Good Governance - Effective use of IT

Written evidence submitted by Logica (IT 22)


· This response is submitted by Logica, one of the UK’s leading IT, business and service technology companies. Logica employs over 39,000 people worldwide including over 5,000 people in the UK. It provides business consulting, systems integration and outsourcing to clients around the world, including many of Europe's largest businesses.

· Logica is one of the UK Government’s main IT suppliers and is involved in delivering key services and projects for the Government including extremely sensitive and crucial security and defence work. Alongside other suppliers, Logica has worked closely with the new government to help determine the contribution it can make to reducing costs in its public sector activities.

· Public sector IT is responding effectively to the ‘more for less’ agenda and can be part of the solution for government in its attempt to drive down costs and improve efficiencies overall. Breaking programmes down into smaller IT projects rather than single large scale programmes is one way of doing this.

· How procurement operates also will need to be addressed though. Competitive Dialogue has become increasingly used across the public sector. However, it can take too long, is complicated, stifles innovation, it struggles with accommodating changing specifications and the costs involved can also seem excessive.

· Logica welcomes the role of the Crown Commercial Representative as part of the governance arrangements in the procurement process. It would like to see better programme management in government (the skills for which can often be found on the supplier side), greater consistency when it comes to the government’s approach to information security, information assurance and privacy and more effective co-ordination from the centre when it comes to technology policy overall.

· We would be happy to appear before the Committee as part of its inquiry to answer any further questions.

Q1. How well is technology policy co-ordinated across Government?

1. Technology policy is co-ordinated with mixed success across government. In terms of the strategic level – which encompasses how Government deals with data centres, desktop, networks and open source technology – the co-ordination of policy is improving. The previous Government had an IT policy based around cloud computing and the consolidation of data centres, which the new government appears to be reinforcing although it is too soon to tell the full impact of this.

2. It is important to remember that the co-ordination of technology policy is difficult. The reality is that an IT investment case may well have a 5+ year time span which is beyond the usual political cycle, and given that IT technology can change very quickly it is difficult for the Government to co-ordinate policy for the long term.

3. Individual departments are responsible for the investment decisions they make and so it seems difficult to build a homogenous, unified policy across Government when there is no cross government body to implement and enforce it.

4. Security issues also pose a challenge to the co-ordination of technology policy. Different government departments can interpret security policies in a way that can mean that solutions agreed by one department are not accepted by another.

Q2. How effective are its governance arrangements?

5. Governance arrangements are currently in a process of transition – Logica welcomes the role of the Crown Commercial Representative within the governance process.

Q3. Have past lessons from NAO and OGC reviews about unsuccessful IT programmes been learn and applied?

6. In general yes, however there is always going to be the fundamental issue of ‘scope creep’ to address. Reducing ‘scope creep’ increases the chances of a successful IT delivery but in reality, business requirements can change as a project progresses and so create the demand for change to the solution which can jeopardise the delivery timescale and cost.

7. Breaking IT programmes down to smaller modules is good practice but it needs to be recognised that the overall programmes still exist and they still have to be managed as such.

Q4. How well is IT used in the design, delivery and improvement of public services?

8. IT is used in the design, delivery and improvement of public services with mixed success. The real problem occurs when the business imperative or the objective changes halfway through an IT project which leads to the project being scrapped or changed, sometimes with significant financial loss.

9. All IT projects work better when the process or the objective has been firmly established and proven correct, It is good practice, once contracts are awarded, for further details of the IT programme to then be elaborated, so it gives suppliers the opportunity to contribute to the design of a project from an early stage. This is particularly helpful and avoids the type of ‘scope-creep’ already mentioned and often leads to more successful programmes.

10. The procurement process also has its problems where it takes too long and the costs are excessive, so by the time the process has been completed the appropriate technology and the original requirement may have changed.

Q5. What role should IT play in a ‘post-bureaucratic’ age?

11. The same role it plays in the commercial world – by making government more efficient and more effective. IT can also empower individuals be they citizens or public sector officials.

Q6. What skills does Government have and what are those it must develop in order to acquire IT capability?

12. The government does not necessarily need better IT people but it does need better programme management. The skills to manage large scale programmes – which can be provided by the supplier/contractor community – are in short supply.

13. The Government could use the skills found within supply side or contractor teams to provide the large scale programme management that is required within government. If so these teams should then be rewarded upon the success of a programme rather than the duration of their assignment.

Q7. How do current procurement policies and practices work?

14. Not well. Whilst the principle of the competitive dialogue process (i.e. both parties try to ensure they have understood the requirement and the solution) is sound, it takes too long.

15. Personnel changes on the buyer side at the point a contract is eventually awarded can mean that views on the requirement can change and lead to the scope creep mentioned earlier.

Q8. What infrastructure, data or other assets does government need to own, or to control directly, in order to make effective use of IT?

16. In theory none at all. However, the government may wish to own its IT infrastructure, data or other assets if they relate to security matters.

Q9. How will public sector IT adapt to the new ‘age of austerity’?

17. Public sector IT has adapted and is adapting to the new ‘age of austerity’. In October 2010 Logica signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK Government following the process initiated by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, in July. Logica will continue to deliver all of its existing contracts, having agreed a number of efficiency savings with government.

18. In general, public sector IT will have to recognise that it has to do less and in a more economical way. Undoubtedly, IT will still be part of the solution and as such can help government improve its processes which in the long term will save the government money.

19. Smaller IT programmes remain an option as well. However, smaller IT programmes will only succeed if the public sector requirement is smaller and clearly defined.

Q10. How well does Government take advantage of new technological developments and external expertise?

20. In general, given its special requirements around security, the Government can struggle to change its policies to allow the latest technological development to be used.

Q11. How appropriate is the Government’s existing approach to information security, information assurance and privacy?

21. It is not the Government’s existing approach to information security, information assurance and privacy per se but rather the consistency of accreditors in interpreting the rules and assessing the risks that can be challenging.

Q12. How well does the UK compare to other countries with regard to government procurement and application of IT systems?

22. Many other governments are facing similar constraints on spending to the UK. The UK Government is, compared to some countries, ahead in matters such as outsourcing.

23. European countries also abide by the principle of competitive dialogue but the UK seems to be a bigger adopter of this principle than other countries. Of 8098 current "computer and related services" notices across Europe, 93 are using Competitive Dialogue (c1%) but of the 465 UK subset, 31 are using Competitive Dialogue (c7%) so we appear to be much higher users of this process.

January 2011