabinet Office acknowledges that the government does not have a definitive record of ICT spend in central government (which would make it difficult to have a baseline against which cuts could be shown).

* The Cabinet Office has not yet defined how reform and improved efficiency in public services will be measured across central government, as business outcomes against an agreed baseline.

**

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today: ” ICT is going to play an increasingly important role in changing how government works and how services are provided.

“The Government’s ICT Strategy is in its early days and initial signs are good. However, new ways of working are as dependent on developing the skills of people in the public sector as they are on changes to technology and processes; the big challenge is to ensure that the Strategy delivers value in each of these areas.”

NAO report:  Implementing the Government ICT Strategy: six-month review of progress.

The capital, contractual, governance and leadership questions facing creative councils over mutuals

By David Bicknell

There are some good points raised in this article in about the challenges facing creative councils who may be considering the adoption of new mutual models.

It raises some useful questions around capital, governance, contracts, relationships, management, growth, leadership and how the private sector can help.

Worth a read.

Government CIO to retire

By Tony Collins

CIO reports today that Joe Harley, the Government CIO and CIO for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is retiring next year.

Harley has been CIO for the DWP for seven years and just last year was promoted to Government CIO.

The DWP says on its website:

“After more than seven years of major accomplishments as CIO for the DWP and one year as the Government CIO, Joe Harley, CBE, has decided to retire from the Civil Service in the Spring of 2012.

“Joe has transformed IT in the Department which has made a huge difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of IT and of the DWP as a whole.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:

“I would like to thank Joe for his significant and exceptional contribution to DWP and the Government – he has been instrumental in building reform and modernising our approach to technology.

“Joe leaves us with our highest regards having secured this Government well-placed to deliver major reform in the future.”

Harley said:

“It’s been a great honour and a privilege to have served the Department and Government over the years. It’s been a hugely fulfilling experience. I am proud to have made some contribution to improving Public Services for the benefit of the citizen and the tax payer.”

DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux said:

“I want to thank Joe for his enormous contribution to the Department’s performance. He has been pivotal in establishing commercial arrangements which give value for money, and in the delivery of major changes to IT underpinning services which are critical for millions of people every day. The IT for Universal Credit, in particular, is on track. I wish him well in his retirement.”

Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary Ian Watmore said:

“Joe has accomplished great things in his time as Government CIO, having created and published a transformational ICT Strategy, along with plans of how it will be implemented.

“I would like to thank him personally for his leadership and huge contribution to Public Service and the ICT Profession across Government.”

Minister for Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:

“Joe has played an integral role in the past year whilst as Government CIO – he has led the delivery of a new ICT strategy and strategic implementation plan.

“These will ensure that the old siloed way of developing government ICT projects comes to an end, and leaves us with all departments working together to produce a fit-for-purpose and cost effective ICT system potentially saving £1.4 billion over the next 4 years.”

The process for selecting his successor, as CIO for DWP, will begin immediately. The Cabinet Office will run a separate process for the next Government CIO along with the process that is already underway to replace Bill McCluggage, the Deputy Government CIO.

Comment

Joe Harley has achieved much within the DWP – including cutting costs and helping to set up the administration, based on agile principles, of Universal Credit .

But it was always going to be difficult combining a full-time job as DWP CIO with that of Government CIO.

Harley’s retirement gives the government a chance to appoint a full-time CIO who is passionate about structural change and can build a strong public profile on the need for it.

G-Cloud and agile briefings

By Tony Collins

On 22 November the Government Digital Service is giving a briefing for potential G-Cloud suppliers. It’ll be streamed live.

Officials say the briefing will be particularly useful to suppliers whose employees have never participated in a government tender.

At the ApplyCamp, officials will explain G-Cloud, steps in the OJEU procurement process, what information potential G-Cloud suppliers need to give, and what happens next.

The event is particularly aimed at Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and other specialist cloud service suppliers. It will be held at Google, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9TQ – 3pm – 5pm.

Agile TeaCamp – 24 November

Between 4pm and 6pm at the Cafe Zest, House of Fraser, Victoria St, London, there will be talks on agile. Derrick Cameron, MD of software consultancy Eximium and COO of agile software house Procession will speak on “Becoming the Intelligent Buyer”.  Chris Parsons, a “freelance thinker, coder and trainer” will talk about the e-petitions project and the aims of the Agile Delivery Network.

Teacamps in November and December – Government Digital Service